Category Archives: Review

Here, I review a piece of media (book, movie, series, etc.)

Almost There by Farrah Rochon: A Review

The thirteenth book in the Disney Twisted Tales series, Almost There asks the question: What if Tiana Made a Deal that Changed Everything? A question that this novel looks to answer.

When I first heard that this book was coming out, I was intrigued. Though 2009’s Princess and the Frog didn’t catch my interest when it was initially released, it is one that I have revisited and really enjoy. The art and music were really good and the direction it took the story was interesting. This is also the movie that introduced us to Tiana, Disney’s first black princess. All and all, I would say that The Princess and the Frog was a solid movie and deserves the appreciation and enjoyment it has received in the years since its release.

Almost There is the thirteenth book in the Twisted Tales line and was the one I had the most curiosity for after the last two books. Go the Distance was a nice one and What Once Was Mine wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I read it (loved the concept, wasn’t fond of certain decisions). And while I had an inkling for what they might have gone with in terms of twisting the story (Tiana taking the deal), how it was executed was neat.

And having just recently finished the book, I thought it was time to review it. Note: I will try to avoid as many spoilers as possible, but as always, Possible Spoilers Ahead.

Synopsis

The story begins with a few scenes from Tiana’s past. A lot of it being about her father and establishing moments from the movie and built off of it. Readers then jump to the present where Tiana makes a deal with Dr. Facilier that will give her her father back in exchange for an elixir his friends from the other side want her to use.

When she agrees, with one little detail missed, she gets what she had always wanted. Her friends safety, her own restaurant and her father. However, when eerie things begin to change. And when Dr. Facilier comes back a year later to collect and follow upon that missed detail, Tiana finds herself thrown into a world of trouble, and it’s up to her, Charlotte, and Naveen to reverse what the Shadow Man created.

Positives

What I thought was really good about this book had to do with the story, some of the characters, and the setting. It was also interesting to see how it worked off of the established connection Tiana had with her father and their love for cooking. It was also really nice to see these two bonding and how it eventually dealt with Tiana’s love for her father and the grief that comes along with it.

For the story, the direction they went with made sense. I did speculate that Tiana would take the offer Dr. Facilier gave her, but where such an offer would go, I wasn’t sure. That said, it does feel like a logical direction for it to go the way it did, and I think it was executed well for the most part.

As for characters, I did enjoy how this story developed Charlotte a bit more. While Charlotte would be a sort of iconic character in the movie, she only had so many scenes. Here, readers get to see more of her and Tiana’s friendship and Charlotte having some development. Naveen also got a little development too. Like him reflecting on possibly going back to Maldonia after receiving an invitation back, and what that would mean for him. Of course, Tiana got quite a bit of development as the protagonist, which includes how she handles Facilier and the restaurant. As well as how she approaches Naveen now that everyone is back to “normal”.

The setting of the story is also pretty neat too. It still takes place in 1920’s New Orleans which is nice. And while holding onto the music, food, and character the movie had while set in this time period, it does have a moment where it seems to address (if only in an implication sense) about the climate at the time in regards to race. While the movie has that scene with Tiana and the investors at Charlotte’s party with how they present her not getting the building she had her sights set on, Almost There has a scene involving Charlotte and Tiana at a clothing store where one of the workers states Tiana isn’t allowed to shop there (Charlotte does try to defend Tiana in this situation to her best ability while Tiana doesn’t want to start a conflict because of it).

Negatives

As for negatives, while I wouldn’t want to say it feels like it is formulaic, but I suppose the ending could have been a little different. On the one hand, I did like how it was a sort of psyche out. On the other, I kind of saw something a little different (like Facilier “running out of time”). But that’s just me.

One other thing I think they could have done was more scenes with Mama Odie. They do go to see her, but I feel like there could have been more scenes with her. Especially since there was a whole scene with Charlotte being perplexed that everyone but her knew who Mama Odie was. I just felt they could have done more with it.

Conclusion

I would probably give this book a 4.25 out of 5 stars. It’s certainly one of my favorite of the Twisted Tales series and I love how it approached the story. From the characters to how it addressed the plot and setting. I only wish they had done one or two things differently.

The next book in the series is one I heard might be a possibility. That being a Pinocchio set book. The title is When You Wish Upon a Star and is written by Elizabeth Lim, who previously wrote the Mulan Twisted Tale Reflection. When You Wish Upon a Star will focus on the Blue Fairy and asks: What if the Blue Fairy wasn’t Supposed to Help Pinocchio? and is expected to be released on April 4th 2023.

Sandman (2022): A Review

For the first time in a long time, I found myself enjoying a new series. That series being the recently released The Sandman series on Netflix. Going into this series, I was pretty hopeful. And having read the first two volumes, which this season covers, I can honestly say it was a pretty faithful adaptation.

Since this show is still relatively new, I will avoid spoilers as much as possible. But in any case, POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Synopsis

When Morpheus, better known as the Sandman and Dream, is captured in an attempt to resurrect a man’s son, he spends the better part of a century (one hundred and five years to be exact) trapped and without his tools. Upon his release, Morpheus is on a mission to retrieve what was stolen from him and get revenge.

Along the way, he will return to his home in the Dream World, meet Matthew, his new raven companion, and visit Lucifer Morningstar as he retrieves what was once lost. And as the dust settles, he will be reunited with his sister, the ever charming and insightful, Death and learns of someone known as The Vortex, which could prove catastrophic if not approached accordingly.

This first season covers the first two volumes of The Sandman series, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Dollhouse.

Positives

When it comes to positives, I think there are quite a few. The most significant for me being, the story, the characters, the casting, and how it translated as an adaptation.

I also like the darker fantasy tone it had. As someone who enjoys fantasy, it’s always nice to fins a good series, book, or what have you in this genre. And The Sandman does that really well for me.

Its also worth noting that Neil Gaiman, the creator of The Sandman comics. So while I do think they did really well adapting it, it’s neat that Neil Gaiman did have a hand in the production. So I would hope he enjoyed how the show came out.

The Story

As a story, The Sandman is an intriguing one. The idea of the personifications of things like dream, death, desire, despair, delirium, destiny, and destruction living among us is a concept that can certainly create some interesting and philosophical story. And it was.

In general, what I think this season did really well was the approach and set up. It sets up the world and characters well. It knew what it wanted to do with it’s story and setting and did it in a way that I felt was well executed.

As an adaptation of the first two volumes of the comic, I think it did really well. While Neil Gaiman had a hand in it’s production, it was able to, not only tell the story pretty accurately, but have necessary changes and additions that worked.

The Characters

The characters were also interesting. Each one having their own story to tell. There’s Rose, who’s looking to find her brother after they were separated when they were younger, Doctor Destiny (a.k.a. John Dee), who, after escaping an Asylum, wants “everyone to live with their truth” and for a “more honest” world, and Corinthian, who wants to be his own person and prevent Morpheus from stopping him. Though not all of the characters we get to see outside of The Endless, these are just a few examples.

While only four of the seven Endless (the group of entities that Morpheus is apart of) appear in this season, they were all unique and fit what they personify well. Morpheus takes his job as the ruler of dreams very seriously, knowing how it effects the waking world and how destructive the lose of it can be.

Desire, though not appearing as often as Morpheus, makes a great impression and sets up what to expect with their relationship with Morpheus. As well as their twin Despair, who does make a brief appearance. Should a season 2 get green lit, which I’m confident will happen, I feel that these two will get a lot more attention and development.

And then there’s Death, the oldest Endless introduces thus far, and the second eldest over all. She was the one that Alex Burgess was looking to capture when he got Mopheus instead.

Casting

I do believe that the casting choices were great. I know casting can cause debate on initial reveal and sometimes after, but I think that the casting choices were good. Some of my favorites include Mason Alexander Park as Desire, David Thewlis as Doctor Destiny, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, and Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer. Tom Sturridge also pulls off Morpheus really well. Not only in appearance, but in voice too. He sounded how I would expect Morpheus to, so I really enjoyed his portrayal.

And of course, there are other casting choices I thought were really well too. Even in voice work like Patton Oswald as Matthew the raven and Mark Hamil as Merv Pumpkinhead.

Overall, I do think that the casting choice was good. It’s also pretty diverse, which I think is pretty cool. I also think it works. For instance, with Desire being very ambiguous as far as their identity (in the comics Desire is often referred to as sibling). So casting Mason Alexander Park (They/Them) in the role, I feel was a good choice. Plus, I really think they bring a real charm to the character, and I can’t wait to see how the character develops from here (Death too, because I really want to see more of her too).

Critiques

I don’t really have that many negatives for this season. However, while I might think this show is really good and a great adaptation, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s flawless. That said, my critiques are very minute.

One being that I feel like it could have been an episode or two longer. It might not need it, but I feel like another episode or two would be a nice way to help develop things a little further. That’s not to say I think it’s rushed, which I don’t. I just feel that there could have been an episode that made helps explore Desire a little (without giving too much away), and maybe an episode that explored Rose and Jed Walker past a little more. Again, not exactly necessary, but something. Plus, Desire will probably get more development and screen time in later seasons.

That’s all I can really think of as far as critiques. I suppose upon a rewatch, I might find something else. However, I don’t really have many critiques of the show at this time.

Conclusion

I would give this show a ninety percent. I do think they did a great job adapting the first two volumes of Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic. The casting and characters were great, the story was told really well, and it has an aesthetic that really fits this gothic, horror fantasy. The effects were also really good too. And while it might have one or two flaws in the form of maybe being a little longer, overall, I think this is a really good show and I would recommend it.

Of course, I know it might not be a show for everyone, which is fine. The comic and the Netflix adaptation are a bit dark (I’ve heard that the diner scene was kind of unsettling for one or two people), so I wouldn’t expect it to be for everyone. However, if you are looking for something a little different and/or a dark fantasy, I would recommend it.

With that said, I leave you with the following questions: Have you seen the show yet? If so, what were your thoughts? Are you planning to watch it? Since it’s pretty much a guarantee that a second season will be made, what are some of your hopes going into it? Do you think it will, or should, cover the next two volumes (Dream County and Seasons of Mist)? If you have read the comics, do you think it was a good/faithful adaptation?

The Missing Sister: A Review

This is the most recent book in the series as of this review. The seventh book of the Seven Sisters series answers the overarching question that has remained unanswered since the beginning: Who was the seventh sister that Pa Salt never found?

This book answers that question all the while reuniting the six sisters from the previous book. Also know: Minor Spoilers Ahead.

General Disclaimer

My general disclaimer for this book, and the last time you’ll probably see it since I don’t think Atlas, the eighth and final book, will address Pa Salt’s heritage so much as why Pa Salt adopted all of the sisters and his found family through them.

While this series does involve each character finding their birth family, I do not believe that it was the author’s intent to diminish adopted families. Having read the series, I interpreted it as each daughter being given the choice to find their birth families if they so choose. With each daughter choosing to investigate their history.

Synopsis

When Maia, Ally, Star, CeCe, Tiggy, and Electra receive news about the seventh sister that Pa Salt never found, they decide to look into it. They hope to spark a connection, find out what happened, and why this seventh sister wasn’t found. Their investigation brings them to New Zealand, Canada, England, France and Ireland. Along they way they meet Merry and her daughter Mary-Kate, who may hold the secret to the missing sister.

Jumping back into the 1920’s we get to hear the story of Nuala. Nuala is an Irish woman living through Ireland’s war for independence. Her journey details with where she and her family stand, what actions she takes, and what it was like during this turbulent time.

Positives

I’m a sap for Ireland centered stories, being of Irish decent myself and having a curiosity to learn more about Irish history. So one thing I enjoyed was how this book explored Ireland and it’s history. And with this taking place during a time of conflict, getting a sort of look into it from one perspective was neat.

I also liked how we finally got the sisters all back together for this. With this “missing sister” being something that was referenced multiple times throughout the series, it was nice to see that they didn’t leave this plot point on the cutting room floor.

Another thing I thought was a neat reflection of the story was with Merry and her daughter Mary-Kate. Mary Kate finds herself learning more about herself and her family and finds out the truth about her relationship with Merry.

Critiques

The critiques I have are with Merry and how they approached the search for her. Merry was a character that I had mixed feeling on. On the one hand, I understand why she wouldn’t want to meet with the D’Aplièse sisters to a degree. However, her constantly running was something that I found a bit repetitive and annoying at times. Merry does eventually agree to meet up with them, and readers are able to get a conclusion, but O was a little tired of the constant “the D’Aplièse sisters get to the location Merry’s at, but oh no, she fleed the country” cycle.

On the other hand, I can also see how the approach could have been done better. Realistically, it would feel odd if a group of people kept following you wishing to met, even if it wasn’t just the D’Aplièse sisters Merry was trying to evade. So that part makes sense.

On the other, It felt like it just prolonged the inevitable. I’m not opposed to her trying to avoid the D’Aplièse, just that it shouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. I think it would have been nice or at the very least manageable, if after a while of avoiding them, it’s Mary-Kate who decides to act as a mediator and/or talks her mother into speaking to them much sooner. And from there, resolve any issues and explore Merry and Nuala’s stories. But, that’s just my thoughts on it.

Conclusion

I would give this book a seventy eight percent. This rating I believe will log it as my third favorite in the series. I found the premise of finding the “missing sister” to be a good one, and a great way to tie up that loss end. I also thought it was interesting as far as Nuala’s story taking place during Ireland’s war for independence. The only think I wish they had done better was how they approached the D’Aplièse sisters went looking for their missing sister and aspects of Merry’s story.

Sun Sister: A Review

The Sun Sister, released after I had finally caught up on the rest of the series. I was certainly curious to see what they would do with Electra’s character, as she was the one who seemed to have the least screen presence… or book appearances, when compared to the others. She does show up several times throughout the first five books, but it did feel like she was more so referred to than actually having scenes.

Unfortunately, this would be my least favorite in the series. Due to seeing and agreeing with some of the criticisms in reviews, I do feel like it could have been better. There were a lot of good concepts there, and I was all for them, but I did see how the execution seems rushed. It’s not terrible by any means, however, out of all seven books so far, one had to be the least enjoyed. And for me, it was this one.

Series Disclaimer

While this series does involve each character finding their birth family, I do not believe that it was the author’s intent to diminish adopted families. Having read the series, I interpreted it as each daughter being given the choice to find their birth families if they so choose. With each daughter choosing to investigate their history.

Book Specific Disclaimer

Know that Sun Sister does address drug addiction and recovery throughout Electra’s story. How well the story handles it will depend on the reader, but know that it is addressed.

Synopsis

Electra’s story is one of fame, struggles, and living in the moment. Electra, despite being the youngest sister, has had a rather successful career in modeling. However, her personal life is far from perfect. After putting off the information Pa Salt had left her in regards to her family tree, and getting help for her addiction, she decides to look into it. When she is given a letter from a woman claiming to be her grandmother, she finds herself meeting this woman and discovering her family history while coping and working on bettering herself.

Meanwhile, starting in 1939 Cecily Huntley-Morgan finds herself moving from New York to Kenya on a journey of rediscovery and recovery. With war and disaster on the horizon, she finds herself marrying a man named Bill Forsythe and joining him as he works alongside the Maasai Tribe, who he has close connections with. As loneliness starts to set in, Cecily finds a baby that had been abandoned and raises them as her own.

Positives

I will say that I did appreciate the story it was telling. For Electra’s story, I appreciate how she does get help for her struggles. What she was going through is relatable and worth discussing. I also thought Electra had some good, albeit not perfect, development.

I also thought it was neat how this story did decide to address some of the Civil Rights era. It was a step forward time period wise, where as most of the previous books past story segments took place between the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Because while it does start off in the late 1930’s, having a slightly more modern and notable time period was a nice change of pace.

Critiques

Unfortunately, the execution is where it feels lacking. It probably doesn’t help that I did read a few reviews before hand, something I typically try to refrain from unless I am that curious about if a book is worth reading. And while I wouldn’t say that checking out reviews, or getting a second opinion/feedback before going into a book is bad, it did give me something to think about.

Because, while I do think that there were good intentions behind the book, I also think that it wasn’t as well executed as it could have been. Which was something some reviews noted on more or less. So while I can credit it for trying, I can also critique it for it’s execution.

One critique that stuck out to me was how quick the story seemed to skim over Electra’s recovery. And I can kind of see why. It does address it and has some moments dedicated to it, but it does feel like it could have or should have gone more in depth with it. Of course, it goes without saying that I am not an expert when it comes to addiction recovery and how long it should take, despite what knowledge I do have on it. That said, I can see why it might have felt rushed and/or not as developed as it should have been.

Another complaint I’ve seen was with Electra herself. Mostly with characterization. I will admit, Electra was the one sister I was curious about, but also the one I wasn’t sure hot to feel about. I would definitely say the character is a bit rough around the edges and there were areas that might have needed some improvement. However, I don’t think I was as critical to Electra as some people might have been, though I do agree there could have been different ways to handle the character in some instances.

Conclusion

Overall, I would give this book a six out of ten. I do believe that there were areas that could have been improved upon with the character and how certain story elements could have been done differently. That said, I do kind of appreciate what the book was trying to do with it’s handling of Electra’s mental health and addiction, even if the execution wasn’t stellar.

Moon Sister: A Review

The fifth book in the series, The Moon Sister, is one of my favorites alongside Seven Sisters (the first book) and the reason I got into the series. I stumbled upon it while working on returns at the library. Someone had returned the large print copy of the item and the synopsis got me curious. However, when I found out it was book five, I did decide to read the other books first. Even though I didn’t have to since each book is acts as a standalone with very little to do with the previous books. At least until book seven, The Missing Sister, which has all of the six sisters meeting up to fins the “missing sister” that Pa Salt never found. Regardless, I read all the books prior so that I could get familiar with the story.

General Disclaimer

Routine disclaimer for the found family and how it meshes with adopted family concept.

While this series does involve each character finding their birth family, I do not believe that it was the author’s intent to diminish adopted families. Having read the series, I interpreted it as each daughter being given the choice to find their birth families if they so choose. With each daughter choosing to investigate their history.

Disclaimer: The Romani and a Terms Deemed Offensive to Them

I wanted to take a moment to discuss this a little bit. First of, I did like how it explored a Romani angle with Tiggy and her family was interesting, and based on a Q&A, https://lucindariley.co.uk/seven-sisters-series/the-moon-sister/q-a-the-moon-sister/ Lucinda Riley did have an interest in learning about the culture and beliefs.

That said, I feel like a certain topic should be addressed. Several times in the book and in the Q&A, she does use the word G*psy. For those of you who might not know, it is a term that is considered offensive to the Romani people. The average person might not know this, but it is something I have come to learn about over the years and have refrained from using out of respect.

Since I cannot confirm intent, I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say she wasn’t trying to be malicious. Ill informed, perhaps, but not malicious. And with her passing in June of 2021, there may be no way to get a concrete answer. As such, I do not wish to make an assumption on intent and knowledge about the term. I am not excusing any offensive terms being used, but I do know that it is possible that she could have been misinformed and not malicious. However, if it comes to light that she was being malicious with it (via rough drafts, journals, etc.) I would definitely reconsider my approach to this book and would not recommend it.

Synopsis

After Pa Salt’s passing, Taygete “Tiggy” D’Aplièse returns to her work on a wildlife preservation in Scotland. She does decide to investigate her family history and finds herself developing feelings for Charlie, the doctor that she has been staying with, despite knowing his relationship with his wife, soon to be ex-wife. When her health takes an unexpected turn, she finds herself needing medical treatment that brings her to Granada Spain, where her family had lived.

Meanwhile, in 1912, readers are introduced to Lucia Amaya Albaycin, a n up and coming flamingo dancer in Granada Spain. She is passionate about her skill and has the chance to expand it and travel. However, as war breaks out and her career growing, Lucia finds herself having to choose between her dancing, the man she loves, and her family.

Positives

This is one book where I enjoyed both the present and the past parts. Much like the previous two books, I found myself relating to areas of the story and characters, namely Tiggy, who is an animal lover, as am I. And while she was drawn to Scotland, I find myself drawn to learning more about Ireland. I also liked how she grew. Tiggy is also one of my favorite sisters, maybe even my favorite. I liked her kind hearted and calm nature.

As for Lucia’s portions, I did like the direction they went with it. While it did have elements that were similar with the previous past stories in pervious books, I liked to approach. I enjoyed how it had Lucia following her dreams and the slow burn that was to come. I didn’t want the character to fail, but it was interesting to see how her passion and her

The Grey Area

Though I am curious about the Romani people, I will admit my information about them and their culture is limited. So I cannot say how accurately they were portrayed, I do think Lucinda Riley did a good job in some areas. They weren’t shown to be malicious like some media may portray them, but people living their own lives and wanting to better themselves and their people. And again, while I know certain terms used for them are considered derogatory, I cannot confirm if Lucina Riley was being malicious when using it.

Critiques

One critique I did have was with the whole thing with Charlie’s ex-wife and the whole cheating concept to Tiggy and Charlie’s relationship. While Tiggy did try to suppress her feeling for Charlie given the circumstances, but it wasn’t quite executed the best.

I also don’t really care for Zad, Maia’s questionable ex, returning in this book. I don’t think he was really necessary to have in the story. FOr whatever reason, he pops up several times throughout the series trying to get with one of the D’Aplièse sisters. He was in a relationship with Maia, tried to get with Tiggy, and was with Electra for a brief time between the two.

Conclusion

I would rate this book an eight out of teen. Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable read. The story in Granada, Spain was nice and I did like aspects of Tiggy’s story as well. However, elements of Tiggy and Dr. Charlie’s relationship, Zed, and the use of a term deemed offensive to Romani people (malicious or not), do bring this story down.