Being brutally honest about books

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

May Wrap Up


  • I've hardly blogged this month because I've been so damn busy. But I haven't seen many stand-out posts from other bloggers either, so I guess it's been a quiet month for some of us.
  • Back to uni for the second half of semester. Man, it's been exhausting. So. Many. Assignments. I have my last lecture tomorrow, my last essay due the day after, and then it's exams. Help Yay!
  • I visited my grandparents for the first time in a long while.



Covers go to Goodreads.
1827529  26891545  34207933  30330698
29221900  17429226  31623129  31574670
34447603  28871544

Around the blogosphere

Cait at Paper Fury talked about 10 types of reading moods.
Daisy at The Broke and the Bookish recommended 10 beach reads that aren't contemporaries. 
Bec at Readers in Wonderland listed 5 book friendships that are squad goals.

Was your May busy? What cool books did you read? What about disappointing books or books that didn't live up to the hype? Did you find any good posts in the book blogosphere?

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Review: Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Jamaica? No, she wanted to.

This is possibly the grittiest and most "literary" book I'll read this year. I mean it. It's the kind of book you study in high school and hate, but read on your own and love. It's one powerful piece of writing, and it reminded me of The Color Purple but even bleaker.

Here Comes the Sun is set in Jamaica in 1994. The basic plot is a queer, black woman (Margot) trying to build a better life for herself and her loved ones. This involves working for a posh, white hotel owner and prostituting herself.

It's a character-based novel written in the third person, present tense (my favourite) and switches POVs between Margot, her secret lover (Verdene), her sister (Thandi), and her mother (Delores). All four are very flawed and complex, and they feel real. I thought Thandi and Delores were interesting, but I was much more invested in Margot and Verdene's lives. They're opposites in some ways but similar in others, and their relationship is pretty complicated.

One interesting feature of this book is the dialogue, which is written phonetically/in the Jamaican dialect. This gives the setting and characters authenticity, but I struggled to understand a few of the words and phrases. I got the gist of what they were saying, though.

I enjoyed the writing style. The non-dialogue parts are quite sophisticated and flow well, and I could picture the setting in my head. It made me want to go to Jamaica and see what it's like for myself, the good and the bad.

I liked the idea that this island we think of as paradise is really not. The book deals with some horrible themes: poverty, racism, rape, homophobia, forced prostitution... It's not for the faint-hearted. But, as I said, it makes an interesting contrast with the island setting.

Remember I said this book is bleak? Yep. It doesn't have a happy ending. Margot achieves her goal of having money and owning her own big house, but she loses everyone. It's a warning to be careful what you wish for. I don't blame Margot for her ambition - she just wants to exit the cycle of poverty - but the way she goes about it is unethical and she betrays her family and her lover. The book ends on a bitter note.

Overall, I really enjoyed Here Comes the Sun. (Well, "enjoyed" is a bit strong for such a dark book...) If you're interested in reading about Jamaica or just want to read something that's not set in the UK/US/Australia, this might be worth a try. If you're looking for something gritty with queer women of colour as two of the main characters, I definitely recommend this one.


Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis-Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas.

At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman—fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves—must confront long-hidden scars.

Add it on Goodreads

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Micro Reviews: May Edition

In which I review the books I've finished reading this month in one sentence.
Covers link to Goodreads.

The Mammoth Book of Extreme Science Fiction edited by

Radio Girls by  
A fantastic, vivid historical fiction with important themes, lots of sass, and superb character growth from the protagonist.

The Seafarer's Kiss by
and it felt like a dystopian set in a historical/mythological setting.

Shaken to the Core by

The Gustav Sonata by
 An interesting, well-written, and grim (no-one in it can be called happy) character-based novel set in Switzerland.

The Sappho Companion by

Heart Trouble by
I enjoyed this interesting (and hot) f/f medical paranormal(?) romance although the soulmates trope came through a little too heavy (even though that word wasn't mentioned once).

Queens of Geek by

Here Comes the Sun by

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Film Review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

I'm feeling pretty hipster because I went to an advance screening of this last night (its official release here in NZ was today). I'm not a film critic, but I had enough thoughts to share and I wanted to post something a bit different, so here we go. Not a spoiler-free review. 
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Jude Law
Release date: 18 May 2017
Rating: M
Running time: 126 mins


Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy — whether he likes it or not.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is… different. Not what I was expecting. They tried to put too much in there and it turned into a bit of a mess.

The start is very confusing and two female characters die within like 2 seconds (one's Katie McGrath, whose appearance confused me because I saw her and went, “Morgana!” but it wasn't Morgana). The confusion continues as throughout the film I had no idea what anyone’s names were except for Uther and Arthur.

The music and fast cutting are great (I loved the music) but the high fantasy mixed with action is too much. One or the other might be fine, but it's too intense. (I watched it in 3D, though, which might’ve added to that over intensity.) They also tried to put humour in there, including all of Arthur’s one-liners, which are actually annoying - some are funny, but most aren’t. Again, they tried too hard.

To be honest, I don’t think it relates that much to actual Arthurian mythology. If they changed Arthur and Uther and Excalibur's names and removed the round table, for example, it could almost be am original fantasy movie in its own right.

As a history nerd, one question that really got me was what is the historical context?
  1. In the film's version of Londinium is a ruined Roman amphitheatre but the rest of the town looks how I’d imagine parts of England a few hundred years ago?
  2. And some of the dialogue makes the people seem Christian but I assumed King Arthur was pre-Christianity? 
  3. And there are Vikings? 
  4. And certain characters wear a lot of black leather and tight pants which look too modern (yeah, I’m looking at you, Jude Law)?
Consider me confused.

I did, however, like that there's some ethnic diversity. I counted at least two black characters and one Chinese character, who become Arthur’s knights at the end. It's far from great representation (the Chinese character is, of course, a kung fu expert, and there are no women of colour to speak of) but they tried, which is more than you can say for most of these sorts of epics set in Ye Olde England.

The biggest plus for me was there's pretty much no romance! (Because they killed off the two royal wives at the start! But never mind; I will forgive!)


King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is by no means a good film, however parts of it are enjoyable, like the soundtrack and playing where-have-I-seen-this-actor-before? Recommended for fans of Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, etc. Not recommended for history buffs or fans of Arthurian mythology.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

10 Things I Need More of in Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is Ten Things On Our Reading Wishlist - things you want to see more of in books ie. tropes, a time period, a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a certain plot, etc.

1. Main characters who stay single for the entire book/series

I want to see main characters who are aromantic, main characters who don't want a partner at this time, have sworn off love, aren't good with the ladies (or whatever gender/s they may prefer) or don't have time because they're too busy saving the world. It can be done. Really. I just need to see a single single character!

2. Bechdel Test passes

For those who don't know, it tests whether a fictional work includes (at least) two female characters who have a conversation about something that is not a male character. You'd think it would be pretty easy to pass the test, but I've read a surprising number of supposedly feminist books that don't.

3. Queer women characters whose identities are irrelevant to the plot

Let them be queer just because they can be, and then let them get on with it because, being book characters, they have work to do. Like saving the world.

4. Hate-love relationships

I live on that tension when two characters in the same room don't know if they want to fight or fuck each other. Mm yes. Build that tension as high as it can go. Tease me. 

5. Bisexual characters

Especially bi male characters. They aren't unicorns, y'know. Enough said.

6. Russia

It's one of my new favourite settings, and it's so cool! (Pun not intended.) I want to read more books set in Russia, by Russian authors. I don't want to read any more books about aristocrats during or after the Revolution, though - if I read books set in that era, I want to read about normal people.

7. Lesser known badass historical women

Hypatia, anyone? Or Empress Matilda? Vasilisa Kozhina? Khutulun? You guys know how I love my historical fiction, and I'd like to see more obscure figures portrayed in books. 
Vasilisa Kozhina

8. Flawed & morally grey main characters

It's wonderful to come across a character that you'd hate in real life but you love in the book. These characters are complex and realistic, and it's much easier to relate to someone who has flaws than to a perfect angel who can do no wrong.

9. Close & healthy sibling & cousin relationships

Obviously I couldn't relate to the sibling relationships as I want to kill my sister 103%* of the time, but I'd like to see more familial love and family going on quests together. In some cases they would complain and fight the whole time, but in others they'd work well together and get the job done ASAP, with some great dialogue on the side.
* That's a joke. It's 96% of the time.

10. Boats

I was going to say ships, but I didn't want to be misinterpreted, LOL. Anyway, I want more books set on boats! Pirate and Waterworld-type scenarios especially. Boats are amazing. I want to read about smallish groups of people surviving together on boats. 
By Lance Woodworth - originally posted to Flickr as Niagra Cannons, CC BY 2.0,

What are 10 things on your reading wishlist? Do you agree with any of these? Alternatively, what are you sick of seeing in books? (I, personally, am sick of contemporaries.)

I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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