A Glimpse into the Gothic

Gothic as a genre is something that’s always intrigued me. I love the idea of dark, spooky manors, of mysteries that lurk beneath, of fog and shadows and whispers. Of course, being named after a Gothic novel – Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) – probably has something to do with it, but I’m always wanting more. Give me the ghostly, the haunted, the mysterious, and bring it dressed in pale colours, windswept and chilling. Bring it in gorgeous architecture, in castles and manors, in forests and fields and by the sea, with grey skies and constant rains.

The first novel I ever remember properly encountering and identifying as ‘Gothic’ was Northanger Abbey (1871) by Jane Austen. Then there’s Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) and Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (1909), which are probably some of the most well known classics. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) is on my list, although I haven’t read it yet. I’ve always known the peripheries of this story, but don’t actually know the finer points of the story, so I’d like to read it properly soon. Actually, add Dracula (1897) to that list as well because even though I’m familiar with the names of Count Dracula, Mina, Harker and Van Helsing, and the ins and outs of vampire lore, I haven’t actually read the novel itself. I’ve started it, but never delved in. Must fix this! Carmilla (1872) and Frankenstein (1818), too. For those who don’t know, Frankenstein is considered the first science fiction novel by many! And I adore Mary Shelly and studied her mother Mary Wollstonecraft for college, so I really must read the whole darn thing at some point. I also want to properly read The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) as I love Oscar Wilde and I’ve seen the adaptation (2009) with Ben Barnes. I very much recommend that one, by the way!

As for more modern stories, I really want to check out Mexican Gothic (2020) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and can’t wait to get enough time to actually sit down and read it. I’m also curious about Other Words for Smoke by (2019) Sarah Maria Griffin.

There are also a great many wonderful Gothic films and shows worth checking out. I loved Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Underworld (2003) when they first came out, both bringing a bit of action and horror into the genre. And when The Haunting of Hill House (2018) – based on the book by Shirley Jackson (1959) – first came out, I was immediately intrigued. Of course, I wasn’t able to start it straight away due to a busy schedule, but I loved the look of it. (I’ve since started it and it’s great.) The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020), based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898) and other stories, dives right in with a woman telling a spooky tale from the 1980s in England and I’m already on episode three. I’m loving the aesthetics. I’m used to Gothic settings in the 1880s, and seeing it set in the 1980s is a great contrast. I love me some old-timey spookiness, but it’s great to see other decades enter the genre. Crimson Peak (2015) was particularly gruesome, but engrossing all the same. Guillermo del Toro is always good and his signature style really comes through in this one. The cast is also amazing! If you haven’t seen this one yet, I definitely recommend it. Be warned, though, things are twisty in this one! And then of course, Penny Dreadful (2014), which was cancelled much too soon.

I also really like Southern Gothic, which needs more love! True Blood (2008) is a great example, and I really enjoyed the show. When I think of Southern Gothic, the introduction to that show is the first thing that springs to mind. Winter’s Bone (2010) and Mudbound (2017) are also well worth a watch. The Gift (2000), is truly traumatising from what I remember, but it definitely fits the bill of a Southern Gothic! I also watched The Devil All the Time (2020) a couple of weeks ago and it was intense, but definitely engrossing. Justified (2010) could also probably be added to this list, but it’s more Western procedural in my mind. The show is based on Elmore Leonard’s books and it’s one of my top favourite series of all time either way, so if you haven’t seen it, you totally should! The cast is stellar.

There’s so many more books, films and shows that belong on this list, so this is by no means exhaustive!

Do you like Gothic – or a subgenre of Gothic – fiction or romance? Any recommendations? I’d love to know!

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.

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

Currently Reading [20/09]

I’m going to have so little time to read very soon, so of course I decided to start three awesome books in tandem.

I’m absolutely loving A Discovery of Witches. It follows a historian witch who discovers a magical book in Oxford and is suddenly a target for magical creatures. Matthew, the vampire she ends up dating, is fascinating. The backstories are really interesting and I’m excited to see where it goes. There’s a television show based on the trilogy, but I haven’t seen it yet and I kind of want to read all three books before I watch it.

Lie With Me is one that came to my notice because it’s a French book by Philippe Besson that Molly Ringwald translated into English. I really like Molly Ringwald and was interested to check it out. It’s a short novella set in France and tells the love story of Philippe and Thomas in the 1980s. I’m really liking it so far and the writing is absolutely lovely.

I also just got Wicked Fox, which is a Korean fantasy novel that I’ve been excited to read for months now. It’s about a gumiho, which is a nine-tailed fox in Korean mythology. I’m listening to this one on audible and the narrator’s really good!

Anyone read any of these? ♡

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!

Show Review: Cursed (2020)

I entered into Cursed not really expecting much and came away DESPERATE FOR SEASON TWO. I want to make a long, in-depth review (so I might make another, long review later), but I’m currently too full of FANGIRLING to properly string together my thoughts. In this show you will find: wonderful poc rep (it’s not just Arthur and Morgana, the whole cast is diverse and there are dozens of poc fey and warriors), lgbt+ rep (**MY HEART**), SO. MUCH. MAGIC. Like, really cool earth magic. Leaves and vines, yo! Nimue is amazing and must be protected at all costs. Merlin is the BIGGEST BADASS EVER. I love Morgana and Arthur so much. Percival is a little sweetheart. There are amazing lady friendships. There are like so many lady Vikings, too!!!! Uther was … Uther. The cinematography is beautiful. The animation, though!!!! I LOVE IT ALL.

Has anyone else watched this one yet?

Review Roundup [27/05]

A Small Revolution in Germany by Philip Hensher, narrated by Neville Watchurst [review cross-posted to Goodreads]

Sometimes, as humans, we decide without consultation what would be best for people.

It made for a nice listen and the narrator was quite good. Spike was interesting character and his relationship with Joaquin is explored well. The political conversations and musings are thought-provoking, and Hensher certainly knows how to write witty dialogue. I’m just not sure what my thoughts are on this one. Overall, though, the prose was good, and it made for a nice addition to lgbt+ historical fiction.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #304 [review cross-posted to Goodreads]

She offered me a handful of bees and told me what to do, word for word.

Listened to ‘The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows’ by Dimitra Nikolaidou. Amazing title, just sayin’. Well written short story and the audiobook is worth a listen! Available here.

The Curse of the Black Cat by Lou Wilham [review cross-posted to Goodreads, Reedsy]

This is an inherently sweet spin on the classic fairy tale. Prince Alrik of Edan is set to marry Princess Amriah, whom he doesn’t, and can’t, love. Cos, you know, he fancies the pants off Filip, his valet. He tries to play along and give Amriah a chance, but he can’t. He feels nothing for her. Filled with fear of his secret being discovered, Alrik seeks out the witch Gwydion, for help: he wants to be ‘cured’. 😦 It’s a very sad moment, but rather than take advantage of him, Gwydion tells him there’s nothing wrong with him: I’m afraid there is no cure for such a thing, dear prince. We love who we love, and that is the end of that. No magic can change it, not even mine. Nor would I want it to. I really liked her! She’s such a kind person.

Unfortunately, Alrik doesn’t take this well and Gwydion turns him into a cat. And she can’t change him back cos magic doesn’t work like that. A cat you are now, and a cat you shall stay until you can learn to love yourself. It’s an interesting twist to say the least. In addition to being a cat, he’s now immortal. With no way back to his life as a prince, Alrik watches the world pass him by while trapped as a cat. He travels around, seeking out witches, but to no avail.

One day, centuries later, Alrik finds himself in New York, at a Japanese restaurant. He starts to fall in love with both the food and the chef, Yuuki. Very soon, Yuuki begins taking care of Alrik, and dubs the cat ‘Prince’. ADORBS.

What follows is a very sweet, fluffy *pun totally intended * romance. If you’re a fan of adorable fantasy tales, this one is totally for you (⌒▽⌒)

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! (✿◠‿◠)

Mini Review Roundup [30/03]

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The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo

“Be back before dark,” they whisper. “The trees are hungry tonight.”

This started out reminding me of Hansel & Gretel, then made me really hungry (seriously, the descriptions of food are lush), then it completely took me by surprise, and then wrapped up like a classic folk tale. Definitely worth a read!

 

Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams by Sunny Moraine

We never would have believed, before the dead girls started climbing out of their refrigerators, that people could be literally resurrected by sheer indignation.

I actually loved this. I don’t even know how to describe it, because the plot itself is vague. Dead girls begin reappearing and nobody knows why. It left me with so many questions (why only girls? why are they coming back? what’s going on?) but somehow I’m not frustrated not knowing the answers because the writing was just awesome and strange in a great way. Abstract horror would be how I’d describe this. Definitely recommend!

 

The White-Throated Transmigrant by E. Lily Yu

We’re monsters, all of us. You’re monstrous, I’m monstrous.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this story. Intriguing, to be sure.

 

Our Faces, Radiant Sisters, Our Faces Full of Light! by Kameron Hurley

The monsters rose from their beds, already armored and bristling for another attack on the city below. They came to extinguish light, and hope. She was here to remind them they wouldn’t do it unchallenged.

Another great short, very evocative prose.

 

The Last of the Minotaur Wives by Brooke Bolander

Once you’ve been in the light for awhile, Blue finds, it’s hard as hell to willingly walk back into darkness.

This is short and to the point, and very well done.

Mini Review Roundup [19/03]

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Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor

When you mix juju with technology, you give up control. You are at the will of something far beyond yourself.

This was a really intriguing tale about witchcraft and technology, and the consequences that come from blending the two. I only wish there’d been a little bit more to the story, but overall I really liked it. Available here.

 

Trial Run (Wild Heritance #0.5) by S. Lynn Helton

She wasn’t trying to prove anything, was she?

Ooooh, this was cool. I haven’t read the Wild Heritance books, but this novella has left me bursting with questions. Such great world building and adventure! I can’t wait to see where the story takes Namid.

 

Migration by Kat Howard

In every life I can remember, which is not all of them, not any more, I have longed to fly.

This was an absolutely beautiful tale of birds and eternity. Read here.