A couple of months ago, I posted on my Twitter to see if anyone would be interested in reading about the books, movies, and tv shows that I consumed this year. You all said that you wanted to see that post. So, being the epic vampire queen that I am, I present to you, the top 10 things that I consumed this year.
#10. Dust by Kara Swanson
Synopsis: The truth about Neverland is far more dangerous than a fairy tale. Claire Kenton believes the world is too dark for magic to be real—since her twin brother was stolen away as a child. Now Claire’s desperate search points to London… and a boy who shouldn’t exist. Peter Pan is having a beastly time getting back to Neverland. Grounded in London and hunted by his own Lost Boys, Peter searches for the last hope of restoring his crumbling island: a lass with magic in her veins. The girl who fears her own destiny is on a collision course with the boy who never wanted to grow up. The truth behind this fairy tale is about to unravel everything Claire thought she knew about Peter Pan—and herself.
Genre: Retelling, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 368 (paperback), 348 (hardcover)
Review: Dust is an absolutely magical story about learning how to overcome your darkness and let the light shine through your darkest pieces. In terms of the characters, the story was brilliant: we love Peter. He’s the soft, broken boy of our dreams and we hold tightly to him; Claire is relatable and broken in so many ways, but she goes on such a journey in this book, so we stan her; Tiger Lily finally gets her chance to shine (I always thought she lacked a lot in the animated Disney adaptation). We love her forever and evah; N is like the coolest friend ever and I love him to pieces; the Guardian is really fascinating and I genuinely wish he got more page time. As for the plot, it was magical, epic, fantastical, and basically the cutest thing I’ve ever read.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of attempted suicide, mentions of past self-harm, panic attacks, fighting, bloodshed, brief descriptions of injuries, burns, a kiss (non-descriptive).
#9. Fate: The Winx Saga
Synopsis: Fairies attend a magical boarding school in the Otherworld, where they must learn to master their magical powers while navigating love, rivalries and the monsters that threaten their very existence.
Genre: Teen drama, Supernatural, Fantasy
Number of Seasons: 1 (renewed for another season)
Episode length: 45 minutes
Where to Watch: Netflix
Review: As someone who grew up watching the animated Winx Club tv show with my sister, I was literally SO EXCITED when I saw that there was a live action show coming out this year. I binged it with my sister (#partnerincrime) and it actually blew me away. I mean, I was a little sad that they replaced Flora with Terra (although Terra is beautiful and wonderful and deserves ALL THE LOVE) and that Stella was suddenly the bully of the school, but besides that, I genuinely loved and adored basically the entire thing. It was much darker than the original show, and I love that my sister and I kind of got to grow up with these characters and revisit them as adults.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Dead animals, bloodshed, dead bodies, fighting and training sessions, mentions of couples having sex, a couple is scene in bed together, smoking as foreplay for a threesome (no sex is ever actually shown), sexual innuendos, intense cursing, sexual-related cursing, teen drinking, teen smoking, magic, dangerous and frightening creatures.
Episodes that have Graphic Content: S1E3 (sexual).
#8. Raya and the Last Dragon
Synopsis: Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. However, when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned, and it’s up to a lone warrior to track down the last dragon and stop the Druun for good.
Genre: Family, Fantasy
Runtime: 1 hour 54 minutes
Where to Watch: Disney+
Review: This movie was way better than I’d expected. I had a feeling it would be a cute movie, but I had no idea how emotionally moving and deep it would be since it’s marketed as a children’s movie. In a nutshell, it’s an excellent movie with fantastically meaningful themes.
Content/Trigger Warnings: A creature turns people to stone, a person is hit by an arrow, fighting with weapons, a skeleton is shown briefly, implied cursing (badaxary), grief, loss of loved ones, characters sacrificing themselves for others.
#7. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Synopsis: Martial-arts master Shang-Chi confronts the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.
Genre: Action, Fantasy
Runtime: 2 hours 12 minutes
Where to Watch: Disney+
Review: This was one of the first Marvel movies I saw in theater, and I really loved it. The characters were so complex and well-written, the plot was intriguing, and every scene was so incredible. Truly a treasure of a movie.
Content/Trigger Warnings: A drawing of a man’s butt is shown briefly, the main character is shirtless multiple times, a character is seen wearing underwear in bed, martial arts combat, on-screen death, stabbings, people are shot, bloodshed, gore, a man is kicked in the crotch, frequent cursing, someone flips another person off, drinking, drunkenness, a young boy is whipped, off-screen death.
#6. Shadow and Bone
Synopsis: Sinister forces plot against a young soldier after she reveals a magical power that may unite her world.
Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Mystery
Number of Seasons: 1 (renewed for a second season)
Episode length: 1 hour
Where to Watch: Netflix
Review: I haven’t read the book series, nor have I read Six of Crows, but I absolutely fell in love with this story and these characters. Alina and Mal were the best, General Kirigan was just…ugh, my heart will forever be in love with Ben Barnes, and the crows were literally the best found family trope I’ve ever seen in. my. life. If you haven’t watched this series yet, you very much should because it’s fantastic.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Subtle implications that a character has been repeatedly raped (never graphic or shown), a butt is shown briefly, two men kiss passionately and it’s implied that they had sex since they discuss it, painting of a nude women is shown, one character belongs to a brothel, a prolonged kissing scene that is implied to move toward sex, but gets interrupted, a character attempts to seduce another character, bloodshed, on-screen death, gore, magic, death of an animal, multiple beheadings, knife fights, fighting, a man is sliced in half (intestines visible), a man is stabbed in the head, throat slitting, antlers are melded to a person’s body (was very disturbing for me, since I’m really sensitive to bones and the sound of bones being broken), cursing in the fantasy world language, brief but strong cursing, drinking, creatures attack people, frightening creatures.
Episodes that have Graphic Content: S1E2 (bloodshed), S1E5 (male/female kissing that almost leads to sex, male/male kissing that leads to implied sex and brief discussion of sex), S1E7 (antlers are fused to a character’s collarbone).
#5. Free Guy
Synopsis: When a bank teller discovers he’s actually a background player in an open-world video game, he decides to become the hero of his own story — one that he can rewrite himself. In a world where there’s no limits, he’s determined to save the day his way before it’s too late, and maybe find a little romance with the coder who conceived him.
Genre: Action, Adventure
Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes
Review: This was such a surprising and just…really fun movie. Ryan Reynolds does NOT disappoint, and the entire story just makes my heart really, really happy.
Content/Trigger Warnings: A boner joke, a character’s nose is broken, fighting, strong and frequent cursing, characters flip people off, point blank gun shots, kissing, a character’s arm gets broken.
Synopsis: To keep her ailing father from serving in the Imperial Army, a fearless young woman disguises herself as a man and battles northern invaders in China.
Genre: Action, Fantasy
Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes
Where to Watch: Disney+
Review: I was really hesitant about Disney remaking this movie because the original holds such a special place in my heart. But, I’m happy to say, I really loved this adaptation. It had a beautiful soundtrack, compelling and moving additions to the original story, and the casting was really fitting.
Content/Trigger Warnings: A character is implied to be naked (no nudity actually shown), war violence, stabbings, battle sequences.
#3. The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there. When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all. As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 496 (paperback), 465 (hardcover)
Review: The Infinity Courts is a hard book to read for a couple of reasons. It’s a little slow at times, but more importantly, it deals with a lot of really difficult questions: What is it that truly makes us human? Are people–humans or AI–capable of change? How far will one person go to do the right thing? And how do you ever really know if what you’re doing is the right thing to do? Bowman promised to explore big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity…and I think she did exactly that.
I genuinely really loved Nami as a character. She challenged people and their beliefs, which I think is really important for young adult books. She doesn’t just accept what others say as truth—she understands that things aren’t as black and white as we’d oftentimes like them to be. She wants to fight for peace, for a better afterlife, and I think she’s a very admirable character. I also really loved the world of Infinity. I don’t generally love worldbuilding, but I liked that Bowman build the world in a way that felt relevant, but not overwhelming. Finally, I obviously love the [REDACTED] trope with my ENTIRE HEART. If nothing else, this book proved that my heart will always be soft for this trope because I loved it and it happened in a way that felt entirely natural and realistic.
There weren’t many things that I disliked, but the pacing was one of them. It wasn’t entirely ~slow~ but there were definitely moments where it felt like it just kept dragging on and on without any clear direction. The other thing, which I’ve seen some bloggers talk about, is that Nami’s repetitive inner dialogue was a bit much. For me, it felt realistic, since I think we all tend to do that with our own inner dialogue, but since it was a fiction book, I think I would’ve liked to see it a little more clear and intentionally placed, since it was just kind of everywhere all. the. time.
I’m not putting the plot twist as something I loved or didn’t love because it would be in both categories: I love it because as a writer, I think it’s absolutely genius and evil. But as a reader? Well, let’s just say that I sobbed for the last couple chapters because Bowman shattered my heart into a thousand tiny pieces and then added insult to injury by stomping on the fragments of my heart, thus causing that one sentence of pure pain on page 440 to live rent free in my mind for the rest of my life (and yes, I hate it here).
Content/Trigger Warnings: gun violence, death, references to torture, threats, murder, mentions of underage drinking, injuries, nightmares, PTSD, forced servitude, mind control, grief.
#2. Sword Art Online
Synopsis: This anime series features a virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game, which shares its name with the show’s title (abbreviated SAO), that is released in 2022. The game allows people to control their in-game characters with their minds when using a Nerve Gear helmet. One day, upon logging into SAO, the players discover they cannot log out and learn from the game’s creator that they must defeat the final boss. If a player’s avatar dies in the game, though, their body also dies in the real world. One player, Kirito, sets out to beat the game on his own, progressing through the game over two years, during which time he befriends a female player, Asuna, with whom he falls in love. The duo eventually confronts the in-game avatar of SAO’s creator, hoping to free themselves and other players from the game. Over time, Kirito realizes that the situation is a conspiracy that runs deeper than just SAO and has penetrated other games.
Genre: Anime, Action
Number of Seasons: 3
Episode length: 24 minutes
Review: My sister is really the one who loves anime. I was hesitant, but she won me over with this one. It’s something we like to watch together and it’s a really nice way to spend some time with my favorite person in the whole world. The plot of season one is, by far, my favorite, but the whole show is pretty good. There are a few scenes (per season) that can be very uncomfortable to watch, as there is a lot of sexual content in this show, but if you are okay with that (or fast forwarding through the iffy scenes), I highly recommend checking it out because it’s a very unique plot with a beautiful romance.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Graphic nudity, multiple scenes of sexual assault/abuse (no sex is ever shown), intended rape, female characters are sometimes shown in bras and underwear, consensual kissing, non-consensual kissing (not condoned or portrayed as appropriate), a female character unknowingly falls in love with her cousin in a video game (nothing happens) bloodshed, gore, fighting, a little girl shoots a robber and blood is shown pooling around her, PTSD, grief, on-screen death, frequent and strong cursing, drinking.
Episodes that have Graphic Content: S1E24 (intended rape, sexual assault), S2E3 (girl shoots a robber), S3E10 (sexual assault), S3E15 (disturbing violence), S3E19 (seduction, nudity).
Since the list of triggering content is quite extensive for this show, I have decided to also link to the IMDB Parents Guide for this one. Be aware that many of the content warnings (both the sexual ones and the ones under the spoiler section) are quite detailed, so please proceed with caution or ask a parent, friend, or trusted adult to review it if you are worried about it being too triggering for you.
Finally, I’d like to add that all of the content that involves intended rape, sexual assaults/abuse, or non-consensual kissing is never condoned by any of the characters in the show. The male characters who commit these acts are punished for their behavior (in some way) and the scenes are supposed to demonstrate their psychopathic and mentally unstable personas. That being said, I do not condone these scenes, nor do I believe that they are necessary. I truly believe that good writing and screenplays do not need to actually show graphic sexual content to make their point; if they do, that just means the writers are lazy and, to be honest, not very good at their jobs.
#1. Spider-Man: No Way Home
Synopsis: With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, our friendly neighborhood web-slinger is unmasked and no longer able to separate his normal life as Peter Parker from the high stakes of being a superhero. When Peter asks for help from Doctor Strange, the stakes become even more dangerous, forcing him to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
Genre: Action, Adventure
Runtime: 2 hours 28 minutes
Where to Watch: Only in theaters.
Review: It was beautiful, heartbreaking, hilarious, and the perfect introduction to the Marvel theater experience.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Swearing, bloodshed, violence, fight scenes, death, some jump scares, kissing, and magic.
What did you consume this year? What were the best books, movies, and tv shows that you enjoyed this year? Drop all the recommendations in the comments so we can share and fuel each others’ obsessions!
If you have any specific questions about the content for any of these books, movies, or tv shows, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the form on my Contact Me page, and I will be happy to provide additional information.