Mini Review Round-Up | LGBT Romance

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When Red Cried Wolf (Happily Ever Asher #1) by Nash Summers | lgbt, short story

His roommate, Morgan, had been like an elusive baby deer, skittering off into the woods at the first sign of human life. Asher usually made sure not to make direct eye contact or any sudden movements around him for fear of scaring him off.

I thought this was a cute start to the trilogy and it definitely left me wanting more, but Asher was a bit too much at times. Dude needed to chill about how much he loves love, haha. Morgan was my favourite and I’m excited to see how their relationship develops in the next two.

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His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal | lgbt, short story

And then there was an arm around my waist, holding me upright again, there was a hand wiping dust, blood, and tears from my eyes. It was Shehzad Marid—ever loving, ever loyal, always on my side in my hour of need.

This was a really good short story about a trapeze master and his jinni. Available online here.

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Lovers (Voyeur #2) by Fiona Cole | lgbt, romance

“I miss you. You won’t touch me, or kiss me, or sit with me, or hold me. Nothing. And I fucking miss you.”

I haven’t read the first one in the series and I’m not sure I’m bothered to read the rest of it, but I did enjoy this one. It follows Jake, Jackson and Carina in a love ménage à trois that becomes increasingly complicated due to Jake and Jackson’s past and their intense friendship.

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Variations on an Apple by Yoon Ha Lee | lgbt, short story

It smelled of diesel hearts and drudgery and overcrowded colonies; of battery acid gone bad and bromides and foundered courtships. Intoxicating, yes, but in the way of verses etched unwanted upon the spirit’s cracked windows. 

The imagery and descriptions in this are gorgeous. Available online here.

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The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu | lgbt, short story

This is the man who seconds ago risked going insane in order to feel soul-rending pain for fun. How can he suddenly look so vulnerable?

This was so random and quite good, if a bit too abrupt. I feel like I needed more information and development on the rain and on the sister. I’ve rarely hated a character so much who appears so briefly, but I wanted that addressed more in depth because she was horrible. Available online here.

Review: Made in Heaven (2019)

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I absolutely adored Made in Heaven.

Made in Heaven follows Karan Mehra and Tara Khanna as they manage their wedding planning business which shares a name with the title of the show. It’s a dark take on the wedding industry in India and the show pulls no punches with showing how grim things can get. From scheming parents to blackmail and bridezillas, each episode shows a different wedding for the company while the characters navigate their complicated personal lives.

Karan is gay at a time when it’s illegal in India and his storyline follows his struggles with being who he is and loving who he wants when it risks jail time. Arjun Mathur was absolutely amazing as Karan, I was in awe. His mother is abusive and homophobic, although thankfully his father and brother are wonderfully accepting. His backstory totally broke my heart (there are a lot of flashbacks to explain the characters’ motivations and secrets) and I really hope we see more of Nawab, a man from his past, in season two. Their complicated relationship requires more screen time!

Tara, on the other hand, is married to Adil, who’s cheating on her with her best friend, Faiza, and constantly belittles her upbringing. He’s far richer than her and reminds her of it when they fight. NOT A GOOD LOOK, ADIL. Adil and Faiza really frustrated me throughout the entire season, but otherwise I adored the entire cast. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to them in season two, honestly. Sobhita Dhulipala stole every scene she was in and made you really empathise with Tara despite the character’s sometimes questionable choices. She’s a new to me actress and she’s definitely a new favourite. She really reminds me of Deepika Padukone, actually.

There’s also Kabir Basrai and Jaspreet Kaur, who work for Made in Heaven and are dealing with complications of their own. Kabir often narrates videos of the weddings and they’re always wonderful observations and really tug at your heart. In particular, the storyline where a woman discovers that her fiancé’s family blackmailed her parents into paying a dowry culminates in a powerful moment where the girl walks out of the wedding. Kabir’s closing refrain was so powerful:

‘That’s all it took to shatter centuries of patriarchy. One tiny moment of courage. […] Our women don’t deserve this. Our women are better than this. And if they only believed that.’

SO MANY EMOTIONS. Honestly, the show makes so many good points about politics and religion. I’m so excited for season two!

Review: The Exorcist (2016)

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‘There are rules in place for a reason. We maintain purity, we don’t harm the innocent, we put duty before self.’

The Exorcist stressed me out. And grossed me out. And freaked me out. But oh holy moley, it was amazing and I loved it. I came at this show never having read the books (yes, there’s two!) or watched the movies (there are a lot!), so I really didn’t know what to expect. I just saw Alfonso Herrera and went, ‘Sounds awesome.’ Ben Daniels being in it was even better.

**spoilers for both seasons**

‘There’s this tall guy and he’s got a black jacket and short hair and a moustache, but not like a porn ’stache. Like a good ’stache.’

The show follows Father Tomás and Father Marcus, Catholic priests and exorcists. It also picks up where the movie left off, which again I haven’t seen, but the main girl Regan MacNeil who was the kid possessed in the movie/book is the mother of the girl possessed in the show (she’s played by the fabulous Geena Davis!).

Tomás is the priest of a poor, struggling parish and he starts having dreams of Marcus performing exorcisms. This leads him to Marcus after some time, and together they try and help the poor MacNeil family that just keeps getting possessed. Poor, poor family. As you can imagine, pretty much everything goes wrong throughout the first season as Marcus and Tomás try to help Casey Rance, Regan’s daughter.

Season two follows the priests’ encounters not just with more possession — this time in a group home run by Andy Kim (played by the amazing John Cho) — as well as people faking possession to get attention. That latter case really hits you hard. And it hits Marcus especially hard. As a result, he becomes deeply protective of the girl who was abused, and I love their interactions throughout season two. In fact, all of the kids in the show are fantastic actors. John Cho also freaking wrecked me in season two and was thoroughly phenomenal. His acting is amazing, I cannot stress this enough.

‘You’re not an apprentice anymore, Tomás. You’re an exorcist. And I’m proud to stand beside you, brother.’

I loved Marcus and Tomás. They both have their own personal obstacles that they’re dealing with in addition to all the exorcisms, and as characters they’re both so wonderful and believable. And I’m not gonna lie, Marcus and Tomás have mad chemistry and their relationship is hands down the best aspect of the show. Marcus is also revealed to be bisexual, which is something we see so little of on television and I totally cheered. 

‘I don’t want to lose you.’
‘Then bring me back.’

Unfortunately, The Exorcist was cancelled after season two, but the creator revealed that season three would have revolved around Tomás finding his way back to Marcus, who was consumed with guilt after the events of season two and went off on his own. I would have loved to see more of this show, but it ends right at that place where you want more but you’re not totally lost not to have it. I generally hate unresolved cliffhangers, but it works for this one and isn’t too frustrating. As a result, I can totally recommend it and I’m definitely going to be rewatching it. I also really want to read the book now, which I’ve since done a little research on and find myself rather intrigued by. I had no idea the writer was once most famous for his comedy work.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable, if very frightening series.

‘You said I have nothing. You are wrong. I have love, I have hope, and I have faith. These things are not weaknesses. They make me what I am.’
‘And what’s that?’
‘An exorcist.’

currently reading;

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns – I’m loving this so far. It’s about the rise of an evil queen and she’s honestly so enjoyably unlikeable, haha. The main character, Xifeng, has been told all her life that she’s going to be the Empress one day. Her aunt’s abusive, but can access dark magic that involves blood and sacrifice. Her boyfriend, Wei, adores her, hates her aunt, and wants a simple life with a wife and a good living. Xifeng wants more, though. She wants what her aunt says she deserves. She wants to be the Empress. She wants magic and power. I’m about 1/3 of the way through it and find her intriguing, though deeply troubled.

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Adrift – This one is awesome, I just need to actually spend more time with it. I keep getting distracted by other books that I’m going through this one slower than I otherwise would. But it’s great. The premise is a tour group in outer space are left stranded after an unknown attacker destroys every other ship in the area. The who or why isn’t clear yet, but it reminds me of Firefly and The Expanse. Can’t wait to see how this ends.

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The White City – Set in a dystopian London besieged by endless winter, this story follows Hera after her brother is arrested. I only just started it, but it’s really intriguing and I’m curious to see where it goes.

 

What’s everyone else reading?

Review Round Up: Three Novellas/Short Stories

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The Butcher of Anderson Station (The Expanse #0.5) by James S.A. Corey

“Because why matters, Colonel. Why always matters. Whatever your story is, I know how it ends. It ends with you, here, talking to me.”

I am a huge fan of the television show (which I only started a week ago and am almost done with because it is awesome) so I wanted to try the books and see if I liked them. I picked the very first in the order, even if it isn’t technically the starting point and I really liked the writing!

The storyline of Anderson Station is so tragic and highlights the casualties of war and all the innocents caught in the crossfire. Fred is a very interesting character. He and Dawes play off each other well. Can’t wait to start Leviathan Wakes! I need more of Captain Jim and his crew!

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seemed to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

This is a hard one to stomach even if it is so short. I went into it not knowing the premise, so for the first part of the story I was intrigued, and then I was furious, and then I just sort of sat there and went whoa. I feel like if you know anything about the premise, it ruins the surprise, and since it is only a few pages long, I won’t go into much detail. Simply put, I definitely recommend this, even for the emotional and philosophical gut punch you will receive. Very thought-provoking and days later I’m still thinking about it.

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Marked: A Possessive Vampire Romance by Dawn Jansen

Let me stay here, underground, where it is quiet and dark. Let me sustain myself on the blood of rats and be at peace.

This short story follows Ada and Lucien, a human historian and a vampire hiding underground, respectively. Ada’s exploring the tunnels in New York for research when she runs into Lucien and accidentally pepper sprays herself in the face in surprise. But Lucien’s even more surprised, cos, you know, Ada looks like his dead lover Claire.

I stumbled a bit with how quickly they fell for each other. I kind of get Lucien’s obsession – it reminded me of Stefan and Damon finding Elena in The Vampire Diaries — but I thought Ada fell a bit quick for the lad. I think if I met someone in a tunnel and freaked out, I wouldn’t be flirting. You do you, girl, but I agree with Laura, the roommate: She told me it doesn’t matter how hot he is, there’s no way I’m going back there. BRING THAT GOOD ADVICE, LAURA. Honestly, I struggled with how consumingly Ada fell for Lucien. I don’t care if it’s gonna get me killed, if I don’t see Lucien again, I might as well be dead. Girl. GIRL. VALUE YOURSELF. Like, at least ascertain that he is not, in fact, a murderer before kissing him.

I found the vampire lore that was hinted at to be quite cool! The idea of vampires living underground because of hunters makes for an intriguing backstory. I would have loved more of a backstory on Lucien’s turn. Lord Gaston only got a brief reference and I’m desperately curious about the vampiric world building and how covens work in this. In fact, Lucien and Claire’s whole backstory went by so quickly, but teased at so much intrigue! If the author wants to write a prequel, I vote for Claire and Lucien bossing it up across Europe in the 1700s.

Overall there’s a lot to like here, but I’m a fan of the slow burn so I do wish it’d been a bit longer and given us more of a build up and backstory.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

all reviews cross-posted to goodreads 🙂

Review: Il était une seconde fois (2018)

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‘Relationships are all the same, but no one experiences them the same way.’

Il était une seconde fois, or Twice Upon a Time, centres around Vincent and Louise. It’s told out of order, switching back and forth between the past and the present. I did notice it switching from full screen to wide screen as well, so I think that was an intentional method to differentiate between the past and the present. If you don’t pay attention to that, though, it’s easy to get lost. The changes happen without warning.

**contains spoilers**

The series starts off with Vincent basically a drunken mess who’s spiralling into depression and destruction after the end of his relationship with Louise. Over the course of the series, you find out that Vincent and Louise met one night in a pub and instantly hit it off. They agree neither wants a relationship but their chemistry is undeniable and they get into a relationship despite Louise having an unfinished relationship with James, and Vincent still seeing the mother of his son.

One day, a postman leaves a box, ‘the cube’, with Vincent. It’s quite literally just a box. When he’s trying to figure out what it does, he realises the box doesn’t have a back and comes out on the other side nine months in the past with his relationship still intact.

In both timelines, Louise struggles with opening up to Vincent after a traumatic event in her last relationship has left her reeling. It’s revealed later that she was having an affair with a married man and when the wife found out, she jumped in front of a train with Louise there, riddling her with guilt for the rest of her life. 

Madly in love with Louise and wanting to fix their relationship, he goes back and forth between the past with Louise and the present with his son, not wanting to lose either. His inability to pick one leads to both sides missing him and wondering where he’s been for days on end. Louise tolerates it for a time, listening to his ‘story’ about time travel and viewing it as something like method acting for writers. The only person who believes Vincent is his brother, a man struggling with schizophrenia.

In the present, the postman who left the cube keeps stalking him to get the box back, asking Vincent if he can search his house, his car, and generally just being weird. There are a few others who keep up the weirdness and trying to figure out who wants what and why is difficult. The background of the cube is never really explained outside of his brother making a few ideas about light and photons. And there are background figures trying to get the cube back from Vincent, too, but other than a few lines, these characters aren’t delved into. It leaves you with quite a few questions, although I think the point of the series was to make an existential statement rather than a scientific drama.

Overall the series is quite interesting, and Gaspard Ulliel and Freya Mavor have amazing chemistry and their acting is perfection, but I do wish it’d been a few episodes longer, told a little less convolutedly, and the science fiction/time travel explained more.

Review: Handsome Devil (2016)

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‘I never knew I’d been lonely until I found a friend.’

I’d liken this movie to a modern day LGBT Dead Poets Society (but with a happy ending, fear not!)

*review contains spoilers*

The story follows Ned, who doesn’t like his school or any of the boys at his school. He really doesn’t like his roommate, Conor, the new star of the rugby team. It’s a school obsessed with rugby and fitting in, which is something Ned decidedly doesn’t do. He’s bullied for being gay and after a confrontation with the rugby players in his bedroom, he makes a ‘Berlin Wall’ out of his bookshelves between his half of the room and Conor’s half. The sign changes from ←Ned | Him → to ← Ned | Press Ups → before their friendship solidifies and the wall comes down.

Other than Ned and Conor, there’s Mr Sherry, played by Andrew Scott. He’s a frustrated teacher, funny and kind and acerbic in equal measure. His rants are truly epic and wonderful, and Andrew Scott does a brilliant job. Hands down my favourite character, although I loved all three of the mains.

‘You spend your whole life being someone else, who’s going to be you?’

One night, Ned follows Conor to a gay pub only to be turned away for being too young. Inside, Conor sees Sherry with his boyfriend. Sherry sees him, too, and both panic. On the train back to the school, Conor and Sherry agree not to say anything about seeing each other in the pub and carry on. But when they are seen coming back to the school together by the rugby coach Pascal, he tells one of his players to look into the reason Conor was expelled from his previous school. The school bully learns that Conor’s gay and blackmails him into ignoring Ned, who is still hated by everyone else for being unapologetically gay. This leads to a confrontation between Sherry and Pascal (i.e. Sherry is the BEST and Pascal is the WORST).

When the bullying gets worse for Ned, he confronts the whole school and Conor gets outed. Conor goes to Sherry for advice and Sherry assures him that things do get better after secondary school. And while Ned faces the consequences of his actions, Conor runs away, leaving Sherry deeply concerned. He then gets into a confrontation with the headmaster, who’s more concerned with the outcome of the rugby match than with Conor’s whereabouts.

‘Some boys don’t play rugby, Walter! What about those boys?’

Ned’s suspended from school and learns that Conor’s missing. He jumps out of the car while his father’s driving him home and goes to find Conor. After apologising profusely, Ned manages to convince him to come back and play the match.

‘It’s my team if you’re playing on it.’

Unfortunately, Pascal is still determined to be the absolute worst and tells Conor there is no place for him on the team. The following scene where the players quit the team one by one in protest of the coach’s homophobia is fucking awesome.

The movie ends with Conor and Ned as best friends, and Sherry introducing the headmaster to his boyfriend at the match.

Overall, this movie was truly lovely. There is no romance, only friendship and solidarity amidst all the shite thrown at the main characters and the ending is utterly wonderful and feel-good.

The soundtrack is also absolutely fantastic. This one in particular is great.

Recommended for everyone!