A Valentine’s Note

It is the 14th of February and for some that means excitement and for others it means dread. I’m somewhere between the two as I spend every year watching horror or otherwise unsettling films that I’ve yet to see yet.

Whether you’re with someone or spending time on your own, what matters the most of taking care of yourself as well. Feed some kind of love into something you enjoy doing, or towards a friend or family member. It can be hard to remember that there is more to love than a partner this time of year but doing your best to remember that is what counts.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you know me and my cynical (read as: single) behind have been suffering from an obnoxious head cold this week so I haven’t gotten any reading done. It’s very frustrating but rest is what I need considering I still need to go to my day job. However, I have been doing a bit of writing here and there, so if you’re in the mood for some preview reading I have just the thing for you!

Elsker og kvaler: A Love Story In Denmark is a novella told through vignettes that I’ve been playing with from some time about a vampire who falls in love with an actress and his struggles with the loss of mortality and fitting in with modern society. Full of dorky flirting, bloodshed, and a dash of smut, I’ve been posting this story on Wattpad for the time being and you are able to read that here!

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers. I hope you have a nice day regardless of the capitalist holiday behind this one, haha!

2020 TBR: February Edition

We survived January!

Having made it nine books into my sixty-five book goal for the year, I’m feeling very confident about keeping this ball rolling.

My novel TBR list is almost exclusively fantasy for this month, with my top three choices being some books that I was really excited to read when they first came out (but never got around to), and another one that I am desperate to finally get through after trying to read it for years now.

Pastel Vintage Bike Facebook Cover (1)

That being said, I’m also going to be continuing my Manga Mondays and focusing (almost) exclusively on some boy love titles that I’m really excited to get to. So stay tuned for those!

It’s going to be a fun month! Tell me about your TBR lists in the comments!

2020 Monthly Wrap-Up: January

January 2020 hasn’t been especially kind to me in terms of my personal life (or professional if I’m being entirely honest) but what I will say is that I’ve read some damn good books.

While my first read of the year – Infinity Son by Adam Silvera – was a bit of a bust, the majority of the other books I read were more wonderful than not. I’ve also been feeling rather proud of my resolution to stop reading books I’m not into and it’s such a weight off of my shoulders to not be so stressed out about trying to finish books I’m bored by.

The complete list of books I’ve reviewed this year is a nice one, with nine books finished in total!

  1. Jujutsu Kaisen #1 by Akutami Gege
  2. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
  3. No Longer Human by Dazai Osamu
  4. No Longer Human by Dazai Osamu and Ito Junji
  5. Saint Young Men #1 by Nakamura Hikaru
  6. Docile by K.M. Szpara
  7. The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

The other two books I read I didn’t end up writing full reviews for (and I had started them before the new year) but they were also fun.

  • Psychopathia Sexualis: 238 Case Histories by Richard von Krafft-Ebing

This book isn’t really the kind of book you end up “reviewing”. It is a very dated collection of case studies from 1886 that focused on mental illness and how it’s related to sexual urges, delinquency, and crimes. Given how dated it is, the part I found the most interesting was looking at how mental illness terms have changed over time and the strange excuses people came up to “explain” those suffering from mental health problems. Not all of the cases were explicit and some of them were even kind of funny. It was definitely an interesting read.

  • Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief by Maurice LeBlanc

A good friend of mine got me into the Lupin the Third anime series and was telling me all about the original novels. I honestly went in with low expectations, thinking it would be like the dryer of the Sherlock Holmes books, but I was definitely wrong. I had a blast reading the shorts and they were all hilarious in one way or another. Lupin is such a dick and the way he just saunters around was so entertaining. It was a lot of fun.

All in all, I think it’s been a successful January and I’m looking forward to all the other books I’ll get to in February! Stay tuned for my reading list which I’ll be finalizing tomorrow!

 

2020

We’re back to the roaring 20’s and I am so honestly thrilled that 2019 is officially in the past.

It was a really tough year for me where I was kicked a lot during the times when I was down, but there were good times too. I went to my first blogger events, I took my mom to see Michelle Obama on her birthday, I got an apartment all to myself! But the tough times weigh heavily still so I’m very excited to be moving past them.

Now that it’s 2020, the start of a new decade means it’s time to set some goals regardless of whether or not I actually complete them. For my GoodReads Reading Challenge, I want to read 65 books at least and unhaul any and all books I don’t finish. I have a bad habit of putting books down and saying “Now just isn’t the right time for this book” and not picking them back up. Well no more! Life is too short and my shelves are too jammed for books that don’t interest me. The same goes for ARCs. I have so many ARCs that I was dying to get my hands on, and yet they all still sit on my shelf. I don’t plan on doing much “influencer” blogging this year, at least not until I can get through the ARCs that I already have.

I want to have a more regular posting schedule on my blog, and I’ve got a relaxed schedule all planned out in my bullet journal to stay on top of it all. So stay tuned for weekly reviews every Wednesday with a manga feature on Mondays!

In personal goals, I want to quit smoking and use the money I’ll save to get a cat. I want to finish writing my book. I want to really live my life as myself, for myself, and stop being so concerned with how other people see me. I try way too hard to try and make other people happy or to get them to like me without taking care of myself. It’s time I think about how I want to live MY life and let’s hope a brand new decade will help me do that.

So here’s to 2020 and all the lovely books I’ll have to share with you all! Below is the list of books I’m hoping to read this January!

Pastel Vintage Bike Facebook Cover

A Love Note to Ronan Farrow Otherwise Titled “A Review of CATCH & KILL”

I want to start of this review with two things:

1) For those unaware of the content of Catch and Kill, it covers four major sexual assault cases in the entertainment industry. The encounters are explained in detail and can be not only upsetting to general readers, but triggering for victims of sexual assault.

2) For those who want a little bit more context about the Weinstein case, I highly recommend reading Rose McGowan’s book, BRAVE, first. You can read my review of BRAVE here.


In 2012 I started film school. It was the most stressful three years of my life, and every year I wasn’t the only one surprised that I returned. First year was a rather public breakdown, second year I was assaulted, third year I attempted to tackle these issues in my thesis film but things didn’t go as planned. I graduated with excellent grades despite all of this, and threw myself head first into following every production announcements, every casting call, I learned the names of every above line crew member of all my favourite films and made cold calls every few days to try and get into production offices.

I learned the ins and outs of the industry in Canada and the US as best as I could while working in and out of the industry and tried to find my passion, to keep it burning despite knowing the stresses of set work and the long hours.

I remember seeing how many films I enjoyed that came from Miramax and subsequently The Weinstein Company. I remember going over how to get work visas for the states again and again in hopes of potentially working for all of the major production companies.

I remember hearing the news break that he was a monster.

I continued to follow the Weinstein story through Deadline Hollywood as well as other news sources, watching the TWC twitter account as well. No one wants to believe that those they look up to are horrible. The more I read, the more horrible I felt and slowly I made sure to unfollow those involved in the scandle and following those who were making the accusations against Weinstein. I remember seeing that Rose McGowan was going to be releasing a book and rushed to get it. I read fast and BRAVE is not a long book. It took me a month to get through it.

The pain and anguish and shame that radiated from the pages had me in tears more than once. On top of Kevin Spacey’s actions being brought into the light, I hated the film industry. The industry didn’t care about the safety of those working in it. Every person who was hurt by someone powerful was brushed to the side and put down through mental health rumors or dreged up past life experiences to discredit them.

So I gave up wanting to be a part of it.

I learned two weeks before the release that Ronan Farrow was going to be releasing a book covering the assault cases against Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and even touching upon Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump as well as mentions of Woody Allen. Despite how hard it was to get through McGowan’s personal story about the issue, I knew I needed to read Catch and Kill. I knew how important it would be to hear the other women who have been hurt and ignored and silenced. I hit the preorder button right away on Audible and impatiently waited for the email telling me I could now download the audiobook onto my phone. Ten days later, I’d cried twice in public and once more in private while listening to Farrow narrate the most tragic stories I’ve ever heard.

Catch and Kill isn’t just about the assault of young women (and children in a few cases) who just want to do their jobs. It is also about the lengths the men accused and the new outlets went to in order to make the accusations go away. Not only were these women violently assaulted on more than one occassion, but they were threatened, otherwise harrassed, and forced into silence with money. The sums may have been large in some cases, but money doesn’t fix trauma. Farrow, himself, was also threatened, harrassed, and fired all before he was practically forced to lie when the networks turned around and said they never did anything of the sort. The level of gaslighting on the side of NBC was absolutely revolting. It reminded me of a quote I recently heard on a Side Stories episode of Last Podcast on the Left when host Ben Kissell (a former producer at Fox) said, “Do not get your information from TV news. You can pick up tidbits every now and again, but it is 100% entertainment. It is not real […] If that is the only place you’re getting information, this is why we have Donald Trump.”

The censoring of information was one of the more horrifying things about this story. On top of the private investigators and the Black Cube operatives survailing everyone involved to provide information to those who would further upset or threaten these people, the blatant lies of the staff at NBC was infuriating. The lack of accountability was infuriating.

While on the one hand, Farrow’s book can be seen as one about being careful who you speak to, the primary point of it is to get those killed stories of the victims out there. It is about letting these women have as safe a space as possible to finally share their story and finally get a chance to force some accountability on their rapists. It is about believing victims and hearing them out. It is about telling the truth and telling all of the truth, not just the key points. It felt like a life raft for victims as well as an apology note to Dylan Farrow, Ronan Farrow’s sister who was assaulted at age 7 by her adoptive father, Woody Allen. It’s an exposé about those who valued themselves over the victims who trusted them. It is Ronan Farrow putting it all on the line to help people. Catch and Kill is more than journalism, it is more than nonfiction.

His bravery, while not being allowed to overshadow the bravery of all of the women he spoke to, needs to be acknowledged in this. He risked so much to get this information out there, to help protect the women who agreed to come forward and risk it all themselves. Farrow is a reminder of why it is so important to listen to others, why it is so important to have compassion and empathy and the want to help people. He makes me want to be a better man while also reminding me it is okay to be vulnerable and I am not in the wrong for being a victim and a survivor. The most important part of coming to terms with a sexual assault and/or rape experience is remembering it is not your fault.

I thank Ronan Farrow for his work with these cases, with handling the whole thing with grace and not glossing over the hard parts. I thank him for his efforts in being there for the victims and taking care when they opened up to him. I thank him for continuing forward even when it felt like no one had his back. I thank him for being vulnerable himself and for not hiding his emotion while narrating the audiobook. I thank him for reminding me what it is to be strong.

Thank you Ronan Farrow.

Thank you.

And for anyone else reading this, I urge you to learn the names of these victims. Weinstein’s name will be the one remembered, but like any criminal case, the long list of victims’ names won’t be. Please learn their names and thank them for their bravery.

Thanksgiving 2019

A lot has changed in only a short time.

I’ve taken some major steps towards my transition which is overwhelming, scary, and unbelievably exciting all at the same time. I’ve moved into my very own apartment. I’m getting a fish! It’s all amazing.

That being said, there have been some rough times as well of the last few weeks, but regardless of that, I’m still here and holding my head up high.

As rough as the last few years have been, 2019 included, I do still have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve made some amazing friends. I love my new apartment. I’m going to be able to start my transition any day now. It’s a lot and I’m so happy with all of it. I finally feel like I can live my life the way I want to and with moving I’m happy to finally have more reading time as well, so I look forward to posting more reviews again.

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving, everyone!

The Ghost Collector Blog Tour

Allison Mills’s debut novel, The Ghost Collector, is a middle-grade contemporary novel with a hint of the paranormal. Shelly’s family can catch ghosts in their hair and help them find their way to the afterlife when ready. Using this talent as something of a job, Shelly’s grandmother often takes her ghost hunting as they free the ghosts of animals from homes the owners are convinced are the spirits of horrible people. When Shelly’s mom passes away, the girl needs to come to terms with what real loss feels like and how holding on to what’s meant to be let go of can be more destructive than you may think.

The Ghost Collector is meant for younger audiences but also doesn’t hold back in hitting hard with the feels. It’s a powerful novel for anyone struggling to deal with a loss and I know that it helped give me a bit more perspective on a recent loss in my life. I definitely thank Allison for that.

I really liked Shelly and her relationship with her family. Her grandmother reminded me of mine in so many ways which warmed my heart. Not to mention that I could understand the idea of struggling to make “real friends” like Shelly did. Growing up I considered fictional characters I read about to be more real friends than my classmates or any other kids I met, so her having a hard time connecting with her classmates was incredibly relatable.

Change is so difficult, and change because of loss is even harder. This novel captured all of that so wonderfully. While sad, it was satisfying.

With all of that being said, I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask author Allison Mills herself some questions about this exciting release.


Lucien: First off, congratulations on the release of The Ghost Collector! I’ve seen in another interview you’ve given as well as in the acknowledgements of the advanced copy of the book, that this novel was the result of expanding on a short story (If a Bird Can Be a Ghost) you’ve previously written. What was it about the story that made you want to expand upon it?

AllisonThank you! I’m really happy the release date is finally here. It feels like it’s been a long time in the making, especially if you take the short story that became The Ghost Collector as the starting point. The characters and world of If A Bird Can Be A Ghost—the short story that The Ghost Collector is based on—stuck with me after I finished the story. I kept going back and trying to do something else with them. I have two or three abandoned short stories set within the same world or using some of the same characters. I knew I wanted to expand on the story somehow, and then Claire Caldwell, my editor at Annick Press, approached me about the possibility of turning the story into a novel and it was kind of like the stars aligned. I was really fortunate to get a chance to play in this space again.

How did the experience of writing the novel differ from when you were working with it as a short?

The biggest difference is that I wrote them with different audiences in mind. The short story, although it’s still about Shelly, was written for adults. In writing the novel, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to frame discussions of death and grief for a younger audience—and especially for younger Indigenous readers. As a kid, I read a lot of fantasy books that, when they had an Indigenous character in them, treated them as an archetype more than a person, and it was always really alienating for me. I didn’t want The Ghost Collector to feel like it played into stereotypes. I wanted to write a paranormal story about an Indigenous family that grounded the characters in the modern world, that framed Indigenous peoples as present. I know from experience that it’s easy for non-Indigenous people to historicize us and to romanticize some mystical version of us and our cultures. With that in mind, I tried to be deliberate about the way I wrote the ghosts in the book and to have the characters push back against stereotypes other characters try to apply to them.

Writing a novel was also a chance to spend more time with the characters. Scenes with Joseph and Shelly talking to each other were my favourite thing to write when I was working on the short story, and I got to add a lot more of that when I expanded the story into a novel. Getting to add more scenes with Shelly’s mother was also great. She didn’t get much screen time in the short story, but I wrote it knowing exactly who she was and what her relationship with Shelly was like, so putting more of it down on the page was honestly kind of cathartic.

There are several instances of music being important in describing who the characters are. Where The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees are important to Joseph, what band would you say best fits you?

This is a really hard question. I think it changes week to week, but right now, I’d say I’m alternating between Hozier and Carly Rae Jepsen as musical artists that fit me best.

Does music often play a role of its own in your writing?

It definitely does! I like writing with background noise. I’ll make playlists for certain moods I want to hit in my writing or music that I think is really emblematic of a certain character or story or moment—Joseph and his connection to post-punk/goth is a good example of that. Having music in the background helps me focus on what I’m doing, although it also means that sometimes a song becomes a symbol of a story or characters and is no longer something I can listen to for the sake of listening to it.

Throughout the book, Shelly collects ghosts of several kinds, from people to animals. If you could keep a ghost of someone (or something) would you? If so, what ghost would you keep?

I’m going to be honest, I spent a lot of my childhood really obsessed with ghost stories, but also terrified of ghosts conceptually. Even if my book didn’t focus on the importance of not letting your ghosts linger, I don’t think I’d want to keep one around. That said, there is part of me that definitely sees the appeal of a ghost pet. Cheap, with no clean up required, but you still get the companionship offered by a living pet and you never have to worry about them getting sick! It’s kind of the ideal.

The Ghost Collector is a story of learning to let go and live life the way it is meant to be lived. But it is also a story of grief, especially the grief of a young girl. Were you every concerned about the content being too much for the younger readers who may be drawn to it?

That was definitely a concern I had while I was writing. Some things changed between the short story and the novel because of the shift in audience. I talked about some of that in relation to Indigenous readers already, but more generally one of the things I tried to do when I wrote the book was balance the darkness of Shelly’s grief with moments of lightness, either through humour or by having other characters reach out to Shelly—adding in something to alleviate the tension in the book so that the grief never gets too heavy for the reader to carry.

That being said, grief is a very important emotion to learn about and even learn from when we face it. Is there a reason why you wanted to tackle that lesson by using a ghost story as the basis?

I’ve always had an affinity for ghosts and ghost stories. When I was writing the short story The Ghost Collector is based on, I liked the concept of someone who can see and interact with the dead suddenly not being able to find the one ghost they want to interact with. It seemed like an interesting way to show someone grappling with the realities of loss and grief.

You’ve said that your Ililiw/Cree and settler Canadian heritage has played a part in your love of ghosts and ghost stories, are you able to elaborate on that?

Yeah! It’s kind of a two-fold thing. Part of it is that when I think about ghosts I think about them as manifestations of the liminal—they’re not alive, but they’re not quite gone either. They occupy this boundary space that I really like exploring and am fascinated by. I’m Indigenous, but because I have settler Canadian family too, I’m white-passing and have a lot of white privilege. I spend a lot of time grappling with the complex—at least to me—reality of that so I think part of me liking ghosts so much is that I feel like I exist in a liminal space too.

Less tied to my multiple identities and thoughts about the ways I interact with the world, I also just grew up hearing stories about my great-grandmother Louisa finding bodies for the RCMP in Chapleau, where our band is from and where my grandfather grew up. And, you know, there were plenty of other stories told about her too—like, Louisa really liked the Mary Poppins movie and would watch it whenever she visited when my mom was a kid—but that’s not as sensational as an uncanny knack for discovering missing persons, so it didn’t implant itself in my brain the same way stories about the RCMP coming knocking on the door did.

If there was one thing you hope reader’s take away from The Ghost Collector, what do you hope it is?

The importance of our connections to other people. I think allowing yourself to be known by others—making yourself vulnerable by expressing your feelings instead of bottling everything up inside—can be an incredibly difficult thing to do, but our relationships with one another are what get us through our darkest moments. I really hope that’s something readers of The Ghost Collector will be left with.


I would like to thank Annick Press and Allison Mills for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour and for providing me with a copy of the ARC.

The Ghost Collector is set to be available everywhere on September 10th, 2019.

A Frenzy at Harper Collins

This time last week I was in Toronto, nervous but excited as ever to attend my first ever Harper Collins Canada Frenzy event! Similar to the Penguin Social I attended a few months ago, HCCFrenzy is a meet-and-greet for book bloggers of all kinds to learn about upcoming titles and make some new friends.

And I did both!

I came early to meet with a friend who attended the morning session and get lunch with some amazing new friends. Of course, we ended up at the Eaton Centre Indigo for a while before I left to make it to the afternoon session.

That afternoon, HCC put on an amazing presentation of upcoming titles. There were so many books, but the ones I’m most excited about are Serpent & DoveBreak In Case Of Emergency, Crier’s War, and Thirteen Doorways. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Thirteen Doorways at the event and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

On top of that, debut author Jasmin Kaur attended the event to read from her upcoming release, When You Ask Me Where I’m Going, a collection of poems and short stories that make up a continuous novel of self. I was captivated along with the rest of the audience as she read excerpts from the book and I honestly think that this is going to be a collection that hits home for a lot of people and is so poignant for the world we currently live in. While I haven’t finished it yet, When You Ask Me Where I’m Going is so raw and real, I already recommend it. Even if poetry isn’t your thing.

I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I should have, but I’ll do better at the next event.

Thank you so much to Harper Collins Canada for throwing such a fun event and for all the swag given out. I had so much fun.

Who is G.O.?

today i sneezed
so hard
i shook my brain
inside my head.

ever thought about your brain before?
try it.
now your brain             is thinking
about   itself


I received a rather mysterious post card from the wonderful team at Tundra Books. But what could it mean?

I think it means an even bigger mystery is on it’s way to my mailbox and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Stay tuned!


The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan, coming fall 2019.

 

The Assassin & The Empire

I don’t have a review for this one, or much of a synopsis. Although anyone who started the series prior to reading the novellas will know what happens. As I felt it would be after reading the previous novella, The Assassin and the Empire is about how Sam died and Celaena ended up in Endovier.

I had to DNF this one.

Having heard time and time again about Sam being killed in the main books, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the details in this novella. I didn’t care that Arobynn was a dick, because we already knew that, and I didn’t care about how it broke Celaena.

Having really liked the previous novella, I was hoping for more, but I’m sad to say I was disappointed in how bored I was with this final one. Perhaps if I’d read the novellas before the actual books I would have gotten more out of it, but instead I found it repetitive.


Today’s photo prompt was ROYALTY but I forgot my crown is in storage (oops!) so here’s a beautiful dagger. Be sure to tag me on Instagram at @lucieninthestars and use the hashtag #TWOTOGCountdown so I can see all of you’re beautiful photos!

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And finally, be sure to check out the wonderful A.K. Lee over on her site! There would be no read-a-long without her support and she’s an incredible author and friend.