Tag: 2018

Guest Post by Keep Reading Forward: Why Mythology Is My Favorite Part In A Story

Guest Post by Keep Reading Forward: Why Mythology Is My Favorite Part In A Story

Well long time, no see everyone! It really has been a long while. Today I have Anthony here from Keep Reading Forward with a fun little discussion. Before we get into it, let me ask you: what is your favorite element of a story? Let’s see what […]

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eARC/Book Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

eARC/Book Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted […]

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Mini eARC Review: Ride On by Gwen Cole

Mini eARC Review: Ride On by Gwen Cole

In the near post-apocalyptic future, the skies are always gray and people are constantly searching for the sun.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

Ride On

Author: Gwen Cole
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Page Count: 280
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Western
Cover Artists: Kate Gartner & Darren Hopes
My Rating: DNF - no star rating

Ride OnRide On by Gwen Cole

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

description

DNFing at 30 %

“In the Wild, you don’t start a fire unless you want to risk someone finding you, or you’re stupid.”

…or you are cold…or trying to fend away the critters…

When I first came across Ride On, I was pretty excited about it. To be honest, anything horse-related captures my attention easily. I should have been a bit warier seeing how this is set in a post-apocalyptic era. This book very much mimics the world depicted in the movie The Book of Eli. If you haven’t seen it, then picture a vast wasteland with Mad Max-type folks terrorizing all the good folks. Oh, and there are cannibals…

If you have seen The Book of Eli, take out the Mad Max influence (and the Biblical references), and replace it with a Western feel, and you will have Ride On. The reason why I called it quits with this book was because of the cannibalism. Its nothing that I want to read about, plain and simple.

Vulgarity: 8 words counted until stopping at 30%
Sexual content: None.
Violence: Some, including discussion of cannibalism.

Since this is a DNF read, I will not be assigning a star-review.

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Blog Tour & Author Interview: Beyond the Moon by R.J. Wood

Blog Tour & Author Interview: Beyond the Moon by R.J. Wood

Beyond the Moon The Voyages of Jake Flynn #2 By R.J. Wood This is my stop during the blog tour for Beyond the Moon by R.J. Wood. This tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 11 till 24 June. See […]

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Guest Post by PoetryBooksYA: Book Events’ Diversity and FOMO Issues

Guest Post by PoetryBooksYA: Book Events’ Diversity and FOMO Issues

Hello, everyone! Today I have Danielle from PoetryBooksYA on my blog discussing her thoughts on diversity at book events. I’ll let her take it from here! Speaking only from my experience, I wanted to discuss my thoughts on how I feel about seeing so much […]

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eARC Review: The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer

eARC Review: The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer

In the ancient moors of Scotland, the king of Calidon lies on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that cannot be removed from his finger. When a mysterious fey stranger appears to save the king, he also carries a secret that could tear the royal family apart. The kingdom’s only hope will lie with two young men raised worlds apart. Aric is the beloved heir to the throne of Calidon; Albaric is clearly of noble origin yet strangely out of place.

Synopsis provided by Goodreads.

The Oddling Prince

Author: Nancy Springer
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Page Count: 288
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Cover Artist:
My Rating: ★★★★½

Out hunting one day with his son, a mysterious ring appears on the finger of the King of Calidon. Over the next month, his health fails and he nearly dies. A mysterious stranger in white appears and removes the ring from the king’s finger, saving his life. The youth asks the king if he recognizes him, but he does not.

Perplexed by the youth’s insistence on knowing his father, Aric discovers that the stranger’s name is Albaric, and he too, is the son of King Baldric. Confused by this revelation, a fantastic tale about the queen of the fey, the king of Calidon, and an enchanted ring is uncovered. 

Learning that he has another son, the king spirals downward into a fog of shame and suspicion. It’s up to Aric and his oddling half-brother Albaric to bring the king back to his senses. 

The Oddling PrinceThe Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer My rating: 5 of 5 stars All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication. description
“What is a friend? Troth without end. A light in the eyes, A touch of the hand– I would follow you even To death’s cold strand.”
I want to jump right in and say that I think this book has been (and will be) widely misunderstood. I’ve seen a lot of reviews already that are very misleading and don’t represent this book well at all. While it has been placed into the Young Adult fantasy genre, it doesn’t really fit in well with other current titles and trends. The Oddling Prince reads exactly like an old-time fairy tale, i.e. The Lily of Life: A Fairy Tale, and reflects little upon the mantras of the genre it has been categorized under. For these reasons, I would highly suggest going into this read with an open mind. There are some very valuable topics being explored, which could completely become overshadowed by preconceived notions. With that being said, I’m so glad that I picked up this book! If you are a fan of original fairy tales, this will be a read that you will want to give a shot at.

World Building

“My father says ‘White King’ is only a mistake for ‘Viking,’ making a fairy tale of how our ancestors in longboats came to Calidon.”
Set in ancient Scotland, Calidon is the realm in which the plot is set. Only hints of the world are discussed, creating an atmosphere not as astounding as I’d hoped for. It doesn’t matter much, however, as the plot is driven by the interactions and relationships between the characters. Majority of the setting is at or surrounding Dun Caltor, the place where the royal family resides. Politics exist mainly between the station of King Baldaric and his competitors (almost exclusively Lord Brock Domberk.) Any form of religion is not discussed, as the fantastical overtake this area via the existence and presence of faeries and a faerie realm.

Pacing & Readability

The first half of this story is the main area that really pulls the reader in. While the second half is consistent, most of the content that makes this book so great is revealed earlier on. The pacing remains rather consistent, with a few lulls in plot movement and intrigue. Because it reads like a fairy tale, sometimes its length feels forced. It could have been shorter.

Point-Of-View & Characters

Before I say anything, there are three characters in this book with names that are very similar and can be the cause of some confusion. I’m not sure why these characters’ names are so similar, other than assuming it has something to do with passing down a family name. I personally didn’t have any issues with keeping these characters straight, but some might find it tricky.

“A prince I was, yes, but in looks no more than passable–no comelier or taller than most men–and in prowess, no better with sword or lance or horses or–or anything. I had quested nowhere, had wooed no true love, I was–I felt myself nothing compared to my father. I loved him.”
Aric serves as the main character and protagonist in the story. The point-of-view is directed from his perspective. A 17-year-old prince and heir to the throne of Calidon, Aric doesn’t yearn for power. A rather unusual boy, Aric’s innocence and genuineness immediately make him likable to the reader. His likeability only grows when confronted with the revelation that he has a half and immortal brother. Instead of allowing jealousy to overtake him, he eagerly embraces Albaric after (and even before) hearing his tale of woe. Not only that, he holds nothing against his father no matter how he treats him. Aric’s character possesses qualities which are truly a breath of fresh air. Selflessness, humbleness, faithfulness, honesty, innocence, loyalty are the attributes that make him so appealing. With that, Aric goes through some very real, and difficult experiences as well.
“Once I regained my strength and got up out of the bed, it would be Father and Albaric again, Albaric and Father, and the heartache and constant fear. I did not want to die, but neither did I want to live.”
The most refreshing part was how he maintained his character through tough trials. He doesn’t allow bitterness and resentment to take place in his heart, even when everyone around him was telling him otherwise. His character reminded me slightly of Job from the Bible and how he refused to listen to the bad suggestions from his friends and family.
“‘My father,’ I burst out, ‘when he set foot on the ground, his horse turned to air. When he took the ring off you, his fire went out. His light is gone. He cannot return whence he came. He has thrown in his lot with mortals now, and he will someday die, and he has made this sacrifice to save you.’”
Albaric’s character was also very intriguing to me. When he first arrived on the scene, it was hard to tell his intentions. However, it is quickly revealed that this immortal has a soft heart. Actually, Albaric experiences some very difficult feelings such as abandonment, unacceptance, and even prejudice from others to the point of where he contemplates taking his own life. While King Baldaric completely denies that he is Albaric’s father, Aric comes alongside him and develops a beautiful kinship with his half-brother. Albaric is described as “otherworldy” in a sense that his beauty is too much for the world of men. While it is the truth, he doesn’t allow his appearance to dictate his character and brings a refreshing view on beauty in general. Albaric certainly faces difficult trials. Realizing that his father doesn’t even recognize him, and becomes suspicious of him breaks him apart. Later on, the stress of his situation and being stuck in the mortal world leads Albaric to give in to his hurting. He gives spiteful advice to Aric on how to react towards their father and their failing relationship. King Baldaric, the father of both Aric and Albaric, starts out as a loving and doting father and king. He clearly loves his son Aric, but his character is deeply challenged (understandably so) when he discovers that he has another son, Albaric, with the fairy queen and has no recollection of it ever happening. This discovery is the start of a chain of events which sends the once good king into a downward spiral.
“But a king must think like a king. An oddling comes and claims to be my son. What can I think but that he schemes to take the throne?”
He becomes so bad that he even believes his once beloved son Aric wants to overthrow him and take his throne. Despite his beliefs, Aric works tirelessly to contradict his father’s beliefs. The metaphor of darkness and light are often used to depict this waging battle of Baldaric’s feelings and again, reinstill the “fairy tale” feel of the book. Queen Evalin, King Baldaric’s wife, and Aric’s mother serves as a realistic mediator. When chaos ensues, she often is the voice of reason. The main antagonist comes in the form of the ring but also shares the title with Lord Brock Domberk, (a vassal of King Baldaric’s), as well as King Baldaric himself. While the ring takes the center stage, it causes others to do things and become people they aren’t. The ring itself is an ancient thing and has the ability to enchant those who wear it. The ring, however, obeys no one and often has alternative repercussions when used for personal gain.

Major Themes

⇒ Light vs. Darkness
“I saw the invisible drawing of swords between him and Albaric; I felt the tension in the close air of the bedchamber. Dark, it was too dark in there because of the shadow of death. Father wore black.”
The theme of light vs. darkness is equivalent to good vs. evil. It is utilized regularly in context as well as metaphor. When Albaric first arrives, he’s riding a horse and they are both stark-white. As he turns out to be King Baldaric’s redeemer, it makes sense that he’s depicted in white. Darkness is equally referred to, indicating illness, death, and malice. ⇒ Kinship Kinship plays a massive role in this story. Mostly depicted by Aric and his half-brother Albaric, their relationship is one of pure love for kin. Despite the odd situation with their father, and how Albaric even came into being, Aric and Albaric immediately put the fact they are brothers at the forefront of the matter. While Aric accepts Albaric, Baldaric denies that Albaric is his son, which causes an obvious issue within the family’s dynamics. ⇒ Trust Mainly exhibited in Baldaric’s character, his lack of trust almost costs him his relationship with his son Aric. Knowing the truth of what happened to him in Elfland, Aric tries effortlessly to reassure his father of his intentions. Baldaric’s judgement becomes too clouded in his humiliation that he begins to lose trust in everyone dear to him, leading him to make some bad decisions later on. ⇒ Shame/Self-Doubt
“Yet his face reddened, and now I recognized what I saw there: shame, with which he struggled clumsily, unaccustomed to guilt, to error. Never in my memory had such self-doubt afflicted him before.”
Another theme exemplified by Baldaric, and combated by Aric, shame and self-doubt are forces that heavily impact the events of this story. Baldaric, a king, was tricked by the elf queen into staying with her and having a child with her. Granted, he didn’t know what he was doing because he was enchanted, but deep down he never loved the elf queen, and loved only his wife. When he learned of these events when Albaric appeared, he becomes so distraught by the fact that he had been bested by the elf queen that it changes him drastically. It shows how impactful one’s perspective of themselves can be on so many lives outside of their own.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked: ⇒ The different style in which this book was written (aka writing style). It is not the typical modern YA fantasy! ⇒ The themes discussed. ⇒ The way the fantastical was woven into the story. ⇒ The lessons to be learned. Things that I didn’t like: ⇒ The world building was lacking for me, as I’d hoped to see more historical influence of ancient Scotland and the people there. ⇒ The story overall felt somewhat drawn out and could have been shorter and have been just as effective. Overall, I loved this story. I think there is something here for everyone to take away. That’s what I love most about the fairy-tale style in which it is written–it allows the story to be told in a way that is perhaps, more tangible for the reader to grasp, yet allows for a few elements to not be entirely explained. It allows for the magical element that fairy-tales possess to remain aloof. This doesn’t affect my view of the book at all, but this quote from the author was included in the acknowledgments, and I thought it was worth sharing because it is so beautiful.
“Writing fiction has always, for me, been an alchemy of turning pain into poetry, ugliness into beauty. It has been a kind of redemption.”

Vulgarity: Only 5 words were counted.
Sexual content: Minimal. There was some discussion between Aric and Albaric about the human desire for sexual relations.
Violence: Minimal to moderate.

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Down The TBR Hole #5

Down The TBR Hole #5

Wow, a week has already come and gone. Time to take another look at my looming TBR. This challenge/meme was started by Lost In A Story back in 2016. Here are the rules, in case you are interested in participating too! Rules: Go to your goodreads to-read […]

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Personal Update & April Wrap-Up

Personal Update & April Wrap-Up

I wanted to give a bit of a personal update on what to expect in the next few months on this blog. I’ve mentioned here and there that I am expecting a baby (now in two weeks–which is crazy). Because of prepping for his arrival, […]

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eARC Review: No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens

eARC Review: No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens

David Galloway can’t die.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

No Less Days

Author: Amanda G. Stevens
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Page Count: 320
Format: eARC
Genre: Christian Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Cover Artist: ---
My Rating: ★★★

What happens to a person when they can’t die? Is immortality really such a wonderful thing? For David Galloway, it’s a curse. 

Although he may appear to be thirty-five, he’s much older. Living through several lifetimes, David has grown accustom to loss, illness, and death. Knowing he can’t have a life as others, he recedes into himself and hides behind books. It isn’t until he meets some unique persons that he realizes maintaining relationships with other is a critical element to having a quality life—even if fear accompanies it.  

When David hears about a dare-devil named Zachary Wilson who falls into the Grand Canyon while attempting a stunt and survives, he decides that he must go and meet this man. There is more to Zachary Wilson than meets the eye—just like himself. 

His trip to Arizona opens David’s eyes, and the horizon looks a little lighter. Knowing that he’s not the only one on earth cursed with immortality and agelessness, David begins to open up and even trust again. But when a terrifying secret surfaces within the close-knit group, David must reevaluate his faith in God, and how his relationship with God plays into the situation. 

No Less DaysNo Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

description

“He was one hundred sixty-seven years old. And he would always be thirty-five.”

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Christian Fiction. Young Adult continues to become staler, so I welcomed the change in genre.

My desire to like this book ended up outweighing how much I actually liked it. While the writing style, premise, and character development were great, I felt that the plot tended to be disjointed and without direction. Rather, the plot happened, and the characters had to catch up to it. Instead of the characters actively moving forward, events kept happening to prevent them from doing so. These were drastic events, that often took me by surprise—but not necessarily in a good way.

World Building

Set in a small town in Northern Michigan, the plot also moves around to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and a few other places along the way. In general, there isn’t much world building to speak of, because the setting already exists in real life. The characters’ lives are the center focus and don’t rely much on the location or world-building to function as such.

Pacing & Readability

As stated before, I thoroughly enjoyed the first quarter of this book immensely. It hooked me in, and wouldn’t let me go even when the going became rough. That’s probably the most disappointing thing with a book that has such a fantastic start and a mediocre climax—I’ll read through the back cover, looking for more to happen, because the given ending doesn’t suffice.

With saying that, the pacing remained rather consistent throughout, except for a few areas where it was caught up in some certain events for too long.

The further on the plot moves, the less “readable” it becomes. The content discussed nothing close to light-hearted, as major topics related to dealing out justice are visited in very real, and very unsettling ways.

Point-Of-View & Characters

The point-of-view follows the main character, David Galloway. A thirty-five-year-old by appearance, David has lived many more years than that. Because of his unique experience with life, David’s character is more complex than most. His longevity has challenged him in every possible way, especially his faith. Immortality is a major factor that separates humans from God. What happens when that veil is torn away?

“The death of the body is a mercy of God, Tiana. The soul can’t bear endless years in this realm. In this evil.”

David faces a dilemma far more tragic than most. He’s lived, loved, and mourned, as the ones he’s loved have come and gone—as they were meant to. David, stuck in an everlasting state of the present, tries to find meaning in his life. Still a God-fearing man, he deeply struggles with why God would allow him to live on, while everyone else around him fades away.

David doesn’t necessarily blame God, but deeply questions the reasons behind his own existence and purpose. It isn’t until David comes across Zachary Wilson that he starts to learn more about his condition.

Tiana, a coworker and female counterpart with David, serves as a definite mediator for him. She’s sassy and smart, but not overbearingly so. (view spoiler) the immediate attraction between David and Tiana isn’t intrusive. I appreciated that their relationship had time to develop, as well as being realistic and not over the top.

The remaining characters Zac, Colm, Moira, and Simon, all serve a definite purpose in the plot. They each have their own personalities, and some play pivotal roles. I didn’t find myself as drawn to their stories, however, even when David discovered that Zac had survived an eight-thousand-foot drop into the Grand Canyon. I found myself caring mostly about David and wanting to see what would happen to him directly.

Major Themes

⇒ Death

“Dear Lord, I pray don’t make me bear agelessness forever. Is Thy grace sufficient for me? Or is Thy grace withheld, therefore I linger.”

This may be an obvious theme, seeing how David cannot die. However, I can’t say that I’ve ever deeply considered the implications immortality would hold for a Christian. Considering how our faith points us towards the future—the moment when we are reunited with God in heaven is what we aim for. What do we do when that is taken away?

“The death of the body is a mercy of God, Tiana. The soul can’t bear endless years in this realm. In this evil.”

The entire point of believing that Jesus Christ died for our sins is to enter heaven to be with him and escape the evil that sin brought upon the earth. Initially, humans were created to dwell with God on earth. But when sin was introduced, and everything tainted, it made that coexistence impossible. It truly is a relief knowing that this life is short-lived when compared to eternity. It is also a relief that we must deal with sin for a short period of time because it truly is a terrible thing. What does one do when that reprieve is taken away?

⇒ Isolation vs. Friendship

“Lord, these people—are they gifts? Did You bring them? Dare I hold on to them?”

An interesting theme that I didn’t think about before heading into this topic was how many way immortality would affect a person. Perhaps it’s obvious to most—for myself, I honed in on the promise that immortality would take away from a believer. I didn’t think about not being able to make connections with others, simply because they’d think you crazy, cursed, or even evil.

“You think God doesn’t care that you’ve isolated yourself from His church? I promise you He does.”

David’s story includes a strong message about how isolation from the church and Christian community can literally devastate a person. We are created as social creatures—isolation is the opposite of the human intention.

⇒ Purpose

Personally, I find it easy to think about how meaningless life would be if I simply existed. The fact that David remained a Christian after all of his time on earth (was fantastic) showed how steadfast his character is. In this scenario, he’s compared and deeply contrasted to Colm, who took a very different approach to immortal life. Having the gift of immortality can ruin a person in many ways. Both David and Colm experienced this in similar and also very different ways by the choices they made.

⇒ Justice

This portion may include some spoilers!

“And all the while, watching (view spoiler) in the mirror, he tried to see a true killer. And failed.”

This is by far the hardest and most sensitive themes presented in No Less Days. What does one do with a person who is a killer, and happens to be immortal? Stevens did not spare the reader from facing harsh scenarios. I can’t say that I’m happy with what the conclusion that this question led to, however, I can see how it’s justifiable. If a person thinks themselves a “god” of some sort due to their immortality, and above “mortals,” what would motivate them to stop ritual killings? Not only that, what do you do with a person who can live forever and is a murderer?

“The sin I’ve learned about tonight, it’s not mine. But the man who’s done this—he’s not so different from me. He’s felt the same things. The years, the…the losses, they twisted his soul as I’ve felt mine twist at times, and who can say I won’t become…?”

This topic really made me search myself. I’d like to think that I’d be more gracious, and allow the person another chance. But when the guilty openly admits that he won’t stop what he’s doing…then what?

“‘Don’t make me bear it forever.’ David’s breath scraped his lungs. Such familiar words. From him, a prayer. Almost a psalm.”

Colm clearly has some deep-seeded issues. Allowing his “gift” to manifest into something twisted, it really pushes the reader to consider how one would handle a situation such as this. His desperation shows just how corrupt he’s become by his station. When everyone discovers the secrets he’s been hiding for years, it becomes a situation that simply cannot be ignored and cast aside. Addressing his crimes head-on is by far the most difficult element in this plot.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ The writing style.
⇒ I can’t say that I’ve encountered Speculative Fiction often. However, this book has convinced me that it’s a genre I should be looking out more for.
⇒ Several of the major themes discussed in this book, and the creative way they were pulled into the plot.
⇒ The setting (because I’m from Michigan and I can!)

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ The way Colm’s situation is handled. Is someone truly deserving of his fate according to Biblical teachings? Would have grace and mercy been sufficient and turned him around? I feel as though it should have been explored and entertained much more.
⇒ Events in the plot felt random and sometimes forced.
⇒ Certain events were drawn out too long and pulled the reader’s focus away from the entire picture being portrayed.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read. However, I felt that some of the content was drawn out and not always addressed in the correct way. Also, while the story is clearly plot-driven, it felt forced at times and events just happened to keep the reader engaged. I would have liked to learn more about David, his past experiences/lives, and so much more! I think that this is a solid piece of work but needed more character focus in order to be great.

Vulgarity: None.
Sexual content: None.
Violence: Unrelated stabbing and shooting scenes, along with some details of fatal injuries.

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eARC Mini Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

eARC Mini Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Release Day, May 1, 2018! In the beginning, there was silence. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. Song of Blood & Stone Series: Earthsinger Chronicles #1Author: L. PenelopePublication Date: May 1, 2018Publisher: St. Martin’s PressPage Count: 384Format: eARCGenre: Young Adult, Fantasy, RomanceCover Artist: —My Rating: Since […]

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eARC Review: Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

eARC Review: Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

Release Day April 24, 2018! OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. Sky In The Deep Author: Adrienne Young Publication Date: April 24, 2018 Publisher: Wednesday Books Page Count: 352 Format: eARC Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Cover Artist: — My Rating: ★★★½ Eeyln […]

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eARC Review: Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody

eARC Review: Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets… and secrets hide in every shadow.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

Ace Of Shades

Series: The Shadow Game #1
Author: Amanda Foody
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Page Count: 416
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery
Cover Artist:
My Rating: ★★★½

Enne Salta, a young low-family dancer arrives in New Reynes, better known as the City of Sin in order to track down her mother. Lourdes had gone missing a few months before. Enne had received from Lourdes instructed her to find and speak to a Mr. Levi Glaisyer, a friend of Lourdes, if she didn’t return. Hence, to Ney Reynes she travels.

Seeking out Mr. Glaisyer, Enne stumbles across a boy part of the Iron gang. The boy lead her directly to Levi Glaisyer, who happens to be the Lord of the notorious gang. Levi, in debt to the captain, Sedric Torren, and some other powerful people, looks for any opportunity to make money to pay off his debt–including Enn’s pockets.

However, things turn a severe turn when Levi is handed a Shadow Card, marking him as “wanted” by the Phoenix club. Having only ten days to pay Sedric Torren back, he must do what he can to make the money and avoid the Shadow Game…in other terms, his demise.

Between Enne and Levi, it is a race against the clock to locate Enne’s mysterious mother, and Levi to come up with ten thousand volts in ten days.

Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1)Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

If I’m not home in two months, I’m dead.

I’ve seen mixed reviews on this book. Naturally heading into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect after reading such a wide range of thoughts and feelings from other readers. To my surprise, while I did have some minor issues with the book, the eloquent writing, complex characters, and delicious combination of magic and grit captivated my attention. Hold on to your hats folks, as I try to break down some of the lengthy elements within this story.

description


World Building

“Better be careful, missy. Souls can go black in this city.”

The entire plot is set in New Reynes, better known as the City of Sin. Clearly having a bad reputation for its gangs, casinos, prostitution, and the like, everyone entering the city is made well aware to take precautions.

New Reynes is split up, as the North side of the city has the worst reputation, and the South being the “better” of the two. New Reynes is one city of a larger “Republic” also consisting of territories like Bellamy, and several others briefly mentioned. Bellamy is an island that has a reputation for being quite behind the times and popular trends. Notably, it’s preferences in propriety are much different than fast-paced New Reynes. I’m not quite sure which era this is supposed to take place in. With the lifestyles that people lead and the fact that there are cars and telephones, (or that propriety itself is even mentioned) I’m thinking the early 1900’s?

Much of the city is run by gangs, three total, and casino families. The gangs, the Irons, Scarhands, and the Doves each have established hierarchies and territories within New Reynes. Naturally, they have run-ins with one another in all types of scenarios. These gangs also frequently cross paths with the notorious casino families, the Augustines and the Torrens. Known for being ruthless in their own ways, these groups are constantly battling for power and control in the City of Sin.

Politically, the Republic is governed by a group of elitists known as the “wigheads.” Only having been in power for twenty-five years, they took over when the Mizer reign was demolished during the Revolution. The Mizer kings were feared, as they were gifted with Talents of Mystery–better known as magic. These talents that couldn’t be learned were considered to be a threat, and harsh restrictions were placed upon people with these abilities. These restrictions eventually were the reason for the Mizers being overthrown.

Other Talents that people possess are Talents of Aptitude–skills which can be learned like dancing, singing, arithmetic, and the like. All people have a Talent, technically two, as they inherit them from both their father and mother’s sides.

The most mysterious of these Talents exist among the Talent of Immortality, which belongs only to the members of the Phoenix Club, including Chancellor Semper and other elite.

“Have you ever heard of the Phoenix Club? They’re the most powerful and dangerous people in the Republic. Businessmen, wigheads, scholars…all with a talent for immortality. They’re the ones who orchestrated the Mizer executions. The whole Revolution, even.”

Not a lot of information is disclosed about the Mizers, other than their controversial reign and ultimate demise. While greed and other obvious factors had a play into them being overthrown, more exists to the story.

“Mizers created volts, that was their talent. Being an orb-maker, I was taught a lot about the Mizers–I’m sure I know more than you. We’re different from the metalsmiths or glassmaker families. As you might know, Mizers don’t technically make volts–they make energy. Orb-makers filter that energy into volts, sort of like a by-product. Without orb-makers, no one would’ve ever started using volts as money. Without orbmakers, holding that energy in your skin would be unbearably painful.”

While the Talents hold a high place in the structuring of society, there isn’t much to speak of in terms of there being an established religion. There are brief references to “the old Faith,” but very little is disclosed about what exactly the religion consisted of.

“…Jac was already pulling out his Creed, the necklace he wore that was a symbol of the old Faith. Not many believed anymore; the Mizers had perpetuated its stories for their own gain, and, after the Revolution, the wigheads had declared the Faith illegal…Jac rubbed the Creed–which looked like an intricate knot in the shape of a diamond–between his fingers.”

Artifacts of the old Faith appear here and there throughout the plot, yet again, little information is divulged as to their importance.

Pacing & Readability

While the plot is slower where it involves more information-heavy sections, the pacing remains consistent throughout. Due to the fact that there are complex backstories and world-building, it makes this a very engaging, yet heavy read. It’s worth mentioning to take a few notes here and there (unless you are able to give your undivided attention) to keep track of all that is going on, specifically with the terms and who-is-working-with-whom!

Point-Of-View & Characters

Enne Salta (full name Erienne Abacus Salta (view spoiler)) serves as the protagonist. A “low blood” dancer from Bellamy, she travels to New Reynes to find her missing mother after receiving a strange letter.

“School began again in September, and this was Enne’s final year before graduation, before her debut into society. All her life, she had perfected her fouettes, memorized her table settings and obsessed over every salon invitation…all to graduate and earn the title of lady. She wanted it more than she wanted anything. It was all she’d cared about…
Until Lourdes went missing.”

Growing up on the reserved island of Bellamy with her loving but strange mother Lourdes, the City of Sin is a major culture shock. Not only that, Enne realizes that she must adapt in order to survive in the wretched place. Surprisingly enough, Enne thrives in the face of adversity. The shy girl who has always been overlooked and had to work extra hard to prove herself discovers a hardness beneath the surface that enables her to surpass obstacles thrown at her. Enne showcases an admirable amount of grit while mostly staying true to who she is.

”Enne had always considered herself someone who rose to the occasion. After all, being from one of the lowest-tier dancing families at her school, every challenge was an opportunity to prove herself. This might not have been ballet, and this certainly was not her finishing school, but her familiar competitive drive began to take over.”

However, Enne quickly learns how precarious each situation is and how dangerous the Talent of Mysteries can be, as an omerta is placed upon her by Vianca Augustine. Hopelessly tied to not only Levi, the leader of the Iron gang, but also Vianca, one of the most powerful women in the city, Enne plays a dance between the two in hopes of finding her mother.

Levi Glaisyer, Lord of the Irons, is an altogether different type of character. While his first encounter with Enne labels him as a self-absorbed, power-hungry thug, he really isn’t.

“What makes a lord isn’t the bravest, the smartest or the first person to whip out a knife. It’s the one who earns the volts and keeps everyone alive. No one else can lead like me.”

While he has confidence, he also understands that there is more at stake than just his reputation.

“He needed to figure out how to deliver ten thousand volts to Sedric Torren before Sedric Torren delivered him.”

Having a strong devotion to his fellow Irons, Levi tries to be as resourceful as possible in order to care for those he oversees. However, his responsibilities begin to strangle him when he finds himself deep in debt to one of the notorious casino family members, Sedric Torren. After evading him for a while, Sedric finally catches up to him and issues him a “warning” shadow card. Knowing that he has only ten days to pay back the debt, the takes on helping Enne find Lourdes.

I know that Levi’s character specifically has been receiving a lot of attention because he’s black and bisexual. However, I wanted to point out that I didn’t read him as he’s been described by others. There were hardly any references to his gender orientation, and once an obvious attraction between he and Enne developed, pretty much all of that labeling fell away. I could definitely be wrong in this because I was rather caught up in other aspects of the book and I could have overlooked some of it. However, if I could read him as being a straight guy for the majority of the book, then I think this is being more hyped up that necessary as it really wasn’t so blatantly obvious?

Lourdes, the elusive mother to Enne Salta is incredibly mysterious. While I can’t say much about her, everything surrounding her and her character made the plot all-the-more gripping.

While Vianca Augustine is not a major character, she is definitely worth mentioning. Being a part of the elite, Vianca has special abilities that ensure both Levi and Enne to do her bidding. Having the ability to place omertas on a select few, she can bend them to her will and carry out her dirty deeds. In a way, Vianca’s vendetta towards the Torrens works in favor of both Enne and Levi–except for when it doesn’t.

“Everything you do, Miss Salta, you do for me.” Enn felt ghostly fingers scrape across her throat, the omerta teasing her.

Sedric Torren, in conjunction with other characters part of the Phoenix club serves as the main antagonists. The Shadow Game itself, or the threat of being invited to play is also a constant intimidator to the characters.

Many, many other characters exist throughout the timeframe of this book, however, I felt it necessary to list only the most prominent of them.

Major Themes

⇒ Self-Affirmation

Mostly observed in Enne’s character, she grows up her entire life wanting to be more. She works tirelessly in order to prove herself to others, but more importantly, to herself. In the long-run, her hard work paid off as she is able to distinguish a capacity within her that wouldn’t have existed without her determination to prove that she is capable of being more.

⇒ Power/Control

An obvious theme, especially among the different gangs, casino families, and the Phoenix club, the desire for power and control, is evident. Fighting among themselves, these groups navigate the grimy streets of New Reynes with their grimy and selfish intentions only for personal gain.

⇒ Opposites Attract

It is immediately evident that the life in Bellamy and life in New Reynes are like those from different worlds. Enne and Levi couldn’t be more different. Yet, events somehow keep leading them back to one another.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ The writing is eloquent, visual, and simply beautiful.
Here are a few examples:

“If St. Morse were a palace, then the Tropps Room was the throne room, and greed was king.”

“His smile was filthy with insincerity.”

⇒ The depth of the main characters and how they were realistically represented (especially Enne).  know, I’m one of the few that actually liked Enne.
⇒ The backstory is magnificent, and holds its mystery throughout and really pulled me in.

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ There is a lot of backstory and world-building in this plot (which is great). However, it could be very info-dumpy at times, making it difficult to keep up with everything playing into the society of New Reynes. With that, some of the world-building needs much more explanation!
⇒ What really is the Old Religion? It’s never really explained and I’d like to know more about it!.
⇒ The Shadow Games, while they were veryintriguing, needed more to them! I felt that there was a lot of build-up to the moment of this game, but was let down by how it played out.
⇒ At times, I was surprised with Levi’s character. Being the Lord of a gang, I’d take him to be some tough cookie. At times, however, he proved himself to be the opposite. I’m not saying it’s wrong for a street lord to be more sensitive, but, I’m not sure if he’d realistically survive?

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic start to the series. The main reason why I rated this 3.5 out of five stars was because of the areas in the world building that felt incomplete. Without them, I couldn’t quite grasp the full picture of New Reynes and exactly what is happening behind the scenes of this dog-eat-dog city (and there’s a LOT, I’m sure.) Despite that, I’m very much looking forward to the next installment in this series!

Vulgarity: 17 words counted altogether.
Sexual content: Considering this is the “City of Sin” there’s definitely some racy material scattered throughout. In particular, there is a weird scene with Enne.
Violence: Quite a bit with some gory scenes.

View all my reviews

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March Wrap-Up

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Fairy Tale Friday #5: The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le avventure di Pinocchio) by Carlo Collodi

Fairy Tale Friday #5: The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le avventure di Pinocchio) by Carlo Collodi

The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le Avventure Di Pinocchio)

By Carlo Collodi

The Adventures of Pinocchio, originally titled Le Avventure Di Pinocchio was written by Carlo Lorenzini, better known by his pen name of Carlo Collodi. Carlo was an Italian author, who liked writing about characters who were rascals in allegorical ways. 

Pinocchio, being one of the most rascally of rascals, was published in 1880 in an Italian children’s journal as a series. It was later adapted by Disney into a movie in 1940. 

See my The Adventures of Pinocchio inspired Pinterest board here!

This tale has been paraphrased in my own words.

Once upon a time there was an ordinary piece of wood which found its way into the carpentry shop of Master Antonio (also called Master Cherry). The tip of his nose was so shiny that it looked like a cherry. When he saw the piece of wood, he was excited, thinking he’d make a table leg out of it. 

When he went to cut it, a voice came out of the wood, begging him not to hit it too hard. Thinking that he didn’t really hear the voice, he hit the wood with his axe. The wood cried out, and Master Antonio was terrified. He grabbed the log and beat it around the room to see if he could replicate the lamenting voice. Hearing nothing, he continued his work. He began to polish the wood, then heard the voice asking him to stop because it was tickling him. He fell backwards out of fright.

At the same moment, someone knocked at the door. Yelling for whomever it was to enter, Geppetto walked in. The ill-tempered man hated the nickname “Polendina” given to him because of his yellow wig. Geppetto informed Master Antonio that he planned to make a puppet out of wood and travel the world with it in order to make money. The mysterious voice which scared Master Antonio so said “Bravo, Polendia!” – which made Geppetto very angry and he accused the carpenter of insulting him. Getting into a fight, they resolved it and promised to be friends for life. Master Antonio gives Geppetto the troublesome piece of wood to take home for his puppet.

Upon arriving home, Geppetto carves the puppet out of the log and names it Pinocchio. When he set to making the facial features, he saw that they moved! Each feature of the puppet taunted Geppetto. As soon as he fashioned the legs and feet, Pinocchio took off and ran outside and down the street. Luckily, a policeman was able to catch him by grabbing his extremely long nose and gave him back to Geppetto. But onlookers remarked at how Geppetto would beat the poor puppet,and he was in turn, thrown in jail.

Set free, Pinocchio ran back home where he met the Talking Cricket. Pinocchio tried to get the cricket to leave, but he wouldn’t–until he had told him a great truth. The cricket scolded Pinocchio for running away from home and for not obeying his parents. Pinocchio retorted that in the morning he’d leave the place forever because he didn’t want to be sent to school. The cricket warned him that he’d turn into a donkey and be laughed at by everyone. Not liking to be reprimanded, Pinocchio took a hammer and threw it at the cricket, killing him.

Growing hungry, Pinocchio finds an egg. Cracking it open to fry it, he finds a chick staring up at him instead. Thanking him for breaking his egg, the chick flies out the window. His hunger becomes overwhelming and Pinocchio decides to go into town to see if charitable person would give him food.

The night was pitch black and Pinocchio was afraid for it was thundering and lightening. But his hunger drove him on. He came to a house and rung the bell loudly. An old man poked his head out of the window and asked what he wanted. Asking for food, the man retreated into the house and told Pinocchio to hold out his hat. The man dumped a bucket of cold water on him. Pinocchio went back home and put his feet on the stove to dry. He fell asleep and his feet burned off. 

In the morning, Geppetto returned and told Pinocchio to open the door. He tried to stand but fell to the floor. Angry and thinking he was lying, Geppetto climbed in through the window. Seeing Pinocchio’s state, he wept and held him. Pinocchio recounted the previous night’s events, and how his hunger had not abated. Geppetto gives Pinocchio three pears to eat. 

Promising not to run away again, Pinocchio begs Geppetto to make new feet for him. Once attached he jumps up and promises Geppetto that he will go to school. Geppetto makes him clothes to wear, and went and sold his coat for the A-B-C book Pinocchio needs for class.

The next morning it snowed and Pinocchio headed to school and Geppetto stayed home in his shirt without a coat. On his way to class, Pinocchio hears a ruckus of instruments and heads towards it. Seeing a puppet show, he sells his book to a boy for four pennies in order to enter and see what it is about. Inside the show, fellow puppets known as Harlequin and Pulcinella recognized him and stopped the show out of excitement. The celebration is short-lived, as the puppets become fearful when the Director comes out and inquires about why Pinocchio made such a fuss. 

Threatening to use him as firewood, the Fire Eater (the puppet master) ends up feeling sympathy for Pinocchio and lets him go free. The next day, Fire Eater gives Pinocchio five gold pieces to give to his poor father Geppetto. On his way home, he needs a lame Fox and a blind Cat who learn that he has five gold coins. Lured by the mischievous pair, they take him to the City of Simple Simons.  

On their way there, they stop to stay at the Inn of the Red Prawn to eat and sleep until midnight. When the Innkeeper woke Pinocchio at the designated hour, he revealed that the Fox and Cat had left two hours prior, and hadn’t paid so Pinocchio had to foot the bill. The two said they would meet him at the Field of Miracles at sunrise in the morning. 

Travelling through the dark woods, the ghost of the Talking Cricket advised him to turn home and give the remaining money to his father. Failing to listen, the cricket warns Pinocchio that he will fall into the hands of the Assassins. As foretold two Assassins fell upon him, demanding his money. He hid his coin and fled. At one point, they nearly caught him, and he bit off the hand of one of the Assassins, noticing that it was a paw and not a man’s hand.

He came to a white house in the woods and banged on the door. After no one answering for a while, a window opened and a beautiful girl with deep blue hair and pale skin spoke in a weak voice that everyone in the house was dead. Her eyes were closed and arms crossed over her chest. Imploring her to open the door, she said she could not for she too, was dead. Just then, the Assassins captured Pinocchio, tied his hands behind his back, and hung him from a giant oak tree. After three hours and seeing that he wouldn’t die, the Assassins said they would return in the morning.

A great wind blew up and nearly choked him to death. Luckily, the lovely maiden with blue hair (who was actually an ancient fairy) saw him from her window. She summoned a large Falcon to take him down from the tree, and her poodle drive to fetch him in the carriage. She then had three of the best physicians come to tell her if he were dead or alive–one was an owl, the other a crow, and the last was the Talking Cricket well acquainted with the puppet. 

Pinocchio, still being alive, came down with a bad fever. He refused to take medicine the fairy tried to give him. When he did, black rabbits with a coffin came into the room to bear him from his death bed. Not wanting to die, Pinocchio took the medicine and immediately recovered. The fairy asked him to reaccount his tale with the Assassins. Each time he lied, his nose grew, to the point of where he couldn’t exit the room. Distraught with being trapped, the fairy gave in and called for woodpeckers to come in and shorten his nose. He thanked the fairy and told her that he loved her. She desired to adopt him as a brother, and had sent for Geppetto to be brought to their current location. Pinocchio asked to leave to go and meet him on his journey.

On his way, he met up with the Fox and the Cat near the tree where he was hung. They asked if he still wanted to turn his four pieces of gold into a thousand, which he agreed to. They led him to the City of Catchfools and told him to bury his coins. In his absence, they dug up the gold and ran. A parrot in a nearby tree tells Pinocchio what happened. Furious, he went to the town hall and explained how he had been robbed. He was then sentenced to four months in prison for his foolery for being robbed. 

After his time was paid, he immediately returned to the home of the fairy. On the way, he encountered a massive snake which died laughing at him, and he became a watchdog for a farmer. Able to catch the thieves stealing his chickens, he was sent free. When he reached where the fairy had lived, a tombstone lay in place of the small house saying that the fairy had died out of grief from her brother Pinocchio abandoning her. He mourned for her and his father, unsure of his father’s whereabouts. 

Just then, a large pigeon flying overhead asked if he knew Pinocchio. Revealing that he himself was Pinocchio, the pigeon told him that his father was out at sea. He had searched in vain for Pinocchio all across Europe while he was imprisoned. Not finding him, he decided to sail to the New World to search there. Allowing him on his back, the pigeon took him to the seashore. 

A bad storm had kicked up. Seeing Geppetto out in his boat being tossed about by the waves, Pinocchio becomes worried. The boat capsizes, and Pinocchio jumps in to save him. Unable to reach him due to the storm, Pinocchio ends up on the shore of an island. Hungry, he begs for money to buy food from the inhabitants, but no one is willing to help him without him working to earn the money. 

He happens across a woman who allows him a drink of water from her water jugs. He then asks her for some food and she said that if he carry a jug, she will feed him. He suddenly realizes that the woman is no other than the blue-haired fairy. Relieved that she was still alive, he apologized for running off. She said that she would be his mother as long as he was good and went to school. 

In school, Pinocchio actually excelled. Committed to his studies, his fellow classmates led him astray by persuading him to skip school one day to see the massive shark that had come to near the shore. It was the same shark that was sighted near the place where Geppetto was last seen. Reaching the shore, he realized his “friends” tricked him into skipping class. Upset, they got in a fight. One of the boys was hurt, and the others fled when police came on the scene. Believing Pinocchio guilty, they set their dog to chase him. Pinocchio ran into the sea and the dog followed. Not able to swim, Pinocchio helped the dog to shore, then swam to a cave to warm up. 

There, he is caught in a net by a terrible green man. Thinking he’s a fish, the man nearly fries him along with the other fish when the police’s dog showed up and saved Pinocchio. Heading back to the good fairy’s home, she says that she will forgive him this time for his folly, but it is the last time. He agreed and was a good student for the next year, earning high scores at the end of the season. The fairy told him that the next day he would get his wish of becoming a real boy. 

In celebration, the fairy was to hold him a big party where he could invite his friends to celebrate. Pinocchio went out that evening to invite his friends. He went to his dearest friend Lamp-Wick’s home, only to find him waiting for a carriage to the Land of Toys. Pinocchio, unable to stick with making good choices, also decided to go. The two stayed there for five months, without any schooling and only play.

One day, they both sprouted donkey ears and soon turned into donkeys. Both were sold and Lamp-Wick was never seen again. Pinocchio was sold to an equestrian trainer, but after being injured in a show, was sold again to a man who wanted to make a drum out of his skin. He through Pinocchio into the sea in order to drown him. When he pulled him back up, Pinocchio had turned back into a puppet. 

Pinocchio threw himself back into the sea to escape the man, but is swallowed by the massive shark. In its belly, he comes across none other than his father! He had survived in the belly of the shark for two years. Th shark, having suffered from asthma, had to sleep with his mouth open. Pinocchio and Geppetto were able to escape through its mouth at night and swim to shore with the help of a tuna fish.

Traveling to the road, Pinocchio happened upon the Fox and the Cat who had robbed him before. They are old, broken down, and begging for food and money. He didn’t take pity on them and kept on to find a place were his father could rest. They happened upon a small cottage which was owned by the Talking Cricket. Through hard work, Pinocchio was able to earn money and help care for his ailing father. In reward for his good works and changing his perspective, the fairy with blue hair appears and changes him into a real boy.

Le avventure di Pinocchio (Storia di un burattino) – The Adventures of Pinocchio (The Tale of a Puppet): Bilingual parallel text - Bilingue con testo a ... Inglese (Dual Language Easy Reader Book 34)Le avventure di Pinocchio (Storia di un burattino) – The Adventures of Pinocchio (The Tale of a Puppet): Bilingual parallel text – Bilingue con testo a … Inglese by Carlo Collodi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“That Puppet is a disobedient son who is breaking his father’s heart!”

This was nothing like the Pinocchio I was familiar with. Granted, I only watched the Disney (yeah, I know Disney’s adaptations don’t really stick close to the original fairy tale) movie probably one time in my life, so I didn’t remember much of Pinocchio’s story, to begin with. But, I wasn’t expecting such a story as this.

Pinocchio is probably one of the most unlikeable main characters I’ve come across in a book thus far, and was one of the key points I hadn’t remembered. This infuriating little puppet was incredibly disobedient and selfish. While I understand why he was drafted to be so, I couldn’t help but bid against him and his endeavors. Chance after chance, he just…does whatever he wants, and it was downright irritating! Not to mention, there are a few elements to the plot which are utterly terrifying for children to read! At one point, Pinocchio is hung, he bites off the paw of a cat, and so on and so forth.

Pinocchio definitely goes through a lot of trials, but a majority of them are of his own making. Through many (MANY) wrong choices, he eventually realizes that if he makes selfless decisions, life is much easier and truly enjoyable.

“When bad boys become good and kind, they have the power of making their homes bright and new with happiness.”

Overall, I think the summation of this book is good, it was simply an unpleasant journey to get to the end.

My Rating: ★★½


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What are your thoughts on this tale?
Did you know about the darker elements in the original tale before?
What was your take on Pinocchio's character overall?


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