Review Round Up

New year, new reads, new shows.

I started off the new year by reading a few comic books and finishing Sylvester by Georgette Heyer, narrated by Richard Armitage. I’ve been having a hard time focusing on longer reads at the minute, simply because I have so much to do, so short reads and audibooks are very helpful right now.

I really enjoyed Oddly Normal, which has adorable illustrations and a fairly sad storyline; Die!Die!Die! was intriguing. It’s by the same author as The Walking Dead and has gruesome opener, but looks to be really interesting. I’m curious to see where it goes! Has anyone read any of these?

I also started two new TV series: Young Wallander and The Alienist. I adored them both and cannot recommend The Alienist enough. Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans and Daniel Brühl make a fantastic trio! The mystery is intense and fairly un-guessable, which is something I’ve been waiting for. The costumes are gorgeous as well. Everything about the show is well done, honestly. If you enjoy dark mysteries, this one is enthralling.

Young Wallander is based a Swedish book series and was brilliantly done. I love the whole cast and thought it ended well. It has a second series coming, I believe, so the few things that weren’t wrapped up I’m assuming will be addressed in the coming season.

Honourable Mentions of 2020

I feel like there are so many films, books and shows that I wanted to review this year that I haven’t got around to for some reason or other. (Re: laziness). Oh well! I’m listing some of the ones I can remember below (and I’m sure there’s still others I’ve forgotten).

Shows: Summertime was a great show, for anyone looking for a warm and sunny show with cute romances. Set in Italy, diverse cast/rep. Curon is another good Italian show! I haven’t finished it, but the start is super strong. The Last Kingdom is soooooo amazing. I don’t know why I haven’t written up a review for this epic beauty, but it totally deserves one. Another Life is a great sci-fi adventure, with lots of diversity/rep and a solid plot. Got sci-fi queen Katee Sackhoff in it, too. Score! The Mandalorian is so absolutely brilliant, my Star Wars heart is a flutter. The Mess You Leave Behind is a fantastic Spanish murder mystery show. If you loved Élite, you’ll love this one. And Arón Piper is in it! Mismatched is the Hindi adaptation of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. I bought the book a while back and haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m definitely moving it up my list! This is a super cute romantic comedy series set in Jaipur and I can’t wait to finish it. The Great was fun as well, and I really liked the cast. I also just started Bridgerton, which I’m enjoying!

Films: The new Little Women was super cute. I didn’t love it quite as much as the Winona Ryder version, but the cast is fantastic, and I liked some of the changes. I think this one would have been great as a miniseries, actually. Spending more time exploring the romance and building up to the end would have been good, I reckon, as that seemed more the focus in this version, whereas the 1990s version was more focused on the growing up aspect, I felt. I caught up on most of the Marvel movies this year and really liked some of the latest ones. The new Spiderman is great, and I’m excited for Natalie Portman’s return to Thor in the next one. I’m also intrigued by the shows coming to Disney+! I really like the idea of WandaVision. I liked Solo, the Han Solo standalone for Star Wars. All the standalones have been pretty good, actually. Happiest Season is a new Christmas film with Kristen Stewart, I have a lot of thoughts on it. Did anyone else see this one? I also can’t even begin to review Hotel Mumbai, which was a truly heart-shattering watch and the actors were amazing in their roles. I think, rather than writing a review, this look at the true story behind the film is worth a read.

Books: I write a lot of mini reviews on Goodreads that I don’t bother linking here. But my page is here, for anyone curious. All of the nonfiction books I’ve picked up this year deserve their own review. Guns, an essay by Stephen King, was very poignant and thoughtful. But having the time, or even figuring out how to describe them is so hard sometimes on top of studying. Some recommendations for anyone looking to delve into more non-fiction: The Korean War at Sixty: New Approaches to the Study of the Korean War; A Violent Peace: Race, U.S. Militarism, and Cultures of Democratization in Cold War Asia and the Pacific; Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War; Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations; Framed by War: Korean Children and Women at the Crossroads of Us Empire; Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World; Name, Rank, and Serial Number: Exploiting Korean War POWs at Home and Abroad.

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?

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. 

Short Story Review: An Indelible Day (2020)

An Indelible Day by Cairo Marques (2020)

“We just weren’t compatible. Still, we’re going to exist within one another eternally. We’ve created indelible memories together.”

An Indelible Day is quite an interesting short story that makes for a quick, thought provoking read. The story is divided into three sections and each one is framed around conversations the main character, John C., has with three other people. The main characters are not given last names, only initials, which was an interesting stylistic choice. I think the last time I saw that was in classics, which is cool. The monologues of the characters and the way the story is framed reminded me of older stories, too, like Salinger’s style in Franny and Zooey, just having two characters engaged in a long conversation. It definitely flowed well.

I will say that I would’ve liked a bit more characterisation to really get to know each character and perhaps some backstory, and I do wish it had been expanded a little bit, with perhaps a bit more detail, but overall it made for a very interesting and engaging read.

I received a free ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. Cross-posted to Goodreads.

Review: Ring the Bell (2020)

Ring the Bell by Josie Jaffrey

It’s everyone for themselves in Unterstrom, and despite our efforts to convert them to our way of thinking, our neighbours won’t listen. They argue that the Surge serves a purpose, that the sick and old are a burden on the community, which is exactly what the masters in Overstrom want us to think. They argue this because it’s the accepted truth, but the real truth is more selfish.

Ouch, right in the dystopian feeeeeels. Ring the Bell follows Mia and Ari, two residents of Unterstrom who live in dire poverty and suffer at the mercy of those in Overstrom. Every five years, the Surge comes, but the first one to the bell tower buys their family a new life. Let the race begin …

This is such a good short story and it left me craving a badass sequel with Ida. I definitely, definitely recommend this.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Cross-posted to Goodreads.

Book Review: Release (2017)

Release by Patrick Ness

As I was reading this, my mind kept likening it to The Wicker King and The Monsters We Deserve, although neither of those is really similar. Maybe just along the same vibe? Release takes place over the course of the day and tells two stories: one is Adam’s, a gay teenager in an Evangelical home with a family he doesn’t feel loved by; the other is the story of a Queen and her faun. I quite liked both stories, for different reasons. I adored Adam and my heart ached for all he went through (and in the course of a freakin’ day, poor lad!). I really enjoyed the Queen’s tale, too, although I think more of a connection between the two stories would have been nice. Maybe just a bit longer, perhaps?

I really liked Angela, Adam’s bestie, and Marty, his brother. Marty was definitely a complicated character with some frustrating moments, but by the end I really liked his character. I wanted a few more scenes with him and Adam, though!

All in all, a very good story and my first one by Patrick Ness. Can’t wait to read more by him!

Links and Lists for Indie Authors

indie author resources

I thought I’d share some links and communities for indie authors looking for resources as I know it can be difficult to even know where to start. Starting off without a reader base makes getting one challenging, but there are ways to showcase your works from the start!

Blogs

For those looking to offer advance reader copies (ARCs) of their books, there are master posts of bloggers seeking ARCs at The Indie Reviewers List, The Book Reviewer Directory, The Book Blogger List, 100 Best Blogs for Book Reviews and Shirley’s Book Blogger List. There are also places like the self-published/indie authors community on Livejournal where you can post about your book, and Loyal Lyre where you can submit it for consideration for Book of the Month.

Voracious Readers Only is another option, where they advertise your book to readers seeking indie options. In my experience, VRO is a really great resource and I definitely recommend giving it a go. The trial period is free and you get to send ARCs to readers themselves, thereby adding readers to your newsletters! There’s Reedsy, a community for both reviewers and authors to connect. You can also try creative writing contests.

Goodreads

Goodreads communities are another fantastic place to connect with bloggers. The Indie Authors & Books community welcomes authors, readers and bloggers to share their books, sites and recommendations. There’s also a Twitter (@Book_Spotlight). Some other really great GR ones are: For Love of a Book, (Indie) Authors At The Round Table, Advanced Copies for Review & Book Giveaways, Making Connections, Authors & Reviewers, Shut Up & Read, Free Books, .99, Giveaways & Reviews, Bookworm Bitches, Readers That Love Giveaways, Ebook Deals, and Free Books, Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy. Be sure to read the rules before posting/submitting. Each community has different requirements. 🙂

Blog Tours

Blog tours are another great option to advertise your book to readers: A Novel Take, Let’s Talk! Promotions, Xpresso Book Tours, Be My Book Boyfriend, Rockstar Book Tours, Promotional Book Tours, R&R Book Tours, Storytellers on Tour, The Write Reads, Bewitching Book Tours, TBR and Beyond Tours, Psst Promotions, Turn the Page Tours, The Book Terminal, Blackthorn Book Tours, Random Things Tours and Booktamins all offer blog tours.**

[**Note: I have not used all of these personally, but have been linked to them and wanted to share. :)]

Indie Magazines

If you’re looking to write short stories and want to try submitting to a magazine, there are some great magazines calling for submissions and I found a wonderful compilation of links here. I also found How to Write a Proper Short Story Cover Letter very helpful. There’s Authors Publish Magazine, a magazine for writers.

In more recent news, Indie Bites is a fresh quarterly indie fantasy anthology that’s accepting submissions from self-published, independent and new authors. They are also on Twitter (@Indie_Bites).

Cover Designers 

If you’re looking for book cover help, I can highly recommend Heather Maddalozzo, Black Jazz Design, and BespokeBookCovers.

If anyone has any lists they think should be added, leave a comment below and I’ll add it to the post.

I hope this helps anyone looking for resources! (ɔ◔‿◔)ɔ♥

Book Review: In Other News (2020)

Hi, I’m Marlon, and I’m sure you’ve seen my face all over the news. Nice to meet you, and yes, the rumors are true. No, he couldn’t talk about it, let alone acknowledge its existence.

This is the first book I’ve read by Dale Robbins and I’m definitely going to be checking out more!

In Other News reminds me of Speak. The story follows Marlon when he returns to university after his assault is made public without his consent. He finds that not only are rumours swirling about what happened, but some people are downright hostile and blame him. Although the rapist has been kicked out of school, many people hold Marlon accountable. There’s a lot of bullying and homophobia directed towards Marlon, but he eventually finds solidarity amongst those who believe him and help him get through the ordeal and ensuing trial.

This is a very raw and realistic tale of how people explain away the actions of rapists and blame the victim. You really feel for Marlon throughout the story.

Review cross posted to Goodreads & Reedsy.