The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – Book Review

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If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys—a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface—changing everything in its wake.

Of The Raven Boys, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Maggie Stiefvater’s can’t-put-it-down paranormal adventure will leave you clamouring for book two.” Now the second book is here, with the same wild imagination, dark romance, and heart-stopping twists that only Maggie Stiefvater can conjure.

The second book in The Raven Boys series still had Blue as the central character but it also focused quite a bit on Ronan. Ronan’s backstory was quite mysterious in the first book, so I was excited when I realized we were going to find out about his past.

In Ronan’s storyline you get to meet his second brother and we find out more about his absent mother. There is also the enigmatic Mr. Gray in town, who is looking for someone matching Ronan’s description of talents. Ronan’s abilities grow a lot in this book and you discover how they are connected to the search for Glendower. Ronan is violent, aggressive, quick-witted, and sad; fittingly, his storyline matches him to a tee.

Adam’s character is also explored further in The Dream Thieves. Adam goes through a dramatic change at the end of the first book and The Dream Thieves explores the consequences of that change on his friendships, relationship with Blue, and his future. Unfortunately, the event that Adam experiences in The Raven Boys changes him in ways I did not particularly enjoy.

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Gansey still isn’t developed too much. The book does show more of his motivations and how he seems to require his friends to need him all the time. Gansey is portrayed in a way that makes him seem almost desperate to be the centre of his friends’ lives. This doesn’t come off in a way that is irritating, just more human insofar as he wants to feel needed.

One thing that I wanted from the first book and received in the second book was more focus on Blue’s family. You discover more about the history of Blue’s family members living in the house with her. Blue’s father is brought into the picture, not in actuality but more so in stories told by Blue’s family. The family reveals that he disappeared as soon as Blue was born and that they are now searching for him again.

Blue’s mom, Maura, has a romantic interest who happens to be an assassin stalking Blue and The Raven Boys. This was the only plot line in the book that I didn’t particularly enjoy. I found it odd that everyone knows that Maura’s love interest, Mr. Gray, is an assassin and they’re all totally cool with her dating someone who kills people for a living. The whole thing was just a bit too far-fetched for me, despite it being in a book about magic.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Liked… The Mortal Instruments? Try…

Missing the epic fantasy, adventure, and love story that was  The Mortal Instruments series? Here are three series to satisfy that craving. Each of them has something different to relate them to what made The Mortal Instruments so incredibly addicting, and you’re sure to enjoy at least one of them:

1. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

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I read this a really long time ago so plot details are a little bit fuzzy but here it goes: Aislinn, the protagonist, is able to see faeries when no one else can. Due to her ‘Sight,’ as she calls it, a handsome and dangerous faery begins stalking her. Aislinn soon finds out that his name is Keenan, he is the Summer King, and he has been searching for centuries to find his Winter Queen, whom he believes to be Aislinn. Ancient faery courts, dark magic, and an epic love triangle all make this a great read after the heartbreak of finishing The Mortal Instruments series.

2. Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee

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The series is centred around Penryn, a female protagonist searching for her sister who has been abducted by an evil group (sound at all familiar to Clary and her mom?). Along the way to finding her sister, Penryn meets a handsome guy who just happens to have been exiled from this evil group and has a way to get her back. Oh yeah, did I mention these evil group members are actually avenging angels sent to Earth to let loose their wrath and basically take over the world? Although they are addicting, be forewarned that the books have some decent cheese to them, so go into the series with that knowledge.

3. Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas

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The other two series are set in a real world with a fantasy underground and magical elements to them, whereas this series is full-on fantasy. This series is great for anyone who loves badass female characters. The main character, Celaena Sardothien, is the best assassin in the land but she has been betrayed by her mentor and imprisoned. In order to be set free she must agree to compete in an assassin competition as the Prince’s champion. Once she arrives at the castle though, the competitors are being taken out one by one in a grisly fashion and Celaena has to fight for her life, not only in the competition but in real life as some darker force emerges from the shadows of the magical world. Of course, there are multiple love interests thrown into the books, and I really enjoy how Maas develops Celaena’s character. Each book gets better and more complex, exploring farther regions of the land and adding in more character POVs. It’s a great toned-down, YA Game-of-Thrones-esque series.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – Book Review

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Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there — known as Raven Boys — can only mean trouble.

Have you ever had those books that utterly consumed your life? Where all you can think about is the next time you’re free to read. When walking down streets turns into a fun game of trying not to trip as you read and walk simultaneously because — god forbid — you stop reading to travel from one destination to another. Dishes pile up in the sink and boyfriends get ignored as you and your book become one, forgetting that life exists outside the pages of your literary drug of choice. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater was one of those all-engrossing novels that I hated having to put down.

The Raven Boys was the perfect mix of character story, love story, mystery, and magic. Blue, the protagonist, is intelligent, confident, witty, and quirky (but not in an annoying manic-pixie-dream-girl kind of way). Her living situation is unique in that she lives with her mother and multiple extended members of her family, all female. I extremely enjoyed the portions of the book that had interactions between her family, and although they are infrequent, I am happy to see more of them in the sequel (which I am currently reading).

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The Raven Boys, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Gansey all have quite different personalities and that makes their dynamic fun to read. I definitely had a large crush on Adam with his bashfulness, kind demeanor, intelligence, and motivation. That might be changing now in the second book but we will see. Ronan would be a dick if not for the fact that you can’t help but feel for him after his father’s murder, and laugh at his offensive yet sometimes true commentary. Noah is almost a shadow in the background of the story, but for a good reason that you will find out upon finishing the book. Gansey is a difficult one; I never really knew if I liked him or if I thought he was another rich boy obsessed with an unsolvable mystery because he’s bored with his rich life.

There are so many mysteries in this book that I, as described above, basically couldn’t put it down. The plot is fast-paced and will pull you in right off the bat.

Rating: 4.75/5

Similar Books: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkins, A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty, and The Diviners by Libba Bray

 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Book Review

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I wept, then I swooned, and then I wept some more. I definitely should have believed the sign when I pulled this book off of the table labelled, ‘Curl up in a ball and cry’. I thought the book was well written, and showed an interesting and very controversial storyline of a quadriplegic.

This book, and the movie of it, have garnered quite a bit of negative media attention surrounding the portrayal of Will. Will is a quadriplegic for whom Lou  and consequently sets out on a mission to change his perspective on life, as he has decided to commit assisted suicide in six months time. Many reviews have criticized Me Before You for supposedly being ableist. I understand that this a tricky subject to address and believe that by no means is any one opinion completely correct, so I’m simply going to explain my personal opinion on this conflict.

Will’s character is described as being a successful businessman and adrenaline junkie. He gets hit by a car and subsequently becomes a quadriplegic, meaning in his case that he has basically no ability to move his arms and is completely unable to move anything below his belly button. His life before the accident seemed to consist of outdoor activities that most people would never even consider, due to how challenging and frightening they are. After the accident he has almost no opportunities to do any activities like this. He is unable to do the activities that bring him the most joy in life and sinks into a depression.

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I believe that for most people adjusting to the new reality of being a quadriplegic is incredibly difficult, but something they have to accept and learn to love. This does not, however, mean this is true for all people and maybe Will’s story is one where he is unable to move past his depression. In the face of losing control over a lot his choices, body, and limited activities (in his perspective he sees them as incredibly limiting) he does the one thing he truly feels will give him control and choice in his life and that is to end it.

There is also mention of Will having had pneumonia multiple times and the possibility of him having to be put on a ventilator if his pneumonia were bad enough. They also discuss the fact that his physical well being will only continue to decline and his health will worsen. Therefore, his current state will not get better at all.

Moyes pulls in multiple group discussions between Lou and quadriplegics and paraplegics trying to find ways to change Will’s view on life. The discussions bring in quadriplegics paraplegics who are incredibly fulfilled in their lives and see it as a new outlook on life; a few who side with Will and believe that it is his choice to live or not live how he would like, and who is Lou to decide that he must see his wheelchair as a blessing? I believe she brought in well-rounded ideas and didn’t ultimately force an ableist agenda, as so many believe.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I liked that there was some mystery and a bit of a dark secret in Lou’s past that Will helps her move past. It didn’t take me very long to get into the flow of the book and I ended up reading it in only three days. I saw the look into Will’s life as insightful, eye-opening, sad, and surprising (because of his final decision). I enjoyed Lou’s character and loved her upbeat, witty, and quirky personality and I look forward to watching Emilia Clarke portray her.

Rating: 4/5

Similar Books: Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern, Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan, and Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – Book Review

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It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift – back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighbouring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Where do I even start? My love for this series is only growing with each book. This book is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, in what I’m going to guess is going to end up being a trilogy. Frequently, I find that sequels end up disappointing me but honestly this book was even better than its predecessor.

In my review for A Darker Shade of Magic I talked about how magic becomes a character in itself and this only gets explored even more in the sequel. I also found that the second book had a lot more world building. It explored the Black London a bit, which is only mentioned vaguely in A Darker Shade of Magic, and only really as a cautionary tale to those who would like to abuse magic.

Red London, where the bulk of the story takes place, is also expanded upon by having the plot revolve around a Magicians’ duelling tournament involving the three largest lands in the Red World. Each of the lands selects 12 of their best magicians to participate and they all come together to battle each other in the London in the Red World. This allowed Schwab to expand upon the geography of the Red World and the way its citizens differ in looks, beliefs, magical abilities, and language based upon their region.

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As Lila is from another world, having her see all these people for the first time let Schwab describe each person in vivid detail to the reader and have it seem natural. As a reader I got to experience Lila’s awe at all the different cultures and drink in all the new details as she did. The description is done well, but still left me constantly wanting more simply because it is such a cool world.

The plot is excellently developed. There is the main storyline in this book that revolves around both Kell and Lila and this ginormous magicians tournament, and then there is the subplot that is centred in White London that is hinting at what is to come in book three and is developing magic as a character more. I really enjoyed this because you get an action packed brand new storyline with the tournament and you continue to see the development of the overarching series plot through the action in White London.

Honestly completely adored this book and can’t wait for the third one to arrive!

Rating: 4.5/5

Similar Books: Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

 

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau – Book Review

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In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. InIndependent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

It  was quite a long gap of time between when I read The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau and when I started reading the sequel, Independent Study. Getting back into it was a little tough, at first, because I couldn’t really remember which character had done what or even which characters were trustworthy or not. Despite this, I got back into the flow of the story pretty quickly.

The plot could be compared to the central ideas in The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, so it does sometimes seem a tad bit like a rip off, but is great if you’re craving something with a similar society and almost identical conflicts. The part that I really enjoyed was a deadly scavenger hunt that the university freshmen had to play in order to be accepted by their peers. Anytime there’s any sort of scavenger hunt or treasure hunt I get really into it. National Treasure, anyone? I know Nicolas Cage gets some serious hate, but how can you not like that movie?!

The scavenger hunt section ended up taking up about two thirds of the book, so there wasn’t a big focus on developing the political conflict going on in their society. Because of this it was a really fast-paced read and highly enjoyable, although it is quite predictable.

Cia is highly intelligent and extremely compassionate. She is easy to root for because she is such a good person, but this also seems unrealistic. Her character can be at times flat and one-sided and seems to be written entire in black and white with no ambiguity. She’s also somehow able to see things everyone else misses, carry a harder course load in school than anyone before, and have one of the top internships at the same time all without showing any sort of emotional distress. It just all comes too easy to her.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and entertaining but not amazing read.

Rating: 3.5/5

Similar Books: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Matched by Ally Condie

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Book Review

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Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.

The cover of A Darker Shade of Magic is what first intrigued me enough to pick it up. Look at the stunning cover! I recently bought the second book and the pair go so nicely together *swoon*.

The story follows two characters: a male character, Kell, who lives in Red London as a part of the royal family and is one of only two magicians who can travel between worlds; and then there is Lila, a somewhat androgynous female thief who wants to travel the world. The narrative switches between their viewpoints, starting with their story lines being separate and having the main conflict bring them together and open up Lila’s eyes to the world she had always been waiting for but never imagined truly existed.

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The multiple Londons are written so well and Red London, with all of its magic and people being able to wield different element, was written so beautifully I fell in love with it. I do also have to say that, as I am currently halfway through the sequel, the world building gets even better and the I’m loving the second book even more than the first. White London is really creepy and depressing, matched in darkness by its ruling King and Queen (a twin brother and sister).

I enjoyed the main plot line quite a bit, having magic itself basically becoming a character with its own motivations. So far, the sequel is only further expanding on the conflict from A Darker Shade of Magic and is diving even deeper into the origins of magic, the balance between power and control, and the various Londons (including going to Black London, which is not explored in the first book).

I really enjoyed this book and am already whipping through the second book. Highly recommend for fans of fantasy, magic, and multiple universes.

Rating: 4.25/5

Similar Books: Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – Book Review

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My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I recently began reading Everything, everything by Nicola Yoon because I had received an ARC of it. I had read a lot of good things about it on bookstagram posts and the blogosphere.

Unfortunately, the book did not live up to the hype (at least, in my opinion). It’s categorized as a YA novel, but it read more as a 9-12 book with YA subject matter. The book is made up of a lot of illustrations, instant message chats, and uses large font with many blank spaces. The book already looks quite small, but when you add in how little text there actually is it is quite a fast read. Despite how short of a read it was, I still wasn’t able to force myself through the book. It was an interesting concept that was executed poorly.

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I understand that a girl who has been trapped inside her house for her whole life would obsess over the attractive and intriguing boy next door. I did not, however, understand why the boy next door began an interaction with her so quickly and became so insanely interested in her that he made his life revolve around a girl in a bubble. He comes into the story and then all of a sudden is magically infatuated with her. It all happened too quickly and seemed very juvenile to me. The love story is really one of the only things going on in the book and because I was so disinterested in it the book just didn’t do it for me.

I never finished reading the book so I cannot truly judge how the book was as a whole but the fact that I couldn’t power through it is not a great sign.

Rating: Could Not Finish

 

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – Book Review

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Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

Going into this I had very high expectations after so adoring Red Queen, the first book in this series. By now I should know to try to tone down my excitement for books because then it’s much harder for the book to live up to my ideals.

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I’m glad that Aveyard took Glass Sword in a different direction than Red Queen. Aveyard pulls in Mare’s Family, more members of the Red Guard, and more newbloods! This book had more of an X-men vibe than the first, with even more characters learning how to use their superhuman abilities.

I also highly enjoyed Mare’s character development. Aveyard showed the effects of Mare’s actions on Mare’s own psyche. She didn’t just brush over those effects by having Mare get over her remorse and downward spiral quickly. Yes, Mare gets dark in this book and I liked it a lot. She doesn’t escape the Bowl of Bones battle entirely unscathed, either physically or mentally.

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I was not as much of a fan of Mare and Cal’s relationship in Glass Sword. If Aveyard had centered their relationship around their mutual loss of who they thought Maven was and grew it more from that loss, then I would have enjoyed their blossoming relationship more. Instead it felt a little like she was just trying to throw in another love story to satisfy readers’ romantic cravings. I do enjoy romance in my YA but she could have just teased some romance and left it more about developing the characters individually as well as the Red vs. Silver war.

One of my disappointments was that the plot twists were much more predictable than in Red Queen. They were still well done though.

Rating: 4/5

For Fans Of: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, X-Men, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Jackaby by William Ritter – Book Review

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Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

I’m a big fan of Sherlock Holmes inspired books so this one immediately caught my eye. Especially since it has a supernatural aspect to it as well. Yes, please! I enjoyed Abigail Rook’s character as she is smart, kind, observant, and easy to relate to. She’s a girl seeking adventure and excitement during a time when this was a frowned upon interest for women. These kinds of female characters are my favourites in books, movies, and TV shows. If you, like me, enjoy smart, sassy, and strong female characters then I highly recommend also checking out Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix. It’s a show set in Australia during the early 1900s revolving around a female private detective who is just a little pot of sass, and I love her.

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Suggestion tangent over, I quite enjoyed this book. It isn’t particularly original or astoundingly well written, but it is a very very fast read (at only 294 pgs) and was great for getting me out of my book slump. Doing so much course reading for school I went the entire month of January without completing a single book, which is practically unheard of for me. Jackaby‘s plot is intriguing and even surprised me a tiny bit with it’s ending, in a good way.

Jackaby as a character is a great Sherlock Holmes knock-off with a supernatural twist. He’s smart, insanely observant except when it comes to human emotions, and has some great sassy lines that I found quite funny.

I would highly recommend this if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan in need of a case-solving read.

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For Fans Of: Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, Doctor Who (TV), Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (TV), and Penny Dreadful (TV)

Rating: 3.75/5