Short Story Review: Blood Brothers by Josie Jaffrey (2021)

Blood Brothers by Josie Jaffrey

This short story is tied into Jaffrey’s Sovereign and Seekers vampire series. Be sure to check them out!

I really liked this one! Adewale and Alastair are great characters and I’m really curious to learn more about them after this. I think I should probably have read more of the books in the series first (I’ve only read The Gilded King so far, but the rest are on my list!), as I was a little confused by some things, but overall a great read! Definitely got me in the mood for more vampire books. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series!

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Websites for Book Lovers

One of the great things about the internet is how much more access we have to books, both in the sense that we can come across books we never would have before if they’re largely only published in one country, and because it’s also easier to find indie books that we otherwise might not have been able to access before.

Goodreads: Obviously this is the most popular one. I really do love Goodreads. After Livejournal, it’s probably my favourite ‘social media’ site. The atmosphere is just really lovely and everyone talks books all the time. I’ve made some great friends over there and spend so much time reading different reviews. There are also loads of communities that offer ARCs and review copies of books, so it’s a great place to find books directly as well. Definitely recommend if you’re not over there already!

Reedsy: This website is fantastic for finding indie book new releases. You can easily search via genre and there’s a posting/review system that’s similar to Goodreads. I’ve found and bought some great books from there, but there’s also an option for free books if you review!

Bookbub: This option is great for book deals and sales. You can often find things for 99¢ or completely free. There are best sellers and indie books fairly mixed together, and awesome hidden gems that I’d never have come across otherwise.

Voracious Readers Only: I love VRO! It’s especially great for authors and helping to get the word out, but it’s also for readers. You can sign up for newsletters for books and get access to indie books and ARCs for free. It’s a really good set up.

Honourable mentions/shout outs for StoryOrigin, Booksprout and Storytellers on Tour. I also have more website recommendations over here.

Does anyone have any favourite bookish websites? ♡

Film Review: Onward (2020)

Onward is exactly what I want in an animated movie. Honestly, it was just so uplifting and feel-good and lovely – and I cried so many times. Movies that move you because they’re so kind are truly wondrous creations.

The movie follows Ian and Barley Lightfoot, two elves in a world that’s modern but magical. Their father Wilden died when they were young and they’ve been raised by their mum Laurel. On Ian’s sixteenth birthday, she gifts him and his brother with something Wilden left behind for them once both are sixteen. It turns out to be a wizard’s staff and a spell for conjuring the dead for just one day.

Barley tries to bring their dad back but is unsuccessful. When Ian tries, he manages to bring back half of his dad before the gemstone in the staff explodes. Barley, who’s spent his life researching magical lore for games and quests, convinces Ian that they can find a replacement gemstone by following an old trail with a map. Unfortunately, after a series of mishaps, the only tools they have is a staff Ian can barely wield, a van that keeps breaking down, and a children’s menu puzzle adapted from a treasure map. It’s honestly cracking good fun!

At the same time the brothers are trying to finish the spell to bring back their dad, their poor mum is trying to track them down with the help of the Manticore, the harried restaurant owner whose business went up in flames after the brothers tried to take her map, and Colt, Laurel’s centaur police officer boyfriend. Their scenes are so funny, I couldn’t stop laughing.

What I loved most about this movie was the focus on sibling love and brotherhood. Ian and Barley are the most amazing duo and I adored how their relationship developed throughout the movie, how they worked together and supported each other, and how it all came together by the end. It was such a sweet, heartfelt, wonderful film. ♡

Book Review for Blog Tour: Bloodlaced by Courtney Maguire (2020)

Bloodlaced by Courtney Maguire
Part of the Bloodlaced blog tour

“Are you a man or a woman?” she asked, her nose millimeters from mine. The same question I’d been asked a million times before. I only ever had one answer.

“I am Asagi.”

I really like how very different this book is from others in the vampire genre. If I was to compare it to any of the ones I’ve read, I’d probably say it fits in with Shari Sakurai’s Demon’s Blood series in that both are set in historical Japan and follow the characters’ struggles around vampirism. Bloodlaced is a nuanced character study and a good bit of the book occurs before the fantasy element comes in. The story focuses heavily on the effects of imbalanced relationships, and especially how these relationships impact those without a say in their circumstances.

There are some spoilers herein.

The story begins with Asagi and Tsukito, two household slaves, the day they are sold to a new master (who is a complete arsehole, let’s be clear). It’s a horrible, brutal place where both are abused. And no matter how hard Asagi works to keep Tsukito safe, things get very dark and bleak for the pair. Eventually, Asagi is bought by a new master, Mahiro.

I was unsure of Mahiro at the start, although Asagi certainly wasn’t:

Like a fool, I’d fallen in love with the moon, and once again it was out of my reach.

To be sure, Mahiro is nothing like Asagi’s previous master and encourages opinions and respect amongst members of the household. And so Asagi quickly falls in love with Mahiro. Asagi also makes friends with Kira, who hides a secret about her relationship with Mahiro and is, awkwardly, madly in love with him. So the closer Asagi and Mahiro become, the more jealous she gets.

Asagi soon learns that Mahiro is a blood-drinking immortal. Though Asagi’s reaction is bad at first, soon they grow closer and become deeply attached to each other. But the joy doesn’t last long. An unfortunate series of events leads to Mahiro turning Asagi into a creature just like him. Something Asagi isn’t remotely delighted about. Worse, the longer they’re together, the more Asagi realises that Mahiro is not an equal, nor views himself as such, and resentment builds slowly on Asagi’s side.

He was still my master. I might not have been bound in chains, but I had become a slave of another kind, bound by blood and time.

I was so glad Asagi realised this and didn’t excuse Mahiro’s views simply because he was kinder than some. (I was worrying, guys. WORRYING.) As time goes on, Asagi begins to push back and I was rooting so hard for Asagi to find Tsukito and get the happy ending that was denied to both of them.

The ending was straight up AN EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER. I wasn’t expecting any of the final twists, but overall I really liked how how everything came together in the end. A very impressive start to a new series!

Really excited to read what happens next!

I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review as part of the Bloodlaced Blog Tour.

If you like Bella Forrest, P. C. Cast, AJ Tipton, or Anne Rice, you will love this beautiful dark paranormal fantasy romance.

Publisher: City Owl Press (September 29, 2020)
Releases on: September 29, 2020
Genre: LGBTQIA Dark Historical Paranormal Romance
Language: English
ISBN 9781648980152

Buy Links:


Amazon: https://smarturl.it/Youkai1Amz
Amazon Paperback: https://smarturl.it/Youkai1AmzPrt
B&N: https://smarturl.it/Youkai1BN
Kobo: https://smarturl.it/Youkai1Kobo
iBooks: https://smarturl.it/Youkai1iBooks
GoodReads: https://smarturl.it/Youkai1GR
City Owl: https://smarturl.it/Youkai1CO

About the Author:

Courtney Maguire is a University of Texas graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas. Drawn to Austin by a voracious appetite for music, she spent most of her young adult life in dark, divey venues nursing a love for the sublimely weird. A self-proclaimed fangirl with a press pass, she combined her love of music and writing as the primary contributor for Japanese music and culture blog, Project: Lixx, interviewing Japanese rock and roll icons and providing live event coverage for appearances across the country.

Website: https://www.courtneymaguirewrites.com/blog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CourtneyMaguireWrites/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PretentiousAho
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/courtneymaguirewrites/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Courtney-Maguire/e/B082S34S7W

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (2011)

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
by Deborah Harkness

‘I saw the logic that they used, and the death of a thousand cuts as experimental scientists slowly chipped away at the belief that the world was an inexplicably powerful, magical place. Ultimately they failed, though. The magic never really went away. It waited, quietly, for people to return to it when they found the science wanting.’

TEA! WINE! BOOKS! MAGIC!

This book is basically an ode to all the things a historian loves: archival research in old libraries with numerous texts and tomes, historical tangents, philosophical debates, and an investigation into the inexplicable and wondrous. I’m also fairly certain I’ve never encountered two characters who love the history of wine and tea more than Diana and Matthew. Bless their hearts.

A Discovery of Witches is the first in a trilogy that follows the fantastical adventures of Diana Bishop, a professor/witch who is spending her summer in Oxford for research on alchemical texts. But it’s in the archives that she stumbles upon something: a book that everyone in the magical world wants to get their hands on. Diana, though a witch, wants nothing to do with magic and pretends not to notice the book or its magical ~allure. That is, until a vampire named Matthew Clairmont catches her notice.

Matthew, along with an entire library of magical onlookers (i.e. magical stalkers), all want the book. For some reason, though, only Diana has ever been able to access it. This discovery leads to a spiral of events that put Diana in danger as various vampires and witches try to get the book. Few of the book’s seekers care about Diana’s wellbeing, leaving her with only Matthew and her aunts to help. Her aunts, Sarah and Emily, were wonderful! Very motherly. They’re both witches themselves and I love their scenes. I also loved Matthew’s relationships with his family: especially Marcus, his son and Ysabeau, his mum. The story eventually leads the main couple from England to France and then to the United States, so there’s a good bit of setting changes. The library scenes were probably my favourite, though!

This is a vampire tale quite different from Buffy or Vampire Diaries. I was reminded a bit of Twilight at the start, but not because the storylines are the same (they’re not) or because Diana is similar to Bella (she isn’t), or because the vampires are similar (they’re totally, totally, totally different), but rather because Matthew reminded me a bit of Edward at the start. That sort of quiet, reserved, chivalrous type who lurks in the shadows. That changed pretty quickly, though. Matthew is much, much darker than Edward. His history is long and brutal and he makes no attempts at hiding it. There are some seriously interesting events in history that he’s been party to. This is a book that lauds history, so you do get a lot of historical moments re-imagined through the lens of vampires and witches, which was seriously cool. Diana and Matthew are the epitome of researching academics, which I adore ♡ Their chemistry is also unreal.

I’m definitely curious about book two, Shadow of Night, especially given that ending! OH MY GOSH.

Has anyone else read this trilogy? Or seen the show?

ARCs TBR

I have a growing list of ARCs to read and review in the next month or two. I’m so excited for all of them and I wish I had more reading time to get to them faster, but alas I’m busy and slow and it takes me time to catch up. Very excited to read these, though.

The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey:

Some secrets are worth killing for

The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.

Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.

Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.
With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.

If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.

I really love Josie Jaffrey’s writing style, and I’ve read a few of her stories already, so I’m excited to start in on this one.

Bloodlaced by Courtney Maguire:

Kanjin hardly view their servants as human. Even less so when they are different.

Asagi is different. Both a man and a woman.

In the wake of his failure to protect a boy he saw as a son from their abusive master, Asagi is sold into the house of a young nobleman, Mahiro, who is the opposite of everything Asagi has ever known—gentle, kind, and generous.

Mahiro bonds with Asagi and their friendship blooms into a deep and profound love. But when Asagi is poisoned out of jealousy, Mahiro reveals himself to be youkai, a demon who feeds on blood, and he has no choice but to turn Asagi to save their life.

Asagi awakes reborn, strong, and eternally youthful. But the price for Asagi’s new life is high.

The blood of the innocent. Just as Asagi’s trust in Mahiro falters, the boy he failed to protect, now a man, reappears.​

New master, same threat.

With both a literal and proverbial monster at the door, Asagi must decide what it means to be human to protect what they love most.

I’m always excited for more fantasy stories, so I super excited for this one!

Buried Vapors by Matthew Kesselman:

When Ian arrives in the City, he reminisces about a time when he was a boy, staring at the stars. Now, as a young man, he wanders aimlessly through work, a budding romance, and the subway, his smartphone in hand, feeling lost.

That is, until he stumbles upon something different: the dreams of strangers. Mesmerized and enchanted, Ian follows his curiosity but quickly finds himself thrust into a situation he did not expect. Before too long, an ever-accelerating chaos of surreal nights and stark days surround him. Soon there is only one option: he must find answers before his life dangerously unravels and he loses everything.

Thoughtful, innovative, and magical, Buried Vapors is a poignant and timely novel that explores the deep yearning for purpose in all of us as humanity journeys adrift into the twenty-first century. Buried Vapors helps us find the light, even within utter darkness.

The writing in this one is soooo good so far.

Jinnik: The Asset by Gideon Asche:

From 1947 through 1991, the United States and her allies faced off against the Soviet Union and her proxy states in clandestine operations worldwide during the Cold War. It was not a conventional shooting war, but make no mistake, both sides lost thousands of brave men and women who fought for what they believed in. Eastern Europe was home to some of the most intense and harrowing missions as NATO forces directly opposed the Soviets behind the Iron Curtain. Jinnik: The Asset is the true story of one man’s role in the conflict.

Gideon Asche was the typical American soldier stationed in West Germany in 1979. He dreamed of getting out and going back home to California as a civilian who’d done his small part for liberty. Little did he know that his longtime girlfriend, Petra, was a Mossad agent who’d likely been recruiting him from the beginning. After his enlistment was up, Gideon found himself with an offer he couldn’t refuse: to become a covert operator helping people trapped beyond the lines of freedom.

For ten years, Gideon lived in the shadows under false identities, transiting border checkpoints and Eastern Bloc nations with supplies and much-needed cash for the resistance. He lost team members, contacts, and friends, but he made a difference in Eastern Europe. No mission was refused because it was too hard or had never been done before. The only thing that stopped him was his eventual capture and torture by the KGB in Bulgaria. Somehow, miraculously, he survived the ordeal to tell his story.

This one looks super intense, but I’m really curious to see what it’s all about.

Anyone else reading these? ♡

Documentaries! Documentaries Everywhere!

I’ve got to say, I’m really loving the documentaries that have been popping up on Netflix. I’ve already watched The Great Hack and Knock Down the House, which were both brilliantly done.

If you haven’t seen them, The Great Hack follows the exposé on how data is being used to influence elections, and whistleblowers surrounding Cambridge Analytica. I have a longer review of it, here. Knock Down the House follows four young progressive politicians in the United States who ran for Congress in 2018. If you like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or followed her campaign at all, this film focuses on her as well as Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin. Even knowing how the campaigns end, it’s still very much worth a watch. I have such respect for these women and how they’ve handled themselves. Very inspiring documentary.

In the same vein is The Social Dilemma. It’s half documentary, half re-enactment, and both sides are enthralling to watch. The interviews with former leaders at Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more besides, shine a light on just how greatly social media and advertising have come to influence the world around us, even when we don’t realise it.

These interviews are complemented by a fictional modern family obsessed with technology, whose youngest daughter is being bullied online while the son is being drawn into extremism via advertising and propaganda. Skyler Gisondo plays the son and I loved his performance. (Still sad about Santa Clarita Diet ending, boo urns.) Vincent Kartheiser as the three AIs was also brilliant.

In a totally different genre of documentaries, I also recommend Explained and Dark Tourist. Explained is really cool, because it’s basically a bunch of mini documentaries. I think each one’s about 20 minutes, but they pack a lot of information in. You get episodes on topics ranging from monogamy to the gender pay gap to meat consumption. I definitely recommend checking them out! There’s also a three-part one on Covid-19.

Dark Tourist, on the other hand, is an eight episode documentary series hosted by New Zealand journalist David Farrier. I’d never actually heard of dark tourism until I watched this. I like my vacations to be fun and relaxing, but there’s a side of tourism that apparently leans towards scaring the absolute life out of yourself. Fun? Apparently. Decidedly not for me, though.

Farrier goes first to Latin America. He visits Medellín and meets people who once ran with Pablo Escobar and now make YouTube videos and run tours and role playing adventures based around their own experiences. In another episode, Farrier goes to Japan and visits Fukushima, which is still intensely radioactive and is basically a ghost town now. After Fukushima, he goes to a robot hotel, where robots basically run the whole place. (Seriously, the talking robots freaked me out so much! I don’t think I could have turned off the lights in a room full of robots.)

In a later episode, he also goes to the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan which was the scene of nuclear tests throughout the Cold War. At one point he swims in the lake of a crater that formed from nuclear blasts. (The group he’s with also eat the fish from the pond.) I did find the part where he goes to see the space shuttle take off really cool.

Two of the episodes focus on dark tourism in the United States. The haunted house one was particularly unsettling to watch. Signing up to be berated and terrified is not something I understand. Nor did I understand the serial killer tours he goes on. Um, no, thank you.

Despite some of the seriously unsettling/downright alarming things he finds, what I really liked about the whole series was Farrier’s method of letting the locations and visitors guide the documentary. He’s a very laid-back, likeable journalist and doesn’t overwhelm the focus of the documentary, which I prefer.

Has anyone seen any of these? Got any documentaries to recommend?

Show Review: The Innocent Man | Nice Guy | 세상 어디에도 없는 착한 남자 (2012)

Oh my gosh, The Innocent Man has me hooooooooked. If you like intense dramatic romances, this one is fantastic. I’m only about six episodes in, but I can’t stop! (It’s on Netflix as Nice Guy, if you’re looking!)

[I keep writing reviews for these shows before I’ve finished them but I just have a lot of EMOTIONS and OPINIONS so bear with me (and also there are some spoilers for the first six episodes herein, so if you don’t like spoilers, avoid until you’ve seen the show!).]

The main characters are Kang Ma-ru, Seo Eun-gi, Han Jae-hee, Kang Choco and Park Jae-gil. At the start, Kang Ma-ru’s madly in love with Han Jae-hee. They grew up together without money and have been together for years. There’s nothing Kang Ma-ru wouldn’t do for her. One night, after proving himself in medical school, he comes home to find his sister unconscious on the floor. Choco suffers from a long term illness and is constantly fainting and needing medical care. He’s in the process of bringing her to hospital when Jae-hee calls him, frantic. Torn between his sister and his girlfriend, he promises his sister that he’ll be right back, she only has to count to 500, and he runs to Jae-hee.

At a hotel, he finds Jae-hee sitting beside a dead body. They panic about what’s going to happen and in a spur of the moment decision, Ma-ru takes the fall. He’s kicked out of medical school and goes to prison, Choco’s health worsens, and Jae-hee ends up marrying a rich older man.

Five years later, Ma-ru’s jaded and furious. He’s on a flight when he encounters Seo Eun-gi, an heiress and step-daughter to Jae-hee. When Eun-gi faints onboard the plane, he uses his medical knowledge to save her life. In the process, he encounters Jae-hee once more.

Later, Jae-hee comes to his house and offers him compensation for taking the fall. Disgusted, Ma-ru returns the money but he gets caught in the crossfire between Jae-hee and Eun-gi, and is accused of blackmailing the family for money. So, that’s twice now that Jae-hee’s got him into trouble with the law.

I don’t know what to think about Jae-hee, honestly. She’s a really interesting and well developed character. Like, I cannot stand her in most of her scenes, but I do feel deep empathy for what her character experiences before the start of the show. She’s truly broken and terrified of going back to where she came from, so even though she’s manipulative and awful at times, she’s an interesting character and I hope she finds peace by the end. Also, her chemistry with Ma-ru is unreal and their scenes can be really heartbreaking.

Both of the women have great side relationships outside of Ma-ru and the love triangle, too. Eun-gi is close with Park Joon-ha, who’s been her friend all her life and fights for her within the company she runs, and always has her back. Jae-hee is close to Ahn Min-young, her husband’s secretary who’s secretly in love with her and helps her fight back against Eun-gi, who’s hated Jae-hee since her father kicked out her mother to make room for Jae-hee. There’s also Choco’s relationship with Park Jae-gil, Ma-ru’s best friend, who lives with them and supports Ma-ru through thick and thin. It’s a really splendid cast overall!

I really adore Ma-ru the most, though. He’s an amazing character. He’s such a good brother to Choco and he loves fiercely even though he’s been deeply hurt by Jae-hee’s actions. I love how his relationship with Eun-gi develops even as he’s battling Jae-hee and their tangled history. There’s so much intrigue and tension and looks. Seriously, this is a show that thrives on glares and side-long glances and I am here for it.

I can’t wait to see how it ends! Has anyone else seen it? If not, you totally should!

Short Story Review: The Kingdom That Failed by Haruki Murakami, Translated by Jay Rubin (2020)

The Kingdom That Failed by Haruki Murakami

“To see a splendid kingdom fade away,” it said, “is far sadder than seeing a second-rate republic collapse.”

I’ve never read anything by Murakami and this was definitely a great introduction. I’m not really sure how to describe this one: a man sees someone he used to know and watches the man while remembering how he used to be. It’s quite short, yet engaging and with great prose!

It’s published in The New Yorker if you want to check it out. I definitely recommend giving it a go!

Book Review: Lie With Me by Philippe Besson, Translated by Molly Ringwald (2019)

Lie With Me by Philippe Besson

No matter how much you want to respect someone’s freedom (even when you consider it selfish), you still have your own pain, anger, and melancholy to contend with.

I was not prepared for this story AT ALL.

I first picked up Lie With Me because I love Molly Ringwald – and Molly Ringwald surely has great taste in LGBT French novellas?! And, she totally does. Lie With Me is a beautiful, tragic, raw novella that’s left me quite unsure what to do with myself. I just want to reach into the book and wrap my arms around Thomas, Philippe and Lucas.

He says I’m a boy of books, from somewhere else.

The story follows Philippe and Thomas in a small French village in the 1980s. They start a quiet, hidden away relationship. The story’s quite short (only about 160 pages), so to avoid spoiling anything I’m just going to say that this is a stunning piece of literature. Truly. But be prepared to cry your eyes out.

It’s a curious notion, love: difficult to identify and define. There are so many degrees and variations.

100% recommend.