3 stars · fiction

they both die at the end didn’t manage to make me cry

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they both die at the end

author : adam silvera

pages : [hardcover] 384

favorite character : rufus

summary :

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

review :

A big thank you to Edelweiss for providing me with an E-ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I was really really really excited to read this book.

This is the first book by Adam Silvera that I’ve read and when I attended Book Con this year, I think this was one of the most popular ARCs floating around the scene. I’m not a typical contemporary reader–there are times I absolutely love them, times I hate them, and I can never read too many of them in a row. But I dove right into this book without knowing about it’s compelling concept: somehow, someone has developed Death Cast, a system where if you are slated to die on a certain day, you’ll have your call by 2 A.M. that it’s your day to die.

Of course, this leaves so many questions. How do they know this? Who determines it? Are people dying because they’ve been told to die, or is this thing that predicts their deaths also predicting everything they’ll do after learning they’ll die? What about the people who end up dying between midnight and 2 A.M? Do they not get a call, or do they get their call the day before?

So many questions, and I love how the characters address some of the questions themselves, because they don’t know. The operators at Death Cast don’t know. The people getting the calls don’t know. The people left behind by their dying loved ones don’t know. They can question and beg and plead for answers all they like and, in this book as in reality, there are no full answers. Which I liked.

Another thing I loved was the diversity in this book. Most of the main characters are people of color, one of the narrators is bisexual, and the other never outright defines his sexuality apart from giving enough evidence that it certainly isn’t straight. That was awesome.

But, what I didn’t love, what ended up distancing me from this book I wanted so desperately to love, was the writing. It didn’t grip me; it felt too bland. I couldn’t connect fully with the other characters because some of the dialogue felt clunky and jarred me out of the story. In the plotline, there were some pieces that read too much to me like things that often make me put down contemporaries. Pieces that are so obviously slated to be symbolic, or quirky, or meaningful, that just don’t feel realistic or flow reasonably in the setting. I won’t give any specific examples because of spoilers, and quoting from an ARC, but it’s something I ran into before.

And, I have to admit, I cry a lot over books. It isn’t unusual for me. This book didn’t really get to me until hours later, when I was still considering how it had made me feel. I think, most importantly, it made me consider what I would do if I knew it was my last day to live. Or what I would do if it was my last day and I never knew it until it was too late. Would I want to know? I don’t think so. But, as They Both Die at the End shows, maybe something great can come out of the knowing.

This book certainly wasn’t for me. I don’t regret reading it, and I’m definitely going to try other books by this author. Still, I won’t be throwing this into any recommendations I give out.

3/5 stars

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5 stars · Fantasy · fiction

if you love Peter Pan, you’ll LOVE hook’s tale

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hook’s tale: being an account of an unjust villainized pirate written by himself

author : john leonard pielmeier

pages : [hardcover] 288

favorite characters : tiger lily & james

summary :

A rollicking debut novel from award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Pielmeier reimagines the childhood of the much maligned Captain Hook: his quest for buried treasure, his friendship with Peter Pan, and the story behind the swashbuckling world of Neverland.

Long defamed as a vicious pirate, Captain James Cook (a.k.a Hook) was in fact a dazzling wordsmith who left behind a vibrant, wildly entertaining, and entirely truthful memoir. His chronicle offers a counter narrative to the works of J.M. Barrie, a “dour Scotsman” whose spurious accounts got it all wrong. Now, award-winning playwright John Pielmeier is proud to present this crucial historic artifact in its entirety for the first time.

Cook’s story begins in London, where he lives with his widowed mother. At thirteen, he runs away from home, but is kidnapped and pressed into naval service as an unlikely cabin boy. Soon he discovers a treasure map that leads to a mysterious archipelago called the “Never-Isles” from which there appears to be no escape. In the course of his adventures he meets the pirates Smee and Starkey, falls in love with the enchanting Tiger Lily, adopts an oddly affectionate crocodile, and befriends a charming boy named Peter—who teaches him to fly. He battles monsters, fights in mutinies, swims with mermaids, and eventually learns both the sad and terrible tale of his mother’s life and the true story of his father’s disappearance.

Like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, Hook’s Tale offers a radical new version of a classic story, bringing readers into a much richer, darker, and enchanting version of Neverland than ever before. The characters that our hero meets—including the terrible Doctor Uriah Slinque and a little girl named Wendy—lead him to the most difficult decision of his life: whether to submit to the temptation of eternal youth, or to embrace the responsibilities of maturity and the inevitability of his own mortality. His choice, like his story, is not what you might expect.

review :

I received a copy of Hook’s Tale from the publisher for review in exchange for my honest opinion.

If you know me at all, you know I have a love for Peter Pan that will never grow up. Also, that I tell terrible jokes. If you don’t know me, then you know fairy tale retellings have only been growing in popularity–not all of them good. Hook’s Tales is one of those books you would say isn’t good. It’s great.

Hook’s Tale is narrated by the man himself, or rather, the real version of the villain. James Cook is rather offended by the nickname, though having a hook for a hand is quite useful. I absolutely loved that this book plays with the idea that Cook told his story to the author of the original Peter Pan play, who of course got all of the details horribly wrong. Hook wasn’t quite a villain, and Peter wasn’t quite innocent, and that ticking crocodile wasn’t quite out to devour him, either.

James Cook travels to Neverland quite accidentally, and the story begins with Cook as a child, with both hands intact, around Peter’s age. I loved that we were allowed this dynamic interaction between classic hero and villain, because the roles are often switched between the two of them. Cook can be sensible, and cunning, and brave, whereas Peter can also be these things, as well as vindictive, and cruel, and childish. Sometimes a deadly combination.

Throughout Hook’s Tales, Cook returns to England several times through a route he discovers for himself, that inevitably lead to the events of the classic story that everyone knows well. However, thingsstill aren’t quite the way they are told in that narrative. Cook is out to set the truth down, once and for all, about what happened in Neverland and the role he played in this story.

I loved it, I devoured it, and I want more of it even though I know there can’t be any more of it. Cook was a fascinating character and his book is written in journal entries, giving the reader a perfect view into his mindset in this world. He experiences fantastical things, like flying and fairies and mermaids, as well as tragic things, like the loss of innocence and death. There, written for anyone to see, is his truth, a contradiction to whatever else history will know of him.

This book is perfect for fans of the original because there are so many references to it that are renewed here in the way the plot twists. Basically, take everything you thought you knew about Peter Pan and prepare to leave it all behind for Cook’s version of events. Keeping a sharp eye out, you’ll read all of the classic elements of the original.

The text reads like a curious mix between historical fantasy and fairy tale, because it’s written to be just lingering at the edge of belief. Cook travels from a real place, in a real time period, to this fantastical Neverland. And who’s to say this island doesn’t exist, somewhere, waiting to be found? That Cook’s side of the story isn’t the real one?

I can’t recommend this book enough. Fans will fly through the pages, particularly if they head toward the second star on the right and go straight on to morning.

I had to at least get one more joke in there.

As a person who reads fairy tale retellings above all else, and Peter Panbooks very often, Hook’s Tale stands out as a fantastically written, wonderfully reimagined story I’ll read over and over again.

5/5 stars

 

Uncategorized

all about my TV shows tag!

Okay, I wasn’t tagged to do this, but Chiara over at Books for a Delicate Eternity did this tag and it looked like too much fun not to do it myself.

1.) first TV show you ever watched

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I was a big, big fan of Barney when I was a kid. The hugest. As in, when I was three years old, I’d sing Barney songs to myself to help me fall asleep at night. Come to think of it, I probably sounded like one of those horror movies that always have kid’s voices singing for absolutely no reason at midnight.

Honorable Mentions: Rugrats, Sesame Street

2.) All-time favorite TV show

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This is a hard one, because there are so many shows I’ve loved absolutely over the years. But I had to go with one where I could pick any episode at random and be satisfied. There’s action, intrigue, romance, humor, and most importantly, HONOR. Seriously some of the best characters I’ve ever seen portrayed, and stands up against time and then some. Avatar: The Last Airbender will forever hold a place not only in my heart, but sense of humor and amazing ability to quote the episodes.

Honorable Mentions: Supernatural, Heroes

3.) Your character crush

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Oh man. This one is so hard, because there are so many characters I know and love. But I have to go with Danaerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons.  I mean LOOK AT HER. She’s all grown up and ready to take on the world, AND make it a better place for everyone. She’s trying to use her power to do good for people, even though with her backstory she has every right to be solely out for revenge. I’M SO PROUD OF HER.

Honorable Mentions: Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Dean Winchester (Supernatural)

4.) Favorite OTP

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Okay, I have to go back to Game of Thrones for this one. Tyrion and Shae were perfect together and no one can tell me otherwise and in my head they always, ALWAYS get their happily ever after. They had so many reasons to not work together but, I mean, they were on Game of Thrones, so I was happy they even got as much time as they did.

Honorable Mentions: Victor & Yuri (Yuri!!! on Ice) and Betty & Jughead (Riverdale)

5.) Most disappointing ending or cancellation

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I feel like me watching a show in its first season on television is a surefire way to get that show canceled. There have been SO MANY over the years I’ve happily watched only to have them canceled. And on cliffhangers. But this one takes it all, even if Agent Carter didn’t necessarily have a cliffhanger, it still had so much more potential. Peggy Carter is one of my favorite characters of all time—not just because she can hold her own alongside Captain America, my favorite superhero. She’s a badass, feminist, intelligent woman doing what she can to right the world in a time period that limits and demotes her abilities. I’m just thankful for the seasons we did get.

Honorable Mentions: Gallavant, Heroes

6.) A show you would like to be on

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I’m assuming this is as an actor, not as an actual character, because most of the shows I watch would be TERRIBLY TERRIFYING worlds to live in, thank you no thank you. I’ll pick Supernatural mostly because I’ve loved this show for so long, it would feel really special to show up in an episode of it. Hopefully as some kind of badass creature, not as the silly human who ends up getting killed in the beginning of every episode–although that could be kind of fun, too. But I’d want an episode that feels, like . . . Season 5 Supernatural.

Honorable Mentions: if we can go with cancelled ones, Agent Carter because Hayley Atwell, or This is Us

7.) A character you would love to take out on a date

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LOOK AT HIM. I’d pick Barry from The Flash mostly because we could travel anywhere for it super fast, which would be totally convenient. Plus, we’d get to geek out over things together the entire time, which would just be a lot of fun. And he’s super sweet. AND you know he has good intentions, trying to save the world and all.

Honorable Mentions: Agent Carter, Jughead

8.) A popular TV show you can’t stand

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I just . . . I just don’t get it. I’m happy for the people who like it, but I was never the biggest fan of the books, so . . .

Honorable Mentions: American Horror Story, The Simpson’s

9.) A scene that made you cry like a baby

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Okay, it isn’t too hard for me to cry over some things, like books and movies. For some reason, TV doesn’t always do that for me. This is Us though, had me bawling through more episodes than I would like to admit to.

Honorable mentions: Game of Thrones, LOST

10.) A character with a killer wardrobe

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I HAVE to throw it back to my girl Peggy because this is the STYLE. I absolutely love her wardrobe and how ridiculously functional it is. Looks killer and most of the things she carries with her can be used or disguised to kill as well. The definition of fabulous.

Honorable mentions: Margaery Tyrell (Game of Thrones)

 

 

If you would like to do this tag, go for it! It’s a lot of fun!

Uncategorized

Free Space by Sean Danker, possibly my favorite sci-fi novel of all time

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Free Space

evagardian #2

author : sean danker

pages : [paperback] 320

favorite character : the admiral

summary :

In the follow-up to Admiral, the intergalactic war has ended and hostilities between the Evagardian Empire and the Commonwealth are officially over, but the admiral is far from safe. . . .

“I’d impersonated a prince, temporarily stopped a war, escaped a deadly planet, and survived more assassination attempts than I could conveniently count. After all that, there shouldn’t have been anything simpler than a nice weekend with a charming Evagardian girl.

However, some corners of the galaxy aren’t as genteel as the Empire, and Evagardians aren’t universally loved, which is how I ended up kidnapped to be traded as a commodity.

Their timing couldn’t have been worse. I’m not at my best, but these people have no idea whom they’re dealing with: a highly trained, genetically engineered soldier in the Imperial Service who happens to be my date.”

review :

You may be thinking: Kayla, might it be an exaggeration to claim this is the best sci-fi novel you’ve ever read?

Nope. It isn’t. This is the sci-fi for people who don’t think they’d like sci-fi, and the one to get for those already obsessed with the genre.

For the record, I really enjoy sci-fi. I think it’s interesting to see what authors can come up with in terms of technology, space, and most importantly, characters. If your characters are flat, or boring, or just unenjoyable, it doesn’t matter what kind of tech they’re parading around the galaxy.

There is absolutely none of that when it comes to the cast filling Free Space. They tend to alternate between  hilarious or terrifying. Some of them are capable of humor while also potentially able to kill someone five ways with the tip of a finger. This is the kind of stuff I live for.

First, let’s talk about how awesome it is that two of the four main characters this book centers around are female. Each completely capable of destroying or saving the known universe, possibly with one hand. But they’re also allowed their vulnerable, fragile moments. They’re allowed to make mistakes. They’re realistic–well, as realistic as it gets in science fiction, which is incredible. It’s so rare for me to find amazing representation in this in a sci-fi book–let alone one where the main narrator is male, let alone when written by a man. I could go on and on about this, just this, as a reason to read it, but like an infomercial, that’s not all!

As for the main narrator himself, the Admiral himself is as witty and always on the edge of death as ever. I love how Salmagard only ever refers to him with the title both of them know he never earned. I love how he somehow always seems to be two seconds away from death and yet acts like that was always park of the plan. Kind of like if Jack Sparrow had ever been intelligent enough to be an intergalactic spy.

I mean, yes, terrible, heart-pounding plot twists and insane things happen in the book that have you on the edge of your seat. Things that will encourage you not to put down this novel until the very end. Things that are as awesome as they are terrible for the characters to actually have to experience.

Let’s talk about the plot. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. Kind of part bumbling quest, part escape novel, part let’s-just-try-not-to-die. I love how this novel, as well as The Admiral, presents its own self-contained story within the series. I feel like that does so much more for these books, makes the writing more powerful and concise, and allows for more fun with the characters. I don’t want to spoil it by mentioning any specifics of what happen, because Free Space, unlike real space,  is best experienced when you dive right in without knowing too much about it.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Honestly, I feel like I’ve been endlessly talking about it ever since I knew that it existed. Can there be more? I want more. I’d read more of this series in a heartbeat.

5/5 stars

 

When I learned a sequel existed:

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When I finished the book:

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How I feel about the characters:

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1 star · fiction · middle grade

The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden: faeries, death, & mystery

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the accidental afterlife of thomas marsden

author : emma trevayne

pages : [hardcover] 247

favorite character : thomas

summary :

Grave robbing is a messy business. A bad business.

And for Thomas Marsden, on what was an unremarkable spring night in London, it becomes a very spooky business. For lying in an unmarked grave and half covered with dirt is a boy the spitting image of Thomas himself.

This is only the first clue that something very strange is happening. Others follow, but it is a fortune teller’s frightened screams that lead Thomas into a strange world of spiritualists, death and faery folk.

Faery folk with whom Thomas’s life is bizarrely linked. Faery folk who need his help.

Desperate to unearth the truth about himself and where he comes from, Thomas is about to discover magic, and ritual, and that sometimes, just sometimes, the things that make a boy ordinary are what make him extraordinary.

review :

I found this book at a library sale and was instantly attracted to the gorgeous cover and intriguing title. It seemed a little dark for a middle-grade book, enough so that I dove into it without reading anything about the book so I could get the full, uninhibited experience.

The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden is kind of hard to pin down with it’s genre. Set in the past, with fantasy elements, a mystery plot, as well as a hero’s quest, it’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Paired with some confusing, rushed writing and my surprise at how unfinished this standalone book ended, this book left me unsatisfied and, mostly, disappointed.

Let me first state that I wanted this book to be standalone. It was only in the last thirty pages or so that I realized the plot couldn’t possibly wrap up each of its elements neatly in the space left to it. Unfortunately, Trevayne did try to finish it all before the pages ran out. It’s extremely hard to write a fantasy book as short as this one. Throwing in all of the half-heartedly realized plot elements that appear in this novel . . . It reads like someone got to the last week of NaNoWriMo and realized they needed to patch up the plot quickly enough to reach their goal on time, never again to revisit the manuscript and fix anything.

I’m still confused. There were points where the characters would literally have the answers to their quest handed to them, with no foreshadowing whatsoever, possibly because, again, there was no time in the novel for anything but easy answers. Elements so fully thrown in that I needed to read whole paragraphs several times over to try to understand what was happening, only to fail. I don’t want to spoil anything by leaving any examples, because these random moments would always serve to answer some part of the plot that hadn’t been mentioned until the page before.

Mostly, I’m frustrated with this book because it had the potential for so much more. It could have been a cute fantasy, or an interesting mystery. I love books that are complexly written and aimed toward children, because far too many authors in middlegrade tend to belittle their readers. No, what The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden needed was a thorough overhaul, or at least a duology to spread this cluttered plot out a little more.

1/5 stars

5 stars · fiction · young adult

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker: a surprising thriller

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emma in the night

author : wendy walker

pages : [hardcover] 320

favorite character : dr. winter

summary :

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

review :

Emma in the Night is everything you want in a thriller, every plot-twist you could ever dream of, every perfectly imperfect characters, rolled into one novel.

It’s like reading a Dateline episode in real time.

Emma in the Night tells the story of a family, but most importantly of two sisters: Emma and Cass. Three years ago, they both disappeared, with no leads, no suspects, and no explanation. One night, Cass arrives at her mother’s house with a story to tell and an iron will to do everything in her power to make sure they find Emma as well.

I didn’t expect to love this book–but I did. I loved how it portrayed Cass’ unhealthy family, from her narcissistic mother to her well-meaning but weak-willed father. I feel like most fictional mysteries like this I’ve read present the family in a golden light before the disappearance, and only show it as falling apart afterward. The home is, generally, presented as a safe space, or at the very least if it was dysfunctional it seems like outsiders knew about it. No one understood Cass and Emma’s childhood apart from the two of them and even they couldn’t form a united front, as their mother constantly pitted them against one another.

That was another aspect of the book I loved, considering narcissism. I don’t think I’ve ever read a work of fiction where ‘narcissist’ isn’t meant in passing, as a descriptor rather than a diagnosis. Dr. Winter, who works on the disappearance case in Emma in the Night, has done extensive research on narcissistic personality disorder, as well as the fact that most people in general do not give it credence or think it could truly affect anyone apart from the narcissist. And as with many layers of the plot in this novel, I love how it is presented with the option for the reader to form their own opinion of events. Dr. Winter isn’t allowed an official diagnosis, so there are no “official” answers.

Because Cass is most certainly not a reliable narrator.

I don’t think I would want it any other way. Emma in the Night is written brilliantly, in a way that immediately makes me want more of Wendy Walker’s writing, and this is exactly the kind of mystery that gets readers excited for more. And because there isn’t, it leaves you thinking, and that’s exactly the kind of book I love.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · fairy tale · fiction

Stardust by Neil Gaiman: everything I need in life

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Stardust

author : neil gaiman

pages : [paperback] 266

memorable quote :

Have been unavoidably detained by the world. Expect us when you see us.

favorite character : tristran

summary :

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

review:

WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS HOW MUCH I LOVED THIS BOOK.

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Not that I can ever underestimate Neil Gaiman anymore. After The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Graveyard Book (just to name two), I’m ready to devour everything he’s ever written. Luckily for me, Stardust has been on my mental TBR for years. My physical TBR for a pile. Now I’m kicking myself because, after reading it, I realized that this is one of my absolute favorite books for the year–if not of all time.

It’s that amazing.

If you love fairy tales, or retold fairy tales, you’ll love this one. It’s like a fairy tale for adults–but not, you know, those adult themes. It’s the kind of perfect you want to go into knowing almost nothing about, just so you can fall headlong into the story and fall in love with Tristran Thorn.

Apart from the fact that I kept thinking “Tristran” is just a really complicated way of saying “Tristan”, our hero was amazing. Mostly because he isn’t perfect. He’s a little foolish, making promises to people he barely knows about things he hardly knows about. Running off to lands he knows absolutely nothing about and accepting help from people he’s just met. But he has such a kind heart, such good humor, and such a loving soul that you can’t help rooting for him and desperately hoping that the people he meets along the way will root for him, too. Because, of course, he’s entered the land of Faerie, where nothing is ever quite as it seems and most creatures aren’t as nice as you would like them to be.

But it’s oh so magical.

I don’t know why I love stories about Faerie so much when the creatures aren’t so nice. Maybe because it means most of the characters will be inevitably witty or clever. Tristan is kind of accidentally both of those things, which makes him even more endearing.

And then there are the other characters. I can’t delve much into them, because I don’t want to give anything away. I want you to step into this book, into this world, and be sucked in as deeply and immediately as I was. You’ll want to own this book, re-read it immediately, and share it with everyone you know.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear I’d recommend Stardust to literally anyone. So what are you waiting for? Go take a trip to Faerie.

5/5 stars