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? ♡

Book Review: Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood (2016)

I had so many reactions while reading this one. Trevor’s as funny as ever, but it’s impossible to read his story, in every place linked back to his love for his mother and family, and not get emotional. His relationship with his mother is central to the novel as he relates his childhood in South Africa and how religion and Apartheid shaped their every day life. It’s part memoir, part history, part commentary.

He also details so much about Apartheid that I didn’t know. Seriously informative and eye opening. The naming section really stuck out in my mind. But he talks about how the different laws worked, how schools split up classes and worked to keep children apart, how cities were set up strategically, the different types of churches he and his mother attended, family obligations and complications, and the way language could link so many of them together. Trevor’s use of his many learned languages is astonishing. He speaks, like, six or seven languages. So. Impressive.

I totally, totally recommend this book to everyone.

Review cross-posted to Goodreads.

Mini Review Roundup [30/05]

I’ve been having trouble with longer fiction novels of late. Being elbow deep in study definitely affects that, as I went through quite a bit non-fiction this week. I do really love reading old newspapers and archives, but I am missing fiction! I combed through two memoirs, this week, though. Both are from the Korean War.

I am really enjoying Days Without End on Audiobook. And Humankind, which is so darn optimistic and upbeat. I totally recommend it given what I’ve listened to so far. Bregman reframes so many moments and shows a different take on the narrative that makes headlines. It’s very hopeful.

mini reviews;

Little Free Library by Naomi Kritzer

If you can bring me more such books, I will leave you every scrap of gold I can find.

Oh my goodness, I really liked this one. A little free library becomes a way to correspond with a mysterious, grateful seeker of books. J’adore!

3 a.m. Blues by Joseph Fulkerson

doing the backstroke in the ocean of other’s opinions, navigating the minefield of could’ve and should’ve

This was quite a good collection of poetry, I only wish it were longer!

When Two Swordsmen Meet by Ellen Kushner

It’s a beautiful fight. They each want the other to win. Not so much duel as duet.

Ooooh, this was goooood. Something very lyrical and fanciful about this one. I definitely recommend it. Available here

What’s everyone reading this week? 🙂

A Non-Fiction Book Rec Post

nonfiction

I undoubtedly read more fiction than non-fiction, but I’m trying to improve that. I read a lot of non-fiction for my studies, but not enough on other subjects. Sometimes there’s just not enough time to read all the books! I’m currently in the midst of two right now, Gold Rush Manliness: Race and Gender on the Pacific Slope and Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America, which I just started. One I’m reading paperback, the other I’m listening to on audio.

 

Here is a list of the nonfiction books I definitely, definitely recommend everyone check out for themselves.  (This list is not exhaustive.)

*order is random, not a rank of how awesome these are

  1. Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham. This book is utterly gut-wrenching but I could not recommend it more. The details still give me chills and I’m in awe of the depth of Higginbotham’s reporting.
  2. Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope by Megan Phelps-Roper. I wrote a review for this book here.
  3. One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse. AMAZING. AMAZING. AMAZING. If you aren’t following Kruse on Twitter, allow me to point the way. He’s constantly giving mini-history lessons online and he’s a wonderful political commentator. This book kept me company on my last archive trip and I thoroughly recommend it.
  4. Columbine by Dave Cullen. Cullen has such a wonderful approach to reporting and truly respects those he interviews. He’s become a frequent commentator on gun control in the States and he also wrote a book on Parkland.
  5. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. I quite liked the film when it came out, but wanted to delve more into the topic and understand Christopher McCandless. Krakauer’s writing is wonderful and the story really broke my heart. I think reading the book paints a better picture of McCandless than the film, although Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack remains one of the greatest of all time.
  6. Facing the Rising Sun: African Americans, Japan, and the Rise of Afro-Asian Solidarity by Gerald Horne. This is a topic I didn’t know much about and I’m so glad I picked up this book.
  7. Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell. Orwell’s works are always good and this one can be read in less than an hour, but it’s chock-full of perspective on nationalism.
  8. The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government by David K. Johnson. Too few people know about the Lavender Scare and I cannot recommend this enough.
  9. The Korean War: A History by Bruce Cumings. Cumings is my favourite Korean War historian. I strongly recommend this one.
  10. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow. I followed Farrow’s reporting for the New Yorker when this story first broke, and hearing him recite the tale in book form added a new level of horror to the topic. I haven’t fully finished it yet, but it’s amazing.

Books I’m looking forward to getting to at some point:

  1. Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill
  2. Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World by David Vine. I’ve read Vine’s reporting, but haven’t yet been able to pick up the book.
  3. History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier by Deborah E. Lipstadt
  4. Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen. His reporting on Columbine absolutely blew my mind, so I’m definitely reading this one.
  5. How to Hide an Empire: A Short History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr
  6. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald. I’ve read Greenwald’s articles and reports on this, but never the full book, so I definitely want to read this at some point.
  7. The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason by Charles Freeman
  8. Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew. I’m partway through this one and really wowed by the amount of research, but I put it aside as the subject matter is quite hard to get through en bulk.
  9. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
  10. Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn
  11. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
  12. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. I’ve started this one, but put it on hold temporarily because it’s a very heartbreaking subject matter and I think I need to get through it in smaller doses.
  13. The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants by Adam Goodman
  14. They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
  15. Unbelievable by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong
  16. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, Harmony Becker
  17. Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
  18. Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars by Stephen Bourne
  19. War on Peace by Ronan Farrow. I’ve started this one and of course got sidetracked, but I want to finish it soon! I adore Farrow’s work and have nothing but the highest respect for him.

 

What’s your favourite nonfiction book? Any subject matter really interest you? Feel free to recommend books in the comments. 🙂

Audiobook Review: Swimming in the Dark (2020)

book review

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski, narrated by Robert Nairne

When it comes to audiobooks I’m insanely picky about narrators. Storytelling is just as important as writing, after all. Let me just saw that not only is the writing for this book beautiful, so too is the narration. I totally, totally recommend the audiobook. 🙂

I turned my head and looked along the line to find Carolina, but instead my eyes fell on you. I had never seen you before. Not consciously, anyway. Yet my mind felt strangely relieved, as if it had recognised someone.

This book follows Ludwik and Janusz as they fall in love and traverse life in 1980s Poland. The writing style reminds me of The Lessons, which I read at the start of last year. Lush, evocative prose that’s just determined to break your heart.

No matter what happens in the world, however brutal or dystopian a thing, not all is lost if there are people out there risking themselves to document it. Little sparks cause fires, too.

That line absolutely floored me. Fantastic prose and I can’t wait to read more by Jedrowski! I definitely recommend this one!

Audiobook Review: Casino Royale (1953)

My Post (2)

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, narrated by Dan Stevens

Well, if he had to die anyway, he might as well try it the hard way.

Okay, well, Dan Stevens narrating this probably made me like it more than I otherwise would have. This is one of those rare moments where I’ve found the film far superior to the book. Now, I understand the book was written in 1953, but Bond’s remarks about rape and how useless he finds Vesper really grated at my nerves. Also, he calls her a ‘bitch’ far too often. Sit down, Bond, you’re being a spork.

Daniel Craig is forever my Bond, but I feel like Movie Bond and Book Bond need to have a good long sit down about toxic masculinity as Book Bond is really testing my patience.

Me, upon finishing this:

29432248

I really wanna rewatch the film now, though. Daniel Craig and Eva Green are perfection.

29432378

 

**gifs found online, not mine

April Books 2020

mini review (1)

April was a pretty good month for reading, largely because I’m inside all the time with the lockdown. I’ve been reading a lot of short stories and listening to audiobooks, which I’m really enjoying! Trying to blend genres, too.

Additionally, I’ve started teaching myself Korean, which I’m loving! I’m trying to do a bit of Korean everyday and so far so good. I’ve been looking into workbooks for beginners and English-Korean dictionaries. I got this one! If anyone has any recommendations, please do share! 🙂 

April’s covers:

How’s everyone getting on with their reading? Any recommendations from the last month? What’s everyone doing to stay busy during these crazy times?

Mini Review Roundup [30/04]

mini review

Show Rec: Because This Is My First Life:  I totally recommend this! The main guy’s such an interesting character and the main lady is so wonderful. Let me just say, the otps otp hard. I was a very happy fangirl by the end, haha. And all three couples are just the CUTEST. Without question, the romance in this one is top notch. GO WATCH.

Audiobook Rec: The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl: Okay, this is super cute and I love Kate Winslet’s voice, so I definitely recommend the audiobook version of this. It’s super short, under half an hour, and totally worth it. A must read for kids, definitely, and for burgeoning vegetarians and those who hate hunting. Go Dahl!

Book Rec: Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah:  This was a truly strange, deeply melancholy novella. It’s very stream of consciousness style and the main character drifts from day to day, experiencing grim events at every turn. The writing was very good, though.

Book Rec: The Gown of Harmonies by Francesca Forrest: This was such a cool idea! A gown that makes music. LOVE IT.

Currently Reading

Currently Watching

 

What’s everyone else watching/reading in lockdown? Hope you’re all well! (✿◠‿◠)