What La La Land Could Have Been: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Goodreads summary:

A love letter to the craft and romance of film and fate in front of—and behind—the camera from the award-winning author of Hold Still

A wunderkind young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world.

Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance. Continue reading

Words for the Week

This is a new thing I’m going to try, every Sunday. I’ve got so many books full of great words, and I so rarely have an excuse to delve into them. So I thought I’d give you a small selection of these lovely words once a week, in the hope that you enjoy them as much as I do. And for a little more interest, I’m going to go through the alphabet! So this week’s words will begin, predictably, with ‘A’. Continue reading

Review: The Defectives by Burgandi Rakoska

Goodreads summary:

“I want to be all right.”
“Define ‘all right’.”

Juniper Johnson’s life shattered the moment that her spine did. The teenager had initially planned on attending an elite high school for students with superabilities. Instead, she is shipped off to Effective “Defective” Academy – an institution for children with superabilities and disabilities. With the help of her friends, her kind professor, and her less-than-kind mentor, Juniper learns what it means to be disabled, what it means to be a superhero, and what it means to be human. Continue reading

Review: Judge by the Cover by Melissa Abigail

Goodreads summary:

Haruna Mitsukai is an overachiever with dreams of attending the University of British Columbia. Ryu Debiru is a bad boy whose only desire is to escape this ridiculous prison called “life.” Both attend Shady Glenn Academy and despite their similar “hafu” identity, they couldn’t despise each other more. Years of avoidance come to an end when a major assignment on Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice pairs them together. 

Just as everything reaches a breaking point, revelations about an old East Side mansion called “Heaven” causes Haruna to question everything she thought she knew about him. 

As for Ryu? Well, all that glitters is most certainly not gold. Continue reading

Review: Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Goodreads summary:

Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim—that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will—but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find the yokes around their necks unbreakable.

Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After the victory won by the Moonless Host in the Wandering King’s palace, the kings are hungry for blood. They scour the city, ruthless in their quest for revenge. Unrest spreads like a plague, a thing Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to exploit, but with the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades, there is little hope of doing so.

When Çeda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage, Hamzakiir, they sail across the desert to learn the truth, and a devastating secret is revealed, one that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. They plot quickly to take advantage of it, but it may all be undone if Çeda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her. 


I loved Twelve Kings in Sharakhai – I spent the month after I’d read it insisting that everyone else had to read it too. So when I got the chance to read the sequel, With Blood Upon the Sand, I was so excited! I really wanted to love it – I expected to love it – but I’m afraid I couldn’t get into it at all. 

Part of my struggle with it was that it’s just so very long. It’s difficult to make a judgement about the strength of the narrative as a whole because I can’t hold it all in my head at the same time. Still, it felt like there was a lack of focus, and for a long time in the middle I was floundering, directionless, as if I were lost in the sands surrounding Sharakhai, without any hope of finding my way back to the arrow-sharp energy of the city. I plodded through scenes with no real idea of where I was heading, and at times it was hard to continue reading.

With Blood Upon the Sand features heavy use of flashbacks. I’ve seen these used to great effect in other books (it most reminded me of the Castings Trilogy), but it just didn’t do it for me here. I didn’t feel that what we learned from them was a big enough pay-off for the time they took to get through – there’s a grand reveal regarding Çeda’s family connections, but although the flashback scenes gave some context to this, Çeda could have come to this conclusion without them. There’s also the question of their source. It’s revealed fairly late on that Çeda had lost these memories – or at least some of them, I’m unclear on this. When they are restored to her, we don’t get much of what we don’t already know, and it was frustrating that the reveals here were somewhat underwhelming. 

Don’t get me wrong. There were things I liked about it. Davud’s nightmarish adventures out in the desert reminded me of the fast, sharp narrative of the first book, and I enjoyed the scenes where Çeda continued to learn with the Blade Maidens. We learn more about the kings, and find that perhaps their hold on power is more tenuous than everyone assumes. And we learn more about the asirim’s rage and sorrow, and we come to know a few as individuals. That gorgeous moment at the pin-drop before a massacre when Nalamae leads Çeda to the most wonderful, poetic solution. And Ramahd and Maryam’s story, perhaps the most heartbreaking narrative in the book, illustrates the painful truth of how harsh the desert can be, and how lonely, and how much it can take from you in one swift miscalculation. 

But I’m not on fire about the central narrative in the way that I was with Twelve Kings. Perhaps there was too much going on to really allow the reveals to truly hit home. It was difficult for me to follow the threads, and be certain that they all make sense, and are necessary. Certainly, Çeda’s past could be streamlined in order to make her present feel more urgent. I can see that others would love it – if you are a fan of sprawling epic fantasy, the power of immortal kings and the fatal harshness of the desert that encapsulates it all, then there is every reason that you will love this. But I’m afraid that it didn’t grab me in the way that I wanted it to – in the way that I needed it to, given how much further there is to go with this series, and how much truth there is left to uncover.


Everyone is a POC, and there are about three separate fantasy nations represented to various extents. I didn’t spot any issues with prejudice between them. There is one point when it seems as if two of the kings are in a relationship, but it turns out to not be the case – almost minus points there really, for raising my hopes. Also one of the Blade Maidens in Çeda’s hand is mourning her lost love, another Blade Maiden – but again, I wouldn’t really point at this as meaningful representation, since mostly she’s a Sad Gay who leads Çeda into a situation that might mean you could read the protagonist as bi? I don’t know, I wasn’t the biggest fan of how that scene played out, to be honest. 

With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu was published by DAW in February 2017. 

I received a free copy in exchange for a review.

Review: Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

Goodreads summary:

This is a year of reading from home, by one of Britain’s most distinguished authors. 

Early one autumn afternoon in pursuit of an elusive book on her shelves, Susan Hill encountered dozens of others that she had never read, or forgotten she owned, or wanted to read for a second time. The discovery inspired her to embark on a year-long voyage through her books, forsaking new purchases in order to get to know her own collection again. 

A book which is left on a shelf for a decade is a dead thing, but it is also a chrysalis, packed with the potential to burst into new life. Wandering through her house that day, Hill’s eyes were opened to how much of that life was stored in her home, neglected for years. Howards End is on the Landing charts the journey of one of the nation’s most accomplished authors as she revisits the conversations, libraries and bookshelves of the past that have informed a lifetime of reading and writing. Continue reading

Review: Warrior

Goodreads summary:

A werewolf fighting for her humanity.

A gladiator fighting for love.

A blind mage, a human sacrifice and a big, buff fairy, all fighting off demons to save the world.

Twelve writers. Twelve worlds. Twelve warriors.

WARRIOR is an anthology of twelve exciting science-fiction and fantasy short stories, bursting with unstoppable characters that happen to identify within the LGBTQIA spectrum.  Continue reading

Archeology in Space: Digging in the Stars by Katherine Blakeney

Goodreads summary:

A lost ancient civilization and the tomb of a legendary king lie buried beneath centuries of ash on the volcanic planet Thror, but that’s not the only reason sixteen-year-old Carter has tricked her Archaeology of Outer Space class into coming here. Her best friend Conrad has just disappeared on a trip to Thror, leaving behind little more than a broken vintage camera. The strange and disturbing photographs she manages to extract make her suspect Conrad’s disappearance is somehow connected to the hidden tomb of the last king of Thror.

Unfortunately, the ludicrously over-friendly ‘Furry Giants’ who have taken over the planet’s barren surface would rather offer her cheap souvenirs than answers, and the local officials insist they have no record of Conrad’s existence. Inspired by fear for Conrad’s life and the chance to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century, Carter and her friends follow Conrad’s footsteps deep into the mountains of Thror’s forbidden Black Zone and launch an illicit excavation. 

Coded messages, stunning ancient ruins, and clues left by Conrad himself begin to surface as the young archaeologists fall victim to an alarming series of accidents staged by the increasingly hostile Furry Giants. Piecing together a history of dictatorship, terrorism and disguise, Carter glimpses the horrors beyond Thror’s flamboyant façade and startling revelations about the friend she thought she knew. The masks of Thror hide devastating secrets, and the golden tomb buried deep in the frozen core may claim the lives of everyone she loves. Continue reading

Review: The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams (The Winnowing Fire #1)

Goodreads summary:

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.

When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.

But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall… Continue reading

My Blogging Routine

My TBR pile is, as blogging tradition dictates, threatening to drown me. I do find myself buying more on ebook than I did before I started blogging – mostly because a greater proportion of my TBR is now indie or self-published books, which I find are often significantly cheaper on ebook than physical copy – and for good reason! I get a lot more books from specific recs and rec lists, and less from random book buying. But I am trying to restrain my book-buying this year so I can deal with my TBR…  Continue reading