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!

Top Books of 2019

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The Lessons by Naomi Alderman | 5/5 | LGBT, Fiction

‘A man made of smoke.’

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham | 5/5 | Nonfiction

‘If we survive until the morning, we’ll live forever.’

The Fever King (Feverwake #1) by Victoria Lee | 5/5 | LGBT, Fantasy, Dystopian

‘He didn’t plan anything. There was nothing to plan – he didn’t have contingencies, no connections in clandestine places who knew how to make a man disappear. All he had was impulse and the flash-fire certainty that yes, yes, this was the right thing to do.’

The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton | 5/5 | Nonfiction

‘We are surrounded by the conversations we didn’t have.’

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle | 5/5 | LGBT, Magical Realism

‘Maybe it’s more about firsts. Maybe every first is a loss.’

If We Could Go Back (Camassia Cove #6) by Cara Dee | 4/5 | LGBT

‘Everything was black-and-white until you grew up and saw gray everywhere. There were millions of rights and wrongs in our lives, and blame could be placed with all of us.’

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse | 5/5 | Nonfiction, US History, Politics, Religion

‘In 1954, Congress followed Eisenhower’s lead, adding the phrase “under God” to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. A similar phrase, “In God We Trust,” was added to a postage stamp for the first time in 1954 and then to paper money the next year; in 1956, it became the nation’s first official motto. During the Eisenhower era Americans were told, time and time again, that the nation not only should be a Christian nation but also that it had always been one. They soon came to believe that the United States of America was “one nation under God.” And they’ve believed it ever since.’

The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick | 5/5 | Gothic Fantasy

‘Yet every writer worth a good-god damn knows this too, for it is graven into each of us: no one cares for beauty. Not in fiction. Not on its own, not pure, untroubled beauty; not in fiction. It’s what we crave in the real world, of course; beauty, and you know I mean that in its broadest sense: the sense of kindness and wisdom and peace and joy: all the things in the world that are beautiful, and all the things we crave in real life, but which are not sufficient to count, on their own, for anything in the world of stories.’

Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell | 5/5 | Political Essays

‘The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged. And, as I have pointed out already, the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also.’

We Will Not Be Strangers: Korean War Letters between a M.A.S.H Surgeon and His Wife
by Dorothy G. Horwitz (Editor) & Mel Horwitz | 5/5 | Nonfiction, Military History, Letters, Korean War

‘Men killing, destroying, sitting in cold and mud and filth. Do they really hate each other? I doubt it.’

Rule Breaker (Mixed Messages #1) by Lily Morton | 4.5/5 | LGBT Romance

‘Tradition comes from something being so brilliant and such a good memory, that you try to recreate it every time that you can.’

Deal Maker (Mixed Messages #2) by Lily Morton | 4.5/5 | LGBT Romance, Comedy

‘Thank you for enquiring whether I do my own stunts. The simple answer is no. They tell me jumping a puddle is safe, but what would they know? I could slip and damage my face, and then where would the world be?’

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow | 5/5 | Nonfiction, Politics, Feminism

‘In the end, the courage of women can’t be stamped out.’

Horatio by T.J. Klune | 4/5 | LGBT Romance, Short Story | **freely available at the author’s site**

‘“What happened to free will?”

He snorted inelegantly. “Who knows? It’s one of the great secrets of the universe. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was destiny, or maybe it was nothing at all and we’re just two people in the middle of cosmic nonsense clinging to each other because we can.”’

The one I am currently reading looks like it will make a top list, too, so I’m adding it below. It’s giving me serious Firefly vibes so far which is always a good thing!

Adrift by Rob Boffard | Science Fiction, Outer Space

‘He really, really doesn’t want to die. Not by freezing, not by suffocating, not by anything, not ever. If he dies now, he’ll never fly a ship, never go to flight school […] He’ll never be able to help Mom and Dad stay together, and he’ll never get to tell Mal that he’s a giant dick for filming him while he was in trouble.’

There were so many good books this year! And my TBR pile remains taller than myself. 😉

A Trio of Book Reviews

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Horatio by T.J. Klune: lgbt, short story; freely available at the author’s site.

‘“What happened to free will?”

He snorted inelegantly. “Who knows? It’s one of the great secrets of the universe. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was destiny, or maybe it was nothing at all and we’re just two people in the middle of cosmic nonsense clinging to each other because we can.” He waved his hand dismissively, almost hitting me in the face. “It doesn’t matter. Here you are. Here I am. And there’s no other place I’d rather be. You intrigue me.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I will.”’

I picked this one up at random tonight and put off cooking dinner until I’d read the entire thing. It was so quietly beautiful and haunting. It tells the story of two men facing the possible end of the world. The writing style is so lush and draws you in effortlessly. It’s definitely a story that will stick in your head for long after you read it.

I thoroughly recommend it to everyone! Lovely story.

 

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts: fiction

‘I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it.’

This is a belated review of a favourite book, actually. I mentioned it to someone the other day and it stuck in my head that I ought to actually review it. I’m actually a little shocked I never did, because it’s hands down one of my favourite books of all time, but I read it long before I joined Goodreads and started a blog, and sometimes finding ways to review your favourite book is impossible. How do you describe something that irrevocably moved you? A book that crawled into your mind and heart and soul. Even now, years later, when people ask me my favourite book, I can spew a monologue about this one. Funnily enough, it took me four tries to actually get past chapter one, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. The same thing happened with one of my favourite shows, Black Sails. A bit of a rough opener and then perfection.

After reading this book, I tracked down the newspaper article that documents his prison escape, just to see that it was actually real. It was. True, a good bit of the book is embellished, but the essence is real. And you know what? Even if it wasn’t based on a true story, this book would still blow me out of the water. It’s the kind of book that blends philosophy, adventure, action, crime and love into one intricate web of beauty.

Recommended for everyone.

 

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: philosophy

‘The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.’

This is another one I haven’t reread recently, but felt like just writing a review for. I read this book on a lunchbreak when I was 13/14. I remember being in a truly horrible headspace at the time. Being a teenager is just so fun, right? /s

But then I found this book on a shelf at home and figured, hey, Winnie the Pooh, sounds groovy. And I can safely say that reading this book changed my entire perspective. I remember walking out of the library and feeling better, feeling less like a blackhole of doom and far more capable. I dunno. Maybe it wouldn’t have the same effect on me now, but back then, this book seriously helped me. I honestly think it philosophically kicked me in the butt and made me re-evaluate my perspective, which is fairly impressive for a book to do.

‘Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They’re not only the ending, but the beginning as well.’

I never fell in love with the sequel (I actually had to set it aside to keep from throwing it at the wall), but this one? This one was beautiful and something I very much needed at the time.

I recommend it for anyone who’s struggling through life and needs a new perspective.

Show Review: Bates Motel (2013)

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Bates Motel may well be one of the most depressing shows I’ve ever seen in my life – yet I love it. And I can safely say that it joins the ranks of Justified as one of the few shows that knew when and where to end a storyline without dragging it on for eternity. And I liked the ending, which means I can rewatch it and not hate myself.

The show follows Norma Bates and her two sons, Norman and Dylan. There’s also Emma, Norman’s best friend who has cystic fibrosis, and Romero, the town sheriff. A prequel to the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho, the show is a modern day prequel to the movie and follows Norman’s descent into madness which Norma constantly tries to cover up. Norma’s a … character. She has more onscreen outbursts and tantrums than any character I can remember, but in fairness to her, she’s had one epically fucked up life. (Again, this is honestly such a bleak show.) She’s so bloody frustrating, though. Sometimes it’s all I can do to not scream at the screen when she has one of her moments. Dylan, the only relatively normal member of the family, doesn’t understand or enjoy the unhealthy relationship and co-dependency of his mother and brother, but he loves them and tries to help how he can. Undoubtedly, the strongest part of the show are the characters, and the actors are absolutely brilliant selling them. The relationship between the brothers is my favourite part, second only to Dylan’s growing relationship with Emma.

Love of the cast/characters is definitely what keeps you going when you’re watching the show and just feel like screaming, IS THERE NO HAPPINESS LEFT IN THE WORLD?! But the plot itself is so intricate and creepy, building slowly with each episode and laying in the horror and mystery of the family and their small motel. If you can handle the bleakness, the violence, the frustration, I thoroughly recommend this little gem of a show. But seriously, have something happy on hand to watch after. This one will tear apart your heart and leave you staring blankly at the wall when you finish.

Recommended for anyone who likes intense dramas, psychological horror and small town mysteries.