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Gideon's Angel
Gideon's Angel
Clifford Beal | 2013 | Fiction & Poetry, Paranormal, Science Fiction/Fantasy
10.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Note: this review is transposted from my personal review blog, and so was originally written several years ago. I figured if I reposted it here, someone might actually read it….

I received my copy of Gideon’s Angel through the Goodreads FirstReads program. This in no way influences my review, except to ensure that I was able to get ahold of this book and thus review it. I have to say, I really enjoyed this one. I want to describe it as “steampunk,” but my understanding is that steampunk is usually set in the 1800s (or at least that level of tech and society) whereas this work is firmly set in 1653. If there’s already a term for pseudo-historical fiction with a fantasy touch set in that timeframe, I apologize for not knowing what it is and using it accordingly.

Things are not going well for Richard Treadwell. The English Civil War is over, the King’s Cavaliers lost to the forces of Parliament and Oliver Cromwell, and Charles I has been executed. Treadwell has managed to escape the destruction of his cause, and has spent the past eight years in exile in France, performing a delicate balancing act between loyalty to his exiled king* and his employer, Cardinal Mazarin. When Mazarin informs him that someone is using the forces of Hell to tip the balance in their favor and asks him to spy on the exile court to find out if it is one of the king’s supporters, Treadwell decides that it’s time to get out of Paris. He accepts a mission for one of the king’s more militant supporters that will take him back to his beloved England–to lead a Royalist uprising, one last try to oust Cromwell and his Puritan cronies. Treadwell has other business to tend to as well, including a wife who by now probably considers herself a widow. Unfortunately for Treadwell’s simple worldview, it soon becomes clear that Cromwell’s power is the only thing preventing the more radical Puritan elements from running roughshod over the whole country. Worse still, a demon from the pits of Hell has appeared to a radical Puritan sect masquerading as an angel of light and ordering the death of Cromwell so that the Kingdom of God may be fulfilled. Now instead of assassinating Cromwell Treadwell will be forced to save him–if he can find a way to fight the forces of Hell, gain some allies in his quest, and avoid d’Artagnan, a young Musketeer dispatched by the Cardinal to bear him back to Paris….

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not exactly “high literature,” but I think I’ve very well established that I care far more about a work’s entertainment value than whatever it is critics look for. The world Beal creates here feels very real, slipping in background historical information without making you feel like you’ve been lectured. Some readers will probably wish for more background on the English Civil War, and that’s fine. If they care that much, there are numerous good books on the subject. If they don’t, there’s a Wikipedia article that should give you a good rundown on what happened. Beal manages to evoke seventeenth-century London in all its grimy glory, much as it would have actually been aside from the fact that all the magic we dismiss as superstition is actually going on behind the scenes. Moreover, this magic very much resembles what you would find depicted in the folklore of the era without obvious modern embellishment. I’m not really all that well versed in the history of the Freemasons, so I can’t accurately speak to how they were portrayed here except to say that I very much doubt their claim to date back to the builders of the pyramids. Then again, I doubt they have the tools to summon demons too, so maybe I shouldn’t be too critical. Secondary characters generally proved to be interestingly complex, especially Billy Chard, but I am seeing criticism of how the female characters in the book act. They aren’t weak characters by any means, but they are constrained by their roles in society. Treadwell’s wife has pragmatically joined her fate to that of the officer who took over Treadwell’s land when he was banished and is pregnant with his child. Is she weak for this? Or is she a strong female doing what she has to in order to protect what is left of her family? Treadwell’s Parisian mistress follows him to England rather than stay in Paris and face the scandal of their liasion alone. Weak, for needing Treadwell by her side? Or strong, for following him into whatever dangers he may be facing? Finally, Isabelle decides to follow her father and the rest of Treadwell’s band into battle against the forces of Darkness, deciding that it would be better to fall by his side than live on without him. Possibly a sign of weakness, but look at her situation realistically. She and her father were driven from Spain for their Jewish heritage, her mother dying along the way. Jews do not fare well in the Christian world of the seventeenth century, not even in England. The lot of a young woman alone in the world is already hard enough in this time without adding the burden of religious and ethnic persecution. She would have no respectable means of supporting herself, and could conceivably find herself forced into prostitution–on her own if she was lucky, as no more than a slave if she was not. Is preferring death in battle to such a fate a sign of weakness or of strength? She certainly has no trouble speaking her mind, and in fact berates Treadwell severely for endangering her father when they first meet. I suppose I can understand where some people would find these characters and their portrayal to be weak and sexist, but I respectfully disagree. I submit that instead they are strong characters reacting realistically to a world where women are not treated equally–in fact, I would have more of a problem with them if they demonstrated anachronistic modern sensibilities.** The ending was a little deus ex machina, but on the whole I didn’t mind. I would say that I want to read a sequel, but I don’t think the author could come up with anything to top this in terms of personal impact on the characters–Treadwell’s internal conflict between hating Cromwell and having to save him is very well done, and I fear Beal would prove unable to find something equally interesting as a follow up. We never really got to find out what happened to Treadwell back during the Thirty Years War that introduced him to the world of angels and demons, so I could see maybe writing that up….I’d buy it, anyway.

CONTENT: R-rated language, occasionally harsh but I would argue not gratuitous. Moderately explicit sexual content, as you would expect from a work in this vein.*** A fair amount of violence, from both man and demon. Not usually too gory in its description. There is also a good deal of occult content, as the villains are summoning a demon they believe to be an angel. This demon’s lesser minions dog Treadwell and his friends, and there are multiple encounters with them. One is implied to be a golem, others appear as strange amalgamations of beast(s) and man. For me, this is adequately balanced by the recognition that, as powerful as the forces of Darkness are, God is far more powerful than they. Bottom line: if you’re mature enough to handle the other content, I don’t believe the occult elements should prove to be an issue.

*Charles I was executed, while his son Charles II went into exile. Just in case you were concerned with the historical accuracy of the book. So far as I can tell, this is pretty accurate. You know, aside from the demons and fictional characters roaming London…..

**Please understand, I’m neither defending nor endorsing the inequality of the seventeenth century. Neither is Clifford Beal, for that matter. I’m simply pointing out that it was how it was, and this was the world the characters would have come from. I’m all for equality, but to whitewash history and pretend it was different from it was….that way lies dangerous waters.

***This evokes more than anything a supernatural-tinged Alexandre Dumas novel for me….and you know how bawdry his musketeers could be when they wanted to be.

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Shadows of Malice
Shadows of Malice
2014 | Adventure, Fantasy
Great framework for narrating an adventure (2 more)
Good solo game
Interesting mechanisms
A lot of fiddly tokens (1 more)
Slightly heavy rules
A different take on the adventure board game
Shadows of Malice is an interesting take on the adventure game. Aside from the introduction explaining that you are heroes on a quest to find and activate mystical light wells and defeat the demon and his shadows before they can break through from the shadow realm and capture the wells for evil, there is no fancy artwork, immersive flavour text or even the well known fantasy monsters.

Instead, you get plain cards with simple line art and either just an icon/dice modifier or a short line of text explaining the effect. These cards are items of armour, weapons or other loot, potions, skill masteries, fate effects or abilities. A selection of these make up your character. Again, there are no defined heroes, you can be whatever you fancy being.

When you encounter a monster you roll 3d6 against a chart which will define the creature's species and its strength. Creature types are things like "Avian" and "Reptilian" so you can imagine fighting a dinosaur, a giant eagle or whatever fantastic creature you desire.

This makes the game a great framework to roleplay in. You are never stuck encountering the same things again and again. On the minus side, if you don't have a good imagination, it boils down to just rolling dice and beating target numbers. If you want a game to give you a story to follow, SoM is not that game.

The rules are good, if a little heavy but after a game or two it should soon click and it's mostly straight forward. The designer has recently just uploaded a revised rulebook to BGG which streamlines a number of things.

SoM comes with 4 large landscape hex tiles plus a shadow realm tile and you can choose any number of tiles to arrange in any position around the shadow realm tile. Each tile is divided into a number of smaller hexes with varying terrain and locations printed on them. This is the world you will be exploring and, despite being tiny compared to other game boards, each tile adds about an hour to the play time.

Gameplay involves exploring the land fighting creatures, gaining loot, visiting cities to trade goods or mystic seers to buy potions while searching for the special light wells that you must take control of.

In between player turns, the shadows act. They begin confined to the shadow realm but as the rounds progress, barriers fall and the shadows are more likely to find a way out to manifest in the land. Once there they start searching for the light wells and it's game over if they get to them first .

This makes for a tense cat and mouse with your heroes racing to either get to a well or intercept the demons on route.
Bitter Demons (The Shadow Demons Saga #3)
Bitter Demons (The Shadow Demons Saga #3)
Sarra Cannon | 2016 | Paranormal, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)
6.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Full review of this book and others can be found on my blog:

Bitter Demons is the third book from The Shadow Demons Saga, and the third book of my challenge to read my sister’s books. If you haven’t read the two parts, you can read my reviews on my blog :

Beautiful Demons (The Shadow Demons Saga #1) - ★★★★

Inner Demons (The Shadow Demons Saga #2) - ★★★★

As a third book of this series, I have to be honest and say that this one didn’t deliver. I expected so much more to happen, and so many more questions to be answered.

The story continues where the second book ends, and now we have Harper, that knows she is a Prima and has great powers. She also really likes this handsome guy, who happens to be a Demon. And Demons can’t have relationships with Primas, because demons are supposed to be slaves, and witches are supposed to use their power.

When two Prima sisters come into town and Harper meets them, she becomes friends with Caroline, one of the sisters. They decide to play a game and swap their looks. But Caroline, who looks like Harper is attacked, which means that someone wants Harper dead - and Harper has to keep this a secret and resolve the mystery by herself.

Now, of course we get to see a lot of Harper in the book - after all, this book is about her. But we don’t get to see her character or story improve in any meaningful way.

We learn a lot about Jackson and his past, and his brother (ooooh… spooky), and how he tries very hard to resist Harper in any way, but ends up doing the exact opposite.

On another note, we are introduced to new characters, but also some of the old characters are given more time in this book and we get to know them better - which I might of not liked so much. Give me more Harper - please!

We meet Caroline - I loved their friendship with Harper and I loved how nice and cute she was. A bit naive, just like Harper, which maybe got her in trouble.

Mary Anne…Oh, Mary Anne... Even though we don’t get to meet her much and she always only shines in the end of the book, I loved the mysterious bit about her, and her will to make the sacrifice that she did. She was the hero for me in this book!

Brook - We got to see the mean side of her, and wow, how fast she changed! Can people really change that quickly and fall under pressure so easily?

I still love the story so much, and will of course read the rest of the books, but I didn’t enjoy this book as much I enjoyed the first two parts. I am hoping the next book will pleasantly surprise me.
The Merciless
Danielle Vega | 2014 | Fiction & Poetry
6.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
Also read my review here:

<b><i>Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned.</b></i>

Well, well, well, what can I say? This thoroughly disappointed me, after giving it some more thought, I’ve taken this down to 2 stars.

So we have 3 beautiful and popular God-fearing girls who adopt the new girl into their secretive little gang and warn her against demon-possessed Brooklyn. To cure Brooklyn of her devilish ways they decide to kidnap her, stick her in a basement and torture her, or “exorcise her”… Sound like I’m giving too much away? Well yes, I probably am, but the blurb tells you the exact same thing, making the whole suspense element of this book completely useless and a waste of the author's time. <b>Don’t try to keep us on our toes when you’ve already told us what’s going to happen.</b>

Due to this being a novel aimed at Young Adult readers, the language, for me, felt simple and lack lustre. I can only read so much before it becomes laughable for me, and laughable it became. All the characters speech was so unrealistic and straightforward it was almost impossible to believe anyone would actually talk like that. This unrealistic speech really made it difficult to connect to any of the characters on a deeper level so I had no empathy for any of them.

The plot, overall, is just a little bit… completely… ridiculous and nonsensical. The blandness of the characters, scenes and speech make the whole thing feel like a pretty demented, but dumb dream. <spoiler>If Brooklyn had just been evil in a normal teenage girl way and didn’t rip out Riley’s fucking heart, maybe it would have been a better book</spoiler> I didn’t find myself shocked, scared or creeped out at any point in the entire book because it was all so juvenile and cheesy. The reasons the girls did what they did was childish and cringy and it just wouldn’t happen in the way Vega wrote it down. And let’s not get me started on all the loose ends...

Anyone up for reading one of the most predictable endings ever? My God, what an unexciting end to a pretty unexciting novel - at least it was consistent.

I did read this over the period of just one day, so it had me wanting to finish it, but not for any of the right reasons. I wasn’t reading it quickly because I wanted to know what was going to happen next, I was reading it quickly because it was getting stupider and stupider and I wanted to get it over and done with. Do I want to put myself through reading the second book in the series? I don’t know… I’ll give it some time first.
Dracula Untold (2014)
Dracula Untold (2014)
2014 | Action, Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
6.8 (18 Ratings)
Movie Rating
The latest Dracula movie attempts to honor an ancient story while adding some new spice and bringing the usual graphics flair we’ve come to expect from Hollywood, but falls short.

Dracula Untold, as the name implies, is an origin story for the pop culture father-of-all-vampires. Luke Evans bears the mantle of Prince Vlad Tepes of the Dracula Clan. (Not Count, but Prince.) What about the King, you ask? Well, they didn’t cover this, but there is no King.

Luke Evans is one of my favorite actors in Hollywood right now, and he does this role justice. The rest of the cast contributed solid performances as well, as best they could with sub par script, and poor direction. Charles Dance was a particular pleasure to witness.

This film is Gary Shore’s directorial debut, and it’s easy to see the marks of a neophyte director. Had it been in the hands of someone more experienced, it would have been a juggernaut of a Fall film. Even so, he did pretty well enough, all things considered. According to his work history, Shore was an electrician until 1998, then disappeared until 2014. This is his second film so far this year.

Dracula Untold opens with the story of Vlad the Impaler, as told by his son. Vlad was shipped off to the Turks to become a trained and conditioned weapon. He earned his title by impaling an entire village for the Turkish army. Vlad was a deadly force on the battlefield, but they eventually allowed him to go home, where he could start a family and rule Transylvania. It is painfully obvious that the usual blood-thirsty character was meant to become a hero for this new tale.

The Turks return to take more boys, like they did him, but he refuses. This draws the Turks’ ire, and they demand retribution for the insult and insubordination. Desperate, he seeks out a monster in the mountains who was the REAL first vampire — a man who made a deal with a demon.

Vlad is granted temporary powers, paying a heavy price in the process. After this, the story really ramps up.

This film left me feeling as if something was missing. I attribute this to missing explanations, plot holes (like the lack of King), and several other missteps. Normally, I can look past plot holes. A strong enough movie will keep me from noticing them until I’m rethinking it later. In this case, they were too distracting. The music was unimpressive and not at all memorable. The one liners were forced and distracting, instead of powerful and emotional.

This movie is worth seeing if you’re a fan of vampires in general or Dracula in particular. That said, I wouldn’t advise high expectations. Great aspects were abundant, but there were just as many failings. If you feel compelled to see it, wait until you can see it at home, and save the money.
The Demon
Hubert Selby Jr. | 2011 |
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Also read my review here:

<i><b>Behind me theres a house, a beautiful house with a loving family, and my guy is filled with rats and maggots that are chewing me up alive.</b></i>

I feel like the aim of this book wasn’t just to shock, but also as a reminder that wealth, sex, admiration and success don’t necessarily lead to a happy life.

I found, to begin with, this was so great at flowing along with the story. There were no sections that seemed overly long and boring, it was just exactly what we needed to know about Harry’s life. Then we came to after Harry’s marriage, where the demons within him couldn’t be kept down and he was frequently going out and sleeping with random women. Now, I was expecting this to happen in this book, Harry’s known as “Harry the Lover” so it’s pretty obvious that he’s going to be addicted to sex, but it went on for too long. It felt like half the novel was about Harry going out and shagging anything that moved, all the while, his lovely wife was at home looking after their son, and she had no idea what Harry was up to. The thought of my boyfriend / husband cheating on me one of the worst things I can imagine, so having to read so much of it had me seriously wanting to put the book down and move on.

Thank God Harry moves on to other things to fulfill his desires, because it definitely helped me get back into reading this. Once I was back into reading this, I was really hooked with the story. I kept wondering how far Harry was going to go to hold down his madness.

People get annoyed with the way Selby Jr writes his novels, but I think it’s cool. He doesn’t use speech marks, paragraphs and sentences ramble for ages and he uses a forward slash instead of a apostrophe (it’s closer to type than the apostrophe), this way, he doesn’t ruin his idea and writing flow. I like this raw style of writing, though it can sometimes get confusing to understand who is speaking. Selby Jr is also known for writing about some quite strange, manic and disturbed characters, so his rushed, and a little hectic, writing style does an amazing job as getting you inside the mind of the narrator.

This so could have been a 5 star read for me, but I read it during a reading slump (one that I’m kind of still in), plus the topic of infidelity cropped up too much that everything just fell apart and I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I had wanted to. This is definitely <i>not</i> an easy read but also not a read you should pass up if you get your hands on it.

<i>p.s. I didn't accidentally miss out the apostrophe in the quote, that's how it's written in the book.</i>
Magical Girl Ore
Magical Girl Ore
2018 | Animation, Comedy, International
6.0 (2 Ratings)
TV Show Rating
Contains spoilers, click to show
Saki and Sakuyo want to be an Idol duo but when Sakuyo’s brother, Mohiro gets into trouble Saki find that the power of love (and a hand from a fairy) can transform her in to a magic girl with a difference. Now she must juggle working towards her dreams with protecting Mohiro and the world from rampaging demons
Magic Girl Ore is a subversive parody of the normal ‘Magic Girl’ series’, it takes the tropes of series’ like ‘Sailor Moon’ and turns them on their head and it is these subversions that make the show. The story line is, to be honest a bit bland, in most episodes the girls are doing some kind of Idol related activity then the demons turn up and try to kidnap Mohiro, who is always around often for convoluted reason, then the girls change and save the day. Each demon attack seems to get worst, building up to the final plan. It takes a few episode to realise that the formulaic, almost dull nature of the show is deliberate, until the end the action is not really important because what you are watching is a subversion of a genre. If you take any number of shows you can see the same plot, ‘Sailor Moon’, ‘Miraculous’, ‘Power Rangers’ and even ‘Scooby Doo’ all have the same plot, a ‘big Bad’ is trying to take over the world/amusement park and the heroes have to stop them.
There are any number of ‘Magic girl’ series’, the genre started in Japan but soon became popular all over the world with many countries creating their own spin on the idea. Most of the time the main character is a young girl who is given the power to transform into their Magic form to fight evil. This is still the standard plot for ‘Magic Girl Ore’ however; the fairy is a normal looking business man, the transformation changes the school girl into a 20 something muscular man, still in the tradition magic girl dress and the demons are cute and buff, there is a hunky possibly gay feel to the demons. This bring us to the transformations, the magic girls change by concentrating on saving the person they love, with Saki this follows a common theme, the school girl in love with her best friend’s brother, the brother doesn’t know. Then Sakuyo get the power but the person she loves is Saki. It’s also hinted that Mohiro prefers Saki in her male form. There are two other magic girls, Michiru, who’s love is male Saki but she hides her feelings so much that her transformations take more energy and ages her and her partner, Ruka who’s love is Michiru.
 ‘Magic Girl Ore’ could have easily fallen into concentrating on these relationships turning the series into a LGB.. statement but it doesn’t, girls like girls or magic girl men or men who like men but it’s just treated as the way it is and, I think that is the right way to do it.
Over all ‘Magic Girl Ore’ is a lot of fun but does seem to drag occasionally.