REVIEW: Megabat does a Zoom launch party

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada, Tundra Books, and NetGalley for providing both an eARC and a finished copy of this book.


To say things have been rough over the last few weeks is to put it mildly, but one thing that truly cheered me up was receiving a package from the wonderful staff at Penguin and Tundra that contained the third book in my favourite middle-grade series, Megabat! At almost 26-years-old, I am definitely not the target audience, but as the one person in my family that people come to for book recs for readers of all ages, I do enjoy digging into junior readers every now and again, and Megabat is incredible. (You can read my reviews of the first two books in the series here)

In Megabat Is A Fraidybat, Megabat and Daniel learn to conquer their fears as they head off to sleepaway camp. Daniel, who has only ever heard of how horrible sleepaway camp is, is far from excited about going. Megabat, on the other hand, is thrilled at the idea of an adventure and new friends. Once they reach camp, Daniel slowly begins to loosen up as he meets new friends in his cabin and learns that his fears weren’t based on how camp actually is. But after a councillor tells a ghost story, Megabat isn’t feeling so confident anymore…

As usual, I loved this little book from top to bottom. The illustrations are as adorable as ever, and the story tackles fear in a very relatable way for children reading the book to understand. I can see it being a good book to explain sleepaway camp to children who may be afraid of going for the first time, or even just using it to talk about fear in general. Sometimes the things that scare us aren’t always as bad as we think they are. All I know is that if I could find an Ewok bobble-head that looked like Kass Reich’s illustration, I would have a hoarding problem with them, haha!

Now, this installment of the Megabat series was released April 7th, and for obvious reasons, that meant a different kind of launch party. Held over Zoom, Anna Humphrey and Kass Reich talked with the Junior Library Guild about all things Megabat and it was delightful. I will say, it wasn’t the smoothest discussion, but what can you really say when the majority of the meeting is attended by children under the age of 10 who are bored with their parents’ laptops, phones, or tablets? If nothing else, it was funny towards the beginning of the discussion to see little faces popping up to wave hello to Anna and Kass.

Anna opened the meeting with a reading of the new book, followed by a detailed drawing tutorial by Kass, both of which were fun. Following that, a Q&A began that was moderated by a member of the Junior Library Guild (whose name I, unfortunately, didn’t catch). Questions focused mostly on fun little things, like a game of “Would You Rather” and what missaid word of Megabat’s is your favourite, but a few of them went most into publishing.

When asked more about how to go about the illustrations, Kass said that she gets the manuscript and has ideas for what moments should be illustrated, but that it is mostly up to the editor, Samantha Swenson, on picking out the scenes. She went on to say that it’s important to be aware of the spacing of illustrations in a book like this, since the book shouldn’t be overcrowded by pictures nor should there be inconsistent gaps between them. The best question Anna got was about the inspiration for Megabat. She mentioned that after a big move, she and her family were feeling particularly homesick and one night, she discovered an out of place leak on the main floor of her three-story home. Anna continued, saying that she let her fiction-writer brain run and came up with the theory that the leak was a sad fruitbat, crying over his own homesickness.

All in all, a fun way to spend a lunch hour, and a wonderful book for readers of all ages. All three Megabat books are available everywhere, and book four is set for a Spring 2021 release!

 

REVIEW: The Love Song of Sawyer Bell

Given the state of the world right now, I wanted to do what I could when I was still working to support small businesses. Seeing that The Ripped Bodice was putting together care packages of books and goodies for customers even in Canada, I jumped on it (and you can see my full unboxing here) immediately.

One of the books in the box was a queer f/f romance by Avon Gale called The Love Song of Sawyer Bell. It followed Vix and Sawyer as they toured cross-country with Vix’s band and navigated the complexity of being in the professional music business while being in a relationship. Not to mention Sawyer has only recently put the pieces together that she’s a lesbian. Jealousy, queer educating, and more ensue in this incredible love story.

I devoured this book in 24 hours (less if you subtract the breaks I took to like…eat) and have never loved a romance novel more while also feeling so personally attacked by one. Sawyer is a senior in Julliard and is miserable there. The stress and the pressure is too much, hence her desire to “run away” with Vix’s band for the summer. Her feelings about school are so close to my own experiences in college that I wish that I had read this in my first year. It may have given me the courage to walk away. For me, film school was great in the sense that it made me a better writer and a better photographer, but it destroyed my mental health and general self-worth, and even now I wonder if what I gained is worth how much I lost. I stuck to it though and graduated, but not for me. I stuck to it to try and prove I hadn’t let the pressure or the drama get to me, and that’s not a reason to fork over $30k in tuition fees.

Sawyer is such a real character and I fell for her instantly. Vix, as well. Vix’s demeanour, her temperament, and her drive are all so magically dimensional. Her struggles with commitment and the fear of failure are real and wonderfully described. Even when the tension comes between her and Sawyer, the issues feel like more than “mandatory romance novel plot points”.

I can’t thank the team at The Ripped Bodice enough for this book and I am desperate for the sequel to be re-released by Carina Press. Because to say I need the second book now is an understatement.

If you’re looking for a wonderful, sexy, beautiful book featuring queer ladies and rock music, I implore you to pick this one up. You won’t be sorry.

REVIEW: The Last Wish

I’m sure everyone has heard of The Witcher series from the Netflix adaptation that came out recently, or else you know it from the video games. While more and more people tell me they love the books, I fell into the category of knowing it from the video games and being only vaguely aware of the books.

Given the Netflix series, the first book was on sale a while back so I figured, what the hell. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

The Last Wish is a collection of short stories and a novella, originally publishing in Poland as all separate stories, before being collected and spliced together to form this book. I really appreciated this set up as the stories were stand-alone while also flowing nicely into one another. Given that so many fantasy novels are 400 – 800+ page epics, I really liked how not-intimidating this book was. There was no major commitment to remembering everyone or trying to learn maps, and the stories were all at a length where things kept moving. A handful of them are vague fairytale retellings, and the Beauty and the Beast short was by far my favourite, taking things in a direction that was so new for a retelling of this kind and then breaking my heart.

For those who want a little more context about The Witcher, the series follows Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher, as he travels across the world fighting monsters and helping people who have the coin. However, he isn’t a cold-blooded person and will do what is right if he feels it is truly the right thing to do. Geralt isn’t always a welcome sight, though, as a Witcher is someone who has undergone rigorous training, poisoning, and mutation to become more than human. Many see him as a ruthless demon and others lock themselves away in fear, thinking their children will be taken to go through what Geralt has been through.

I’m sure there will be more information regarding that in the other books (my knowledge of it comes from playing Witcher 3 on Switch and they don’t go into much depth about the transformation process) and I look forward to reading more in the second collection of short stories.


The reading order was screwed up in translation so for those who are interested in reading the books, here is a guide:

  1. The Last Wish
  2. Sword of Destiny
  3. Season of Storms
  4. Blood of the Elves
  5. Time of Contempt
  6. Baptism of Fire
  7. The Tower of the Swallow
  8. The Lady of the Lake

MANGA MONDAY: The Ways of the Househusband #1

Thank you to NetGalley and VIZ Media for providing me with a review copy.


Oono Kousuke’s series The Ways of the Househusband is one that I’ve been hearing a lot about, and considering I don’t actually read much straight-up comedy manga, I figured I would give it a go once I saw the first volume on NetGalley.

Oh my gods, this series is hysterical.

It follows Tatsu, an ex-yakuza boss (and a fierce one at that), who has given up his life as a killer to be a househusband with his career-focused wife, Miku. Now, despite Tatsu’s hardest attempts, he is still terrifying to most of the people he interacts with, his disposition unintentionally threatening and intimidating as he is still really only accustomed to talking about everything as if he was still in the yakuza.

There is a story arc of sorts in this volume, but each chapter is essentially a stand-alone short about the mishaps Tatsu gets himself into (my favourite of which is him fighting with the Roomba and the cat). It was a fast read and I can’t stress how hilarious this manga is. Tatsu is gorgeous and Miku is adorable, and I look forward to seeing how Tatsu’s old underling gets more involved in things.

I will definitely be picking up this series because I want more Tatsu in my life.

A Different Kind of Wrap-Up

March 2020 has been a rough one for all of us. The isolation required has left some of us productive, some of us stir-crazy, and some of us struggling with major depression and anxiety. If you’re like me, you’re all of the above.

I had big plans for March, but have not successfully managed to get to them all for a number of reasons. I had another cold in the middle of the month that knocked me flat, and then the anxiety of COVID-19 took a major hold on me. My day job in customer service set me on edge and I was having a hard enough time holding it together enough to function let alone get reading or writing done.

However, I still read a decent number of books towards the beginning of the month and I am very pleased about that, even if it still means I didn’t read all of my TBR books.

There was only one book I marked as DNF and it was Cries from the Lost Island by Kathleen O’Neal Gear. It was so boring and stiff that I just couldn’t make myself read it. It was an eARC from NetGalley and I thank the publishing company for sending it to me, even if it definitely wasn’t my cup of tea.

While I haven’t finished it yet, I’ve been making slow and steady progress through The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, the “first” book in his famous Witcher series. In all honesty, I have done my best to take deep breaths and focus on reading, a lot of my time has been spent playing Animal Crossing New Horizons. I’ve been a huge fan of the Animal Crossing franchise since I was about 8 or 9 and the new game has been a huge help at being a distraction from the rest of the world (as I’m sure the majority of you are aware).

Given the pandemic, I’m currently out of work so I am hoping to spend the provincial quarantine reading and doing more articles for this blog as well as maybe some short stories. I have tried in the past to post shorts here but have not had much success in people reading them, so we’ll see about that.

I know everyone is getting annoyed with hearing this but I do sincerely hope that everyone is staying safe in these uncertain times.

Take care of yourselves.

REVIEW: The Memory Police

Completely out of character for me, I read yet another dystopian novel this month and while I enjoyed it enough, it was definitely an unsettling story.

Ogawa Yoko’s latest novel, The Memory Police, is about a small, unnamed island that is controlled by a strange regime from nowhere called the Memory Police. The police control what is and isn’t allowed the exist on the island, meaning when something has been “disappeared” not only does the thing itself vanish from the island but all memories and emotional attaches to said thing vanish too. Anyone who is capable of remembering what has vanished is taken away by the police, and as more and more things begin to disappear, the nameless narrator struggles with a terrifying thought: what if things never stop disappearing?

This novel takes it’s time, the slow and easy pace really making you feel like things are okay. It is very much a false sense of security that shows how oppressive and yet normalized high-surveillance states are – everyone on the island is nervous around the Memory Police, but everyone also has a firm “I’m not doing anything wrong, so there is nothing to worry about” mentality. The concept of things just vanishing is also terrifying. It isn’t just little things, but it includes food and animals as well. As the story progresses and the stakes rise while our narrator is hiding her friend, R, the horrific concept really gets dark: what if words disappear? The censorship in media that’s heavily implied through that idea is horrifying and I love how intense the metaphor is.

Much like some of my favourite Japanese horror films, this book is quiet until the last few chapters when everything is happening to an overwhelming degree. It’s an ending that can’t be described without huge spoilers, but it gets really twisted really quickly. I got very uncomfortable and finishing it was a struggle but I do plan on re-reading it when the world isn’t entirely on fire. Do I recommend reading this book? Absolutely. But maybe wait a few months.

REVIEW: The Bromance Book Club

From the moment I saw the title, I knew this was a romance novel that I needed in my life. The title? Flawless. The concept? Hysterical. The cover? Gorgeous. From top to bottom I wanted this book so badly, which meant I went into it with ridiculously high expectations. Especially with the opinions of friends and it being a BaeCrate selection, Lyssa Kay Adams – a new to me author – had a lot to live up to.

So after devouring it in a week was it everything I hoped and dreamed of? Absolutely.

For those unfamiliar with the book, The Bromance Book Club follows Gavin and his wife Thea after they struggle to hold their marriage together after a large fight. Gavin feels horrible about his behaviour and wants to do everything and anything he can to keep Thea and their daughters in his life, but Thea is seeing the fight as a line in the sand and wants a divorce. When Gavin’s teammates hear how bad things are, the pull him into their secret book club, using romance novels to teach him how to not be a dick and think about what Thea wants.

The book is written in third person but still jumps between what’s going on in Gavin’s head and what’s going on in Thea’s head. It’s a quick read because of how it sucks you in, making you laugh while also pulling at your heart when things get rough. It’s not a tear-jerker but it does get real about how our parents’ relationships can cause long lasting trauma that affect our own. Of course then it’ll turn right around with a shenanigan or two that will have you laughing your head off.

This was the kind of romance novel I live for and I’m so excited about book two. Given how much I loved everyone (seriously, every last character is wonderfully written and feels so alive) I can’t wait to read about them again!


Did you know I’m also a BaeCrate rep? April boxes are on sale now and you can get a 5% discount if you use the code Lucien5 at check out!

MANGA MONDAY: The Promised Neverland #1

Thank you to NetGalley and VIZ Media for providing me with a review copy.


The Promised Neverland is one of those series that looks super cute but you can just tell that it is going to get really messed up, really quickly. I’ve got to say, I was not wrong with my prediction of this one.

The story mainly follows Emma and her friends, Norman and Ray, at their picture perfect little foster home where they and about thirty other children are being taken care of by a woman named Isabelle (but they all call her mom). The children do daily tests of intelligence and treat one another like they’re all family, and every two months one of the children is lucky enough to be adopted and gets to leave the house by way of the gate that the children are forbidden from getting close to. The only other rule is that they aren’t to cross the fence line in the forest that surrounds them. When one of the children being adopted, forgets her favourite plush rabbit, Emma and Norman learn the dark secret being kept from them…

While this first volume didn’t go too deeply into the horror that I’m sure is to come the further I read into the series, it definitely did a good job at setting up the tone of what’s to come next. I loved the heart in the story, though, and the way it captured the innocence and love shared between children while also keeping the advanced intelligence of Emma, Norman, and Ray still within believable range. The art work is very stylistic and cute, with all of the children having the most squishable little baby faces.

With the way this volume ended, I’m intrigued enough to keep going and giving a better judgement of the series off of subsequent volumes. But over all I thought this was a really great way to start a series like this, especially with the artwork being so cute only to get all murder-y. A solid four out of five.

In Which I Read Too Far Into DOCILE

This post contains spoilers for K.M. Szpara’s book, Docile, and may also contain trigger warnings for gender dysphoria, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and sexual assault.


In January, I was lucky enough to receive an ARC for what was probably my most anticipated release of 2020 (not including Murderbot). Pitched on GoodReads as a gay Handmaid’s Tale and written by an openly trans author, this was a book I’ve been thinking about for the better part of a year. When I finally did read it, I was taken aback by how hard it hit so many intense feelings that I spend most of my waking hours repressing into the void I  pretend doesn’t exist.

The novel tackles issues with consent and the abuse the lower classes face at the hands of the ultra-rich, even if it isn’t 100% directly so. The class system will always be the cause of a lot of hardships and this book takes it to the extreme by forcing debt on generations of families and crippling them entirely with it, while those without debt flaunt their money and buy the poor for their own entertainment. Debtors are faced with an ultimatum that isn’t really a real choice as they are forced to pick between servitude and prison. It’s a false choice. No one would want to have their entire family imprisoned when the option to sell themselves for some financial relief is an option.

I, myself, have student debt that isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The weight of it constantly dangling over my head is unbearable at times. The fear of this trickle-down debt accumulation feels very real in the current climate of the world, which made the anxiety of thinking about this very intense. Paying and paying and paying without getting anywhere is an awful feeling especially when the job market is the way that it is. Especially when hobbies feel like time wasters unless they can be monetized. And yet this is only a fraction of the weight Elisha must feel where the debt his family carries is in the millions.

But what hits me the hardest is how Elisha manages being a Docile. The dependency he develops on Alex and how he struggles to face his family after only six months as one.

After spending months learning how to anticipate Alex’s needs and going through tutoring to learn everything from cooking to art history to music, Elisha feels that despite his status as a Docile, he is becoming a better version of himself. At long last, he is able to learn all of the things he longed to but was never able to out in the middle of nowhere and crippled by debt. The relationship he shares with Alex borders on abusive, to say the least. Elisha was essentially forced into signing the consent waiver that allows Alex to have his way with him sexually, and he has no real choice but to allow Alex to shape and mould him into whatever person he desires. But Elisha doesn’t really see any harm, not when he begins to enjoy his plush life with Alex and all of the things that come with having money.

But when Elisha goes home for his state-mandated family visit, his family is far from receptive. Because of his mother’s long-lasting struggle under the effects of Dociline, the drug that turns people into obedient drones, Elisha’s loved ones struggle with what they see in the young man they thought they knew. To them, Elisha is a doll. He isn’t a person as his obedience comes across as robotic, as his new likes and knowledge make him better than the rest of them.

The scenes where Elisha was back home, both his weekend visit and his later abandonment at the farm, were so difficult to read. The more I thought about why these moments upset me, the harder it got to breathe. And then the anxiety attack hit me. What I was reading were reactions I was – and still am – facing in regards to coming out as trans. The feeling that I was finally being my true self, snatched away by people who didn’t understand and who didn’t want to accept the changes. The backhandedness of being “tolerated” but put down in the same sentences. Elisha’s family still loved him, but they othered him, they pushed away his feelings and dismissed him as no longer the man they actually loved. When Elisha can’t stand it anymore, when he can’t bring himself to live with those who were brushing him aside and wants to fade away, I felt that. I knew exactly what he was fighting. The idea that it would be easier to not exist at all instead of simply being tolerated or “put up with” set my nerves on fire. In that moment, I wanted to fade away with Elisha.

It also echoed my own experiences with abuse in a relationship, the longing and the wanting to please the person who you aren’t even sure you really love simply because as long as they’re happy, you’re not hurting. These things made this book so difficult to read at times but Szpara just knows how to put it, how to say these things that encourage you to keep going, keep reading until the end. That you can open your eyes after taking a deep breath, and you’ll have the courage to move on.

But Elisha gives me the hope that I might have the courage to move on, to keep going and know that I’m living my life to me and as long as I don’t forget who I am, changing and growing won’t cause me to lose myself. He stumbles, he falls hard, he hurts so badly and yet he’s still able to keep going.

I’m afraid of saying more and letting this “article” get out of hand, but this book touched me in more ways than I was expecting it to. I cherish it more than I was expecting to. Perhaps I did, in fact, read way too much into things with Docile, but this is an example of what a book can mean to a person and for that, I can do little else but say thank you to K.M. Szpara for telling this story and to Tor for publishing it. I hope everyone involved knows how loved this book is. At least by me.

 

REVIEW: Station Eleven

After being left in the worst reading slump I’ve dealt with for a while, I went to a local independent book shop and asked for recommendations. The clerk suggested I pick up Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, especially since I expressed my interest in her upcoming release, The Glass Hotel. I’ve got to say, I’m glad I listened to the clerk.

Station Eleven is a dystopian novel about what happens to the past – to things like music and books and Shakespeare – when the world ends. It follows several characters across time, jumping back and forth to the before and the after of the virus that wiped out most of the world, and how they are living on in the new world.

Given all of the fear surrounding COVID-19, I can’t help but laugh at my timing in reading this book. But this isn’t The Stand or The Walking Dead or even The Day After Tomorrow. This is honestly a story about humanity as it readjusts and relearns how to survive along with how the people keep going when simply surviving isn’t enough. It is a book about art and community and sharing glimmers of something else in a world so isolated and cut off from everything. It’s about the dedication of preserving the past while also not allowing each other to wallow or dwell on the things that were lost, keeping the past alive as a means of education.

I really enjoyed that this wasn’t a hopeless, depressing novel of the end of the world. There was hope as well as fear, but the fear didn’t reach absurd levels. There is a cult that causes several issues throughout the novel, a scary group of doomsday religious zealots, and I had concerns about several kinds of assault dominating the text, but am pleased to say that didn’t happen. The Prophet and his group were enough to create tension and anxiety, but Mandel clearly knew where the line was. The group furthered the plot without creating unnecessary violence.

Around the three-quarter mark, things slowed down more than I would have liked but I’m really glad I pushed through it. It’s a book I would definitely recommend if you’re in the mood for a more literary dystopian novel.