Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray (ARC Review)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 496
Release Date: September 28, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: death, verbal/physical abuse, indentured servitude/slavery, kidnapping, drug use, sexism, spiders, snakes

Beasts of Prey is the debut novel and first installment in a magical Pan-African-inspired series by Ayana Gray. From the get go, it is clear that there was a lot of thought put into the magic system and I loved uncovering the different layers to it, despite being quite confused in the beginning. Told from multiple POVs, namely those of Ekon, a boy who wants nothing more than to follow into his father’s and brother’s footsteps as a warrior, Koffi, an indentured beastkeeper at the Night Zoo, who wants to see her family free, and a third person, who I’d like to keep nameless in this review, it was interesting to see these different characters introduced and oppose each other.

It was easy to take a liking to sweet Ekon, who is better with books and has a compulsion for counting in order to quell his anxiety, as well as Koffi, who is bold, impulsive and very caring. However, the third POV was the one that felt out of place to me for the most part. It often seemed contradictory to what we learned from the others, but at the same time, I have to admit that it made sense in the end. Still, I wasn’t entirely sure it was necessary to include and more than once felt taken out of the story because of it.

The set up takes a while, but is entirely necessary to really make the characters come to life and give us the full spectrum of their motivations, however, it makes for a slow start. I much preferred reaching the halfway point and the faster pacing that came with it. Once I, the reader, entered the jungle with the characters, it was just so thrilling. There was danger around every corner, gruesome creatures to haunt your dreams and I really rooted for everyone to make it out alive at the various crossroads they faced.

jungle danger snake

The setting is absolutely fantastic, offering almost a mix of spirituality and magic. The story keeps you on your toes, especially once you think you know where it is going, and even leaves you on a cliffhanger that will have you waiting for the sequel for sure. Maybe, because I liked the characters and their dynamic so much, I would have preferred a singular focus on Ekon and Koffi, but I would completely understand why that won’t necessarily change in a sequel. I’m intrigued either way!

Finally, I’d like to point out that I found the author’s note at the end of the novel very enlightening. She explained some of her choices and I really appreciated getting that insight from her, which truly isn’t always a given and neither should it be, but I always enjoy it a lot.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! I would definitely pick up a sequel, although I’d hope for a more consistent pacing.


Do you intend to pick up Beasts of Prey once it is released? Do you enjoy magical jungle settings? Let’s talk!

Thursday Movie Picks: Femme Fatales

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.

As you know, each week has a different theme and this time around we are talking Femme Fatales. I have to admit that I really struggled to come up with movies at first, but I’m very determined to make that theme my own. By definition, a femme fatale is often a mysterious, beautiful and seductive woman, who’s charms ensnare people, leading them into compromising or deadly situations. Let’s get started!

Promising Young Woman

This is still one of my most favorite movies of the year and I won’t pass up an opportunity to mention it. Cassandra dressed herself in various ways to appeal to men, giving them the chance to act decently or horribly instead. What she did to them after they showed their true face is entirely their fault.

Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer, too, used her body to get guys’ attention and then … well, should I spoil the movie? I feel like it’s a classic and you all should know what happens next.

Atomic Blonde

I loved Charlize Theron in this role and falling for her will 100% put you in danger, something she sometimes does on purpose. Also, such a good soundtrack! Suppose I’ve just always liked the 80s and German music.

Practical Magic

This is probably not a movie you’d think about right away with the theme “femme fatale”, but both sisters have quite a fatal touch. I mean … think about it! Still one of my favorite witch/magic movies though. I’ve seen it so many times and still adore it.

Nightmare Alley

This movie isn’t released yet, but because I enjoyed sharing movies in the Outlaws post that I’m looking forward to, I wanted to include this one as well. It does look fantastic.


What are some movies featuring a femme fatale that you enjoyed? Let’s talk!

What If … Thor Were an Only Child? Episode Review

Once again, I’m a little late, but I have written a review for the latest episode of What If …? titled What If … Thor Were an Only Child? From here on forward, there will be spoilers for the episode!

What If ... Thor Were an Only Child?
credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Thor, who never had to compete with or set an example for his brother, turned out quite differently – he became the Party Prince of Asgard!

My thoughts?

We’ve established by now that I’m not the biggest fan of the show, so I don’t think we need to harp on it much more. I was, however, actually looking forward to Party-Thor, just because I knew it would be a more light-hearted episode and it didn’t disappoint in that regard. Then again, much like last week, this episode didn’t feel too imaginative to me. Did not having a brother really change Thor all that much, or were his parents just more lenient? I almost believe it’s the latter, but let’s just break down the episode bit by bit.

  • In this universe, Odin never adopted/kidnapped Loki and instead returned him to his birth father. This must have also quelled the war/animosity between Asgard and the Frost Giants, as it doesn’t seem to be an issue henceforth. This led to Thor and Loki growing up as friends, however, never as real brothers.

More than battles won or lost, it’s relationships that truly define a hero. The people who shape them, their stories.

What If ... Thor Were an Only Child?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Back on Earth Dr. Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis notice a pattern from outer space, guessing an alien invasion is about to happen. While they are right about the visitors being from somewhere else in the galaxy, it’s actually just Thor and his friend group deciding to go on a bender while Odin is asleep and Frigga is off to visit her sisters.
  • I’m not going to go into detail, but Thor turns the entire planet into an intergalactic party central and apparently once partied so hard on Alpha Star, it destroyed the whole thing. Jane, who met and fell in love with Thor in this version too (they even got matching tattoos), worries that he will accidentally be the end of Earth. Death by party?
What If ... Thor Were an Only Child?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • The cameos in this episode are almost boundless. You have several characters from the Thor movies (Korg, the Grandmaster, Skurge, …), The Guardians of the Galaxy (Drax, Mantis, Nebula, …) as well as Howard the Duck again. Howard even gets married to Darcy. I’m not joking. That happened!
What If ... Thor Were an Only Child?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Maria Hill, who is acting director of SHIELD after Fury had a run in with an overexcited Korg, is ready to bring in the big guns to fight Thor and calls in Captain Marval aka Carol Danvers. They have a fight around the globe, but ultimately it is Jane who stops Thor by ratting him out to his mother.
  • All the alien visitors help Thor clean up his mess on Earth, but he still gets caught. It nevertheless serves as a lesson to the God of Thunder to become more mature and he eventually asks out Jane on a real date. The end? Happily ever after? Not quite!
  • The final scene, because why would we ever just end on a happy note, showed an evil Ultron appearing with all infinity stones. What does it mean? Who even knows at this point …

I’m a little tired of the cliffhangers, BUT I am intrigued by this one in particular. The thing is, The Watcher seemed surprised by the end himself. So far, no matter how bleak the outcome, he always knew that it had to be the fate of that particular universe or character. However, at the end of the episode, he appeared to be flustered by the appearance of Ultron, possibly not expecting it. So, what could it mean?
I can’t help but wonder if this Ultron breached from a different universe, which would slowly fold into the Loki series storyline of the multiversal chaos we are about to witness. The only reason I’m hesitant to fully buy into this theory is that his infinity stones would effectively be useless if he were from another universe. At least in the comics, it is impossible for more than one set of infinity stones to exist in the same realm and remain powerful. It’s like they cancel each other out.
Another theory is that he might be from the future, which would still work, but not really explain the Watcher’s surprise. We might never get an answer, so this could potentially just remain another frustrating loose end, but there is a chance that this might be the first multi-chapter story within the What If …? stories. We shall see!

What If ... Thor Were an Only Child?
credit: Marvel Studios

PREVIOUSLY: WHAT IF …


What did you think of the episode? Did you enjoy it? Let’s talk!

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!