Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Book Review)

Ace of Spades

Publisher: Usborne
Page Count
: 480

CW: racism, homophobia, bullying, hate crimes, forced outing, emotional abuse, mention of suicidal attempt, anxiety and panic attacks, torture, blackmailing, violence, stalking, gaslighting and murder

This review is brought to you by the sheer generosity of my good friend Marie @Drizzle and Hurricane Books. She hosted a giveaway and I was the lucky winner, getting to choose from books she had previously talked about on her blog. I picked Ace of Spades (you can read Marie’s review here) and have not regretted that choice one bit!

This book was FANTASTIC! It genuinely deserves all the hype and I’m currently trying to wrap my head around how I could possibly put my thoughts into coherent words. The premise is pretty straight forward: the only two black kids at Niveus Private Academy suddenly get targeted by an anonymous presence called “Ace” in their final year at the school. While people don’t grasp the connection at first, a thrilling tale unfolds that will keep you at the edge of your seat the entire time.

I loved the hints that were placed throughout, but how I was still shocked and surprised at every single revelation. Maybe, sometimes, it wasn’t so much because I didn’t think it was possible, but just because I didn’t want to see the knives in those kids’ backs get twisted in any further. I was rooting for them so much as they showed strength and vulnerability, where I am sure I would have crumbled to pieces already. I would have loved to burn down that entire school for what was happening to them.
While it’s easy to love Devon from the get go, it’s Chiamaka who grows on you over time, as you learn more about her. Both were so different, yet such compelling personalities in their own rights. They created the perfect balance for each other. But so did the book as a whole, in general. The writing kept me on my toes, made me turn page after page and managed to be engaging, chilling and disturbing all at once.

As much as it was a magnificent thriller, it was also an exceptional commentary on elitism, racism and the intersectionality of being queer and Black/a person of color.

My recommendation is to go into this book with as little knowledge as possible and to get yourself swept up in the mystery and emotions. I was riled up and sad and shocked. My range of emotions was really exploited to its full extent and that means I can’t put it any other way than calling this book a masterpiece. That end is going to keep a wicked smile on my face for a while, I believe.

Lastly, yes, this book really did combine Gossip Girl and Get Out in the best way possible, while completely staying its own story. Please, convince yourself of its magnificence!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! A fantastic and thrilling read. HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!


Have you read Ace of Spades? Do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday Movie Picks: Outlaws

It’s Thursday and I’m back with a new Thursday Movie Picks feature post. This series is hosted by Wandering through the Shelves and offers you a weekly prompt to post some movie recommendations/talking points according to the theme. Usually, you are supposed to post about 3-5 examples, which I find a very manageable amount.

Today we are here to talk about Outlaws! My mind immediately goes to the Wild West, but that’s not all there is to outlaws of course. We shall see what I can actually come up with for today. From the top of my head, not too many movies come to mind, so I’m changing things up and will use movies I haven’t watched yet, but am looking forward to!

Concrete Cowboy

A modern view on cowboys and I’m here for it. Are there really any outlaws in the movie? Debatable, for sure. But 15-year-old Cole is definitely in trouble at school and on the verge of doing some stupid stuff, so I’ll let that slide.

The Harder They Fall

I swear this is one of my most anticipated Netflix releases of the year. This cast has me fawning all over them and it just looks really good. I cannot wait to watch it.

High Ground

Former lawmen becoming outlaws in a way, I like the idea of that. Also, this seems extremely layered and complex, so I’m intrigued.


So, this turned into more of a theme within a theme than intended, but what can you do? What would have been some of your picks? Let’s talk!

What If … Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark? Episode Review/Shang-Chi Movie Review

Wednesday is Marvel day on the blog! As fate will have it, I don’t just have a What If … review planned for you today, but also one for Shang-Chi! I hope you’re up for a little double-feature and ready for spoilers ahead.

What If ... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?
credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

What if Tony Stark never had a change of heart and instead invited a villain into his life? Well, you’d get the plot of this episode.

My thoughts?

After the last two weeks, this episode felt a little bit lackluster to me. There’s really no other way to say this, but I’m extremely tired of having to watch Tony Stark die and while Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is a fascinating character, this didn’t add much to his arc. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s break it down:

Heroes are not born. They’re forged in darkness, shaped in battle, defined by sacrifice.

  • The age of Iron Man never comes to pass as Tony gets rescued by Erik “Killmonger” Stevens in Afghanistan and therefore never has a change of heart. Instead of rethinking Stark Industries entire business model, he basically believes it is necessary to just create more and better weapons.
  • To show his gratitude, Tony makes Killmonger first his new chief of security, but quickly promotes him to COO. While he believes to have found a like-minded soul, Erik has other plans.
What If ... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Killmonger uses Tony to his advantage in several ways. First, he gets him to help build Project Liberator, war drones that fight like humans and look like something out of an anime (their reference, not mine). But he also uses Stark Industries to create a paper trail that leads to Tony rather than himself.
  • In an attempt to acquire vibranium for the drones, Erik sets up Rhodey as well as T’Challa and kills both in the process. After Tony finds out, because he’s still whip-smart, Erik also kills him, but stages it to make it look like the Dora Milaje did it in the name of Wakanda.
  • An outright war is about to start between the US and Wakanda, because of Killmonger’s meddling. But all of this was part of his plan, as he intends to use this situation to weasel his way into the griefing royal family of Wakanda and become the new Black Panther. He ultimately succeeds in getting that power, but T’Challa, on the astral plane, warns him that power unearned can be a very volatile force.
What If ... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • At the end, we can see that the US military is still willing to fight Wakanda, whereas Pepper is at her wits end as to why people won’t believe that Killmonger was behind all of it. Luckily, Shuri shows up and they band together to expose Erik.

Heroes are never really gone. They live forever. As do the ones they inspire to carry on the fight.

As mentioned above, I wasn’t majorly impressed by the episode. All the characters are great, that’s not the issue, but I just didn’t feel like it added much to the narrative we already knew, aside from more people dying. And again, I’m tired of certain characters passing on this show over and over, because I don’t need to keep seeing that.

You all know this show is very hit or miss with me, so I hope you won’t take my very average response to heart too much. I just think that What If …? banks a lot on viewers nostalgia to get their story across and that, most of the time, the episodes themselves don’t warrant that much of an emotional or impressed response. I don’t think that their storytelling in general is that great, but I still wonder if this will play into the bigger MCU at all. In case it doesn’t, I’m not sure I will tune in to all the episodes of Season 2, which is confirmed.


PREVIOUSLY: WHAT IF …


SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS

I usually don’t pile on with reviews like that, but somehow, seeing that Tony’s arc technically had a lot to do with the Ten Rings, I thought it was only fitting I’d also include my Shang-Chi review today!

I kidd you not, I haven’t been to a cinema since February 2020, so this was a huge deal for me. The large screen, the giddy atmosphere, the shared experience, the popcorn (which just never tastes the same when you have to microwave a pack at home), the all around immersive feeling – I’m so very glad I got to celebrate my return to a movie theater with Shang-Chi.

Marvel movies fall into a very common storytelling structure each time, and Shang-Chi is no exception. On the one hand, the structure has proven to work, but on the other hand, it makes everything a little predictable. However, Shang-Chi works so well due to its fantastic cast, amazing fight choreography and the mix between banter and emotional hooks. The friendship between Simu Liu’s character and Awkwafina’s character was great, as they remained platonic throughout, but the film also showed really amazing familial relationships. As far as MCU origin movies go, this is really on the upper end of the spectrum.

At this point, the whole Marvel lore is so vast and interconnected, I know that it has taken out the joy for some people. I love that there wasn’t any previous knowledge necessary to watch Shang-Chi. Yes, you would miss references to Iron Man movies, Doctor Strange characters and the likes, but does it really matter? The story stands on its own and will continue within the universe (seriously can’t wait for more of these characters to come!!!), but also works as a standalone movie.

Little tip: there’s one mid-credit and one after-credit scene. Just in case the light turns on after the first one, like it did in my theater, and a bunch of people leave and miss the second one.

more of these three, pretty please!

What are your thoughts on the episode and the movie? Let’s talk!

What I’ve Been (Binge-)Watching #65

The motto of today’s watching-round-up is pretty easy – I watched a bunch of bad movies, so you wouldn’t have to. Although I suspect a lot of you might have checked them out regardless, because you were curious or the hype was too much. Well, let’s see what my thoughts were on the following films.

Afterlife of the Party

This kind of movie is right up my alley! I’m not going to lie to you, while it was very cliche on a number of levels and Victoria Justice’s acting is sub-par, I ended up really liking it.

If you can look past some of the overly dramatic and loud performances, there’s some really beautiful parts in there. I especially enjoyed Midori Francis’ character and her love story as well as the healing family moments. Midori Francis, in general, is someone I really like to watch on screen and if you haven’t yet seen it, I recommend you watch Dash & Lily (also on Netflix). While everything ended really conveniently and almost laughably in the final scene, I did shed a tear in the end, so, it must have touched me in some way..

Cinderella

Alright, so … where do I start? I went into this movie with super low expectations and the intention of not taking it seriously at all and that kind of worked for me. There’s a lot of British comedians I like in there (James Acaster, Rob Beckett, Doc Brown, Romesh Ranganathan …), who had me laughing, but I’d be lying if I said this was a good movie.

They were trying really hard to make it more modern and give it a boss girl vibe, but it seemed forced and there shouldn’t be anything inherently anti-feminist about wanting to get married. I don’t know, maybe that’s just my opinion. The music was alright in a jukebox-y kind of way, but I was surprised by how little I liked some of the voices, despite there being actual professional singers in the roles at times.

Let’s just say that it was an okay movie and if you have a terrible sense of humor like me, you’ll probably laugh more than the movie really warrants. However, it’s not great and there’s something about it that just feels very self-indulgent on Camila Cabello’s part. I don’t really see her as an actress.

He’s All That

Let me be clear – you cannot take a movie from the 90s, gender-swap it and add some social media to it and call it a day. The parts that were cringey back then and barely worked are not going to suddenly make more sense now. That is my honest opinion and I could not sit through the entire movie at regular speed, so I watched it at 1.5.

Nothing about this whole movie seemed genuine. The message gets completely lost, since the girl is still constantly on her phone broadcasting her life at the end of the movie and I did not see the point of it whatsoever. However, apparently Netflix would rather be talked about badly than not at all, so they struck a multi-movie deal with Addison Rae, who cannot act. I’ll just ignore those movies from here on out and will continue to watch Tanner Buchanan on Cobra Kai.

The Voyeurs

TW: suicide, nudity, voyeurism

Movies where people have watched their neighbors and thus seen a crime (of passion or otherwise) happen and then had to deal with it have been done many a time before. I appreciated that The Voyeurs didn’t go the predictable route and really surprised me towards the end, but that movie made zero sense. Everyone who watched it was really confused at the way they decided to end the story and where they stopped telling what was happening. I don’t want to give anything away for those that are curious, but it felt like parts were missing and that made it very unsatisfying.

Also, it was aesthetically quite pleasing to watch, despite a bit too much nudity for my taste, but I do not need close-ups of eyeballs followed up by cooked eggs anymore. Thank you.

Shows I Watch Weekly

This is the part where I talk about the shows that I watch each week and that are still ongoing. It’s my way of not forgetting them, because I can’t binge them in one go.

Good Trouble (Season 3 Finale) – I’m pissed, because every single character was in a love triangle (or work triangle or whatever) throughout the season and they resolved NOTHING in the final episode. No storyline was concluded, everything is still open and I don’t get why.

Roswell, New Mexico (Season 3) – It’s no secret that Maria DeLuca is my favorite character on the show and all I want is for her to not constantly get hurt. Well, they’ve put her in a coma for the past couple of episodes, which means I’m pissed. I just want her to go on cutesy dates with Gregory Manes. Let me have my ship!

Ted Lasso (Season 2) – This show remains a favorite in every imaginable way! The episode titled “Man City” was one of the best thus far and I cannot wait for the remainder of the season. It just packs such an emotional punch and just goes deeper each week. I love it with my whole freaking heart.

Stargirl (Season 2) – I like that the stakes feel higher again. So far, I’m still not as invested as I was last year, but the change to the CW network hasn’t hurt the story entirely. The best episode was still when Sportsmaster and Tigress briefly left their respective prisons to be parents. Love that one!


Have you watched anything mentioned above? Do you want? Let’s talk!

Thursday Movie Picks: Actors or Actresses Playing Themselves

It’s Thursday and I’m back with a new Thursday Movie Picks feature post. This series is hosted by Wandering through the Shelves and offers you a weekly prompt to post some movie recommendations/talking points according to the theme. Usually, you are supposed to post about 3-5 examples, which I find a very manageable amount.

Today’s theme is all about actors and actresses that played themselves. I think there’s room for interpretation with that theme. Is it people who mostly or only ever play characters that are super close to their own personality? Or are we talking about actors and actresses that literally played themselves (be it as a cameo or more) in a movie? Well, I decided for myself that I’m going to go with the latter, however, I didn’t just pick actors but also just celebs in general for this feature.

Keanu Reeves: Always Be My Maybe

I adore Keanu Reeves! He is an odd dude, but he never takes himself too seriously, which is why his role in Always Be My Maybe was simply brilliant. He briefly played the love interest for the main character and I laughed every time he was on screen. I miss him in more light-hearted stuff sometimes.

Julia Roberts: Ocean’s 12

This appearance was super meta and I was here for it! Basically, Julia Roberts’ character pretends to be Julia Roberts, so there’s always that!

LeBron James: Trainwreck

LeBron James having a friendship with Bill Hader’s character was so funny. I loved it and would have watched many more scenes with just the two of them.

Ed Sheeran: Yesterday

Confession time: I’m not the biggest Ed Sheeran fan. I get that many people love his music, but I’m just not that head over heels into it. However, it was fun to see him in Yesterday and become a mentor of the lead character in a way, while he was also baffled someone was a better songwriter than him.

Dustin Hoffman: The Holiday

It was so brief, blink and you might have missed it. But I love The Holiday and I felt compelled to mention it. What can you do?

Dustin Hoffman in The Holiday
credit: Universal Pictures

What are some cameos or full on roles of actors, actresses and celebs of any kind you liked in movies? Let’s talk about that!

What If … Zombies!? Episode Review

Wednesday remains Marvel review day, even if I might post a little later in the day. As a warning, this will likely happen for several weeks to come, as my schedule has changed a bit. BUT reviews are still happening. Today we talk about What If … Zombies!? and spoilers are ahead from here on out!

What If ... Zombies!?
credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

When Bruce Banner falls to Earth to warn everyone about Thanos’ arrival, he finds a planet entirely changed and now inhabited by … zombies.

My thoughts?

I genuinely thought last week’s episode was dark, but this one was equally (if not partially more) sinister. In general, I was never a huge fan of the zombie genre, but I was curious to see what they would do with it paired with the Avengers and it was a lot of fun. I don’t have a comparison to the comic book storyline (because yes, there were zombies in the comics too), but it worked alright for me. That is … until the once again, super open and ambiguous end. I vowed not to complain so much about the episodes feeling rushed (which they still do), but I also haven’t made peace with the fact that it’s never really a closed story. Sometimes an open end is great, but sometimes … I just don’t know what to do with it. But let’s start at the beginning!

  • Just like in Infinity War, Bruce Banner crashes into the Sanctum Sanctorum to warn everyone of Thanos’ arrival. However, in this reality, Bruce finds Earth changed and seemingly deserted. That is until Bruce’s henchmen arrive to start a fight, just to be surprised by superpowered zombies in the shape of Tony Stark, Wong and Doctor Strange. It’s not often that I see zombies retain the abilities they had before they were changed.
What If ... Zombies!?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Bruce eventually gets saved by Hope van Dyne, Strange’s cape and Peter Parker as we find out what happened on Earth.
  • In this version of events, Hank Pym also went to find his missing wife in the quantum realm, but the reunion went quite differently. Janet van Dyne contracted a quantum virus that corrupted her brain (aka turned her into a zombie) and because of her daughter’s unrelenting search for her, she managed to bring the virus back to our realm and infect large groups in no time. Once the Avengers joined the fight and got turned as well, the fate of humanity was more or less sealed. 
  • If only it weren’t for a small group of survivors that still carried that torch of hope. In a very curious constellation, Hope van Dyne, Peter Parker, Happy, Bucky Barnes, Kurt (one of Scott’s friends, if you struggled to remember him as well), Sharon Carter and Okoye as well as Bruce Banner now, all found themselves in New York, willing to give their all to save the planet.
  • The group gets a beacon that tells them that a potential cure has been found and in an attempt to get there, they lose a couple members. I have to say that, despite the scenes being fairly brief, the violence was definitely upped quite a bit. I never thought that I’d have to watch Sam get cut in half from top to bottom and Bucky react entirely nonchalantly, but here we are. I mean, he literally said “I should be sad, but I’m not”. To me, there were several quite gruesome moments.
  • Only Peter, Bruce, Bucky, Okoye and Kurt make it to the base that is supposed to hold the cure, just to find Vision there. He found out that his mind stone creates an aversion within the zombies, which ultimately led him to test his theory. He was able to save Scott, but only his head. A head that keeps floating around and just telling dad jokes. Typical Scott!
  • This is where Marvel really twists in the knife though! When everyone gets excited about potentially saving humanity, Vision turns dark. In reality, he has been luring people to his hideout in order to feed his zombie bride – Wanda. She is too strong and her zombie-condition can’t be cured, so he instead contained her and fed her, even holding T’Challa hostage.
What If ... Zombies!?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • I did not expect to get another appearance of Chadwick as T’Challa, but my heart sang again. This wasn’t nearly as happy as the last episode he was in, but yeah, I’ll take what I can get.
  • Ultimately, Vision can’t betray everyone he knows, while he also can’t let go of Wanda. He opts to destroy himself and give up the mind stone to the others, rather than leave her or kill her himself.
  • A Hulk vs. zombie Scarlet Witch fight ensues, while Peter, Scott’s head and T’Challa are the only ones making it off the base with the mind stone. Thankfully, Wakanda’s shields were strong enough to not have them fall pray to the zombie apocalypse. So, technically, there is still hope that they can fabricate a cure, if only it wasn’t for the small little detail everyone forgot – Thanos arrival.
  • The episode ends with an image of a zombie Thanos, who is wearing an infinity gauntlet with a full set of stones. To me, that means he defeated the remaining people in Wakanda and got the mind stone. I’m assuming his plans for the use of the gauntlet changed with his turn to a zombie, but I don’t know. I could speculate and form a dozen theories, but that’s the frustrating thing with these episodes sometimes. The end could mean basically anything and everything.
What If ... Zombies!?
credit: Marvel Studios

What did I learn from this episode? I still remember this thing going around TikTok or Twitter, where someone said that heroes would always sacrifice their love in order to save the world, whereas villains would burn down everything rather than let you go. Well, I think the What If … multiverse proves that our heroes are definitely willing to let it all go to hell for their loved ones. Just some more food for thought, because as the watcher said, all these stories (most of which often turn to a form of horror) started with love and hope/Hope.

Something I appreciate a lot with these episodes is how they replicate certain shots from the bigger MCU in animation. It was especially notable with Captain Carter’s episode, but continued to be utilized throughout the season thus far. This time around, for example, we saw a corrupted Steve Rogers still use his shield and it looked marred by blood, just like it did when John Walker misused it in TFATWS. It’s very smart cinematography, because it easily creates a connection and possible emotional memory to something familiar, but in a very subtle way.

In general, this episode offered a lot of imagery hinting at the fate of characters in different realities. There was Peter with the cloak/cape and him being Spider Supreme in another universe. Then there was Bucky with the shield (“guess this is the end of the line”), stepping up as the new “Captain America” in this version. It’s the little things that often only last a couple seconds, but that can be meaningful to viewers (although Sam is my Captain. Sorry not sorry).

Ultimately, I liked the episode, but I’ve enjoyed others even more. Maybe I’m not the right audience for an anthology series like this, but we’ve made it to episode 5 (which I believe to be the halfway point of the season), so I’m going to keep going with these little reviews/recaps.


PREVIOUSLY: WHAT IF …


What did you think of this episode? Did you like this take on zombies? What are your thoughts? Let’s chat!

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake (Book Review)

The Atlas Six Book Cover

Publisher: self-published
Page Count
: 461

CW: death, murder, degenerative diseases, suicide, sex scenes (not explicit), manipulation and psychological trauma

This book blew my mind in the best of ways! I finished it mere moments ago and I have absolutely no idea how to feel, other than I cannot wait for the sequel to release next year.

“Knowledge is carnage. You can’t have it without sacrifice.”

Although a couple of my friends and fellow bloggers have loved The Atlast Six, I was still trying to go into it with fairly low expectations. From experience, nothing kills the enjoyment of reading a book more than it being hyped too much, but it barely took me a couple pages until I was completely enthralled in what was happening. There is some rich worldbuilding, however it isn’t initially clear who knows about what kind of magic, as it seems to be omnipresent in the world and almost like an open secret. Just like the candidates, you get thrown into this new life and have to figure out a lot of it on your own, often being met with closed doors which harbor secrets behind them. While there was mystery, it only propelled me forward to read more rather than put me off with frustration, which was nice.

“We study the realm of consciousness because we understand that to decide something, to weigh a cost and accept its consequences, is to forcibly alter the world in some tangible way. That is magic as true and as real as any other.”

What drives a lot of the story are the characters. Even though I think you can sense which ones the author preferred in the way the POVs were written, I found all of them equally as interesting. You might not like everyone and I definitely had a personal preference in characters (Libby and Tristan, hello?), but I never felt that kind of dread that can easily come with books that are written from various points of view. Even when I wasn’t a big fan of a character, I still found value in their thoughts and observations, they were all so uniquely complex. All the more fascinating were the relationships between the candidates and the people in their orbit. While I could guess some developments, I still felt that it was all written in a very satisfying way, making me crave more of them in the process.

“A flaw of humanity,” said Parisa, shrugging. “The compulsion to be unique, which is at war with the desire to belong to a single identifiable sameness.”

If I had to criticize one thing, it would be the fact that I was often confused about how much time had passed. As the story had proven several times, time isn’t exactly linear and it was actually a field of study for the candidates of the Society, but I still never really got a feeling for it within the story, which felt disorienting. Sometimes there would be mere days between chapters and then entire months. That was the one thing I found hard to keep track of. It also took the candidates way too long to figure out what the fate of the eliminated person would be, but I won’t hold it against them. Who likes to think about sacrifices like that?

Still, in the end, I would love to dive into the sequel right away. I fell in love with the secrets and intricate dynamics. I want to know more so bad, having possibly been poisoned by the library and knowledge a little bit myself. It was such a fantastic read that I can sense will linger in the back of my mind for a while now.

“The problem with knowledge, is its inexhaustible craving. The more of it you have, the less you feel you know.”

Lastly, something that made the book even more unique were some really gorgeous illustrations of the characters by Little Chmura! I adore that kind of attention to detail!

Lowkey considering getting the The Atlas Six character art print from Little Chmura’s Redbubble shop (click here)!

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! I want more right now, always and forever. The world and characters sucked me in completely!


Have you read The Atlas Six? Do you plan to? What’s the last book that completely enthralled you? Let’s talk about that!