REVIEW: Young Jedi Knights 1: Heirs of the Force

One of my favourite characters when it comes to the old Star Wars canon was always Jacen Solo, so what I’ve been doing is slowly collecting the now out-of-print Young Jedi Knights series that was published for the middle grade/young adult market to get more of Jacen and Jaina while also learning a little bit more about Luke’s Jedi Academy on Yavin 4.

Heirs of the Force, the first book in the Young Jedi Knights series, follows Jacen and Jaina Solo as they train at Luke’s Jedi Academy. Right away we get to know that the twins are incredibly close and that Jacen has a knack for animals while Jaina takes after her father (and grandfather, Anakin, in my opinion) with her talent for mechanics and technology. We also get to meet their friend, Tenel Ka, who is a total badass from Dathomir. The trio quickly becomes firm friends with Chewie’s nephew, Lowbacca, who has been gifted an old speeder to put together. With the help of his new friends, Lowie completes the speeder and goes off on something of an adventure…where he finds the remains of a TIE Fighter from the first Battle of the Death Star. When their curiosity winds them up in under fire from the long-abandoned pilot, things take a nasty turn.

This book was a quick read but was honestly so much fun. It requires very little knowledge of the original extended universe of Star Wars (which I know can be an intimidating run of content) and makes sure to fill in a lot of gaps newer or less-intense fans to Legends might have in their knowledge. Jacen and Jaina are so lovely and wonderful, with the original hopeful and kind quality that made Luke such a sweetheart in the original films. I loved getting to know the newer characters as well like Tenel Ka – who is so cool I wish I had read these when I was younger – and Lowie – who is basically an awkward version of his uncle.

The tension and the pacing of the story is so well done, it reaffirms that Kevin J. Anderson is incredible and has definitely put Rebecca Moesta on my radar. And seriously, what’s not to love about a rogue TIE pilot stranded for years trying to single-handedly overthrow a school full of Jedi?

Heirs of the Force is clearly meant for a younger audience but that doesn’t take away from the writing at all. If anything it makes it an even better jumping in point because it’s not as technical as Star Wars books can be. Since the series – to my knowledge – has never been re-released as formal Legends titles, they’re difficult to get ahold of these days, but if you’re willing to search I’d definitely say this first book is worth it.

REVIEW: Imaginary Friend

Every now and again a book comes around that entirely blows my mind. I don’t mean a five-star rating, I mean that five stars is the most I can give because my feelings can’t simply be expressed with a book rating.

This is one of those books.

In the best way possible, the only thing I can really think to describe my feelings is that this a book that makes me, as an author, feel like I will never write anything even remotely close to this book. It was such an amazing story that made me sad, scared the crap out of me, and left me in awe at the end.

Imaginary Friend is Stephen Chbosky’s first novel since Perks of Being a Wallflower, and other that it being a horror novel, I mostly went into it blind. The story follows the occupants of a small town in Pennsylvania, but focuses primarily on Christopher Reese, a little boy with dyslexia and trauma based around his father’s suicide. Christopher goes missing for six days, putting the town in a panic and when he returns, he is changed. His dyslexia is gone, his math skills are well above his classmates…but he also hears a voice in his head. The voice of “the nice man” who is telling him to do things in order to save the town from a monstrous creature who is set to kill everyone.

As time passes, the town becomes affected by the same things Christopher has dealt with, but with none of the knowledge that he has. It is a rollercoaster of twists that flip the whole story 180° with every few page turns.

If I needed to compare the book to other things, I would have to say Stand by MeStranger ThingsIT, and a little bit of Hansel & Gretel meets Slenderman. It’s a huge mash-up of familiar and incredibly original new-ness which makes the 700+ pages just zip by when things aren’t so stressful I needed to put the book down.

I loved the wide cast of characters. I loved all the context of where they’re coming from. I loved the twist that I only figured out before it was too late. I was desperate to get to the end while also never wanting it to end. Believe me when I say that it was a horrifying thrill ride from start to finish and I will never forget this book. I highly recommend it for people looking for a good scare when they have a good chunk of time on their hands because I promise you that you won’t want to put it down, despite being such a beast of a book.

One final note I will mention about this book is some trigger warnings: this book contains child abuse, suicide, sexual assault of minors (more than implied but nothing happens on-page), domestic abuse, substance abuse, body horror, and lots of general violence.

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!

MANGA REVIEW: Monster (Perfect Edition) Volume 1

I’ve once again fallen victim to a reading slump, but a number of people said that I should try reading a volume of manga or a graphic novel to break it. While I think the slump is still in effect, it does feel lighter.

The manga I chose to read was Naoki Urasawa’s hit Monster, an intense drama that crosses several genres. It’s a series I’ve wanted to read for a long time and I’m so happy I finally have!

Dr. Kenma Tenzo is a prodigy of a neurosurgeon from Japan that is on the up-and-up at a hospital in Germany. With a beautiful fiance and the potential of reaching Cheif Surgeon, Kenma is living the dream life. But when his job as a doctor is being corrupted by the politics of the hospital, he loses it all. Feeling better at the bottom, Kenma has realized his job is about the patients’ success, not his own and has been going about his business. When there’s a triple murder at the hospital, Kenma’s life is flipped around as he is dragged into the crimes as he is the one who has the most to gain from it. But the rabbit hole goes deeper than that, and Kenma has very real choices to make if he has any hopes of keeping anyone alive.

When I was in high school, I was under the impression that this series was a paranormal-hospital drama and oh boy was I wrong. Monster is a hospital drama that morphs into a political drama (given that the setting is in Germany in the 1980s when the Berlin Wall was still up) and then changes again into a serial killer story. The twists are intense and the way the story unfolds is wild, with a ten-year time skip after the first few chapters. I think Kenma is a sweetheart thrust into a horrible situation and I wonder if – with the title of the series – we will get to see him unravel into someone similar to the very monster he is hunting.

The edition of the manga that I read was the Perfect Edition, which I think is a combination edition of the first two volumes and I’m looking forward to reading the rest. The editions feature the proper colour pages and are just gorgeous. Urasawa’s art is so classic and wonderful and his story-telling abilities are on point.

I would recommend this series to fans of Deathnote, Hannibal, or Doubt and Judge. It’s definitely worth checking out.

REVIEW: The Widow of Pale Harbour

Thank you to Harper Collins Canada and Graydon House for providing me with a copy of the ARC.

Attention all Poe fans! Do I have a book for you!

The Widow of Pale Harbour is the second standalone novel from Hester Fox and follows Gabriel Stone – a man on the run from his past posing as a priest – and Sophronia Carver – a wealthy woman accused of murder and witchcraft – as they navigate their way through the puzzles left by a madman terrorizing Pale Harbour by way of Edgar Allan Poe’s twisted works.

I really enjoyed this topsy turvy mystery novel. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hester Fox’s latest novel, but it was definitely a lot of fun. The mystery itself was well thought out and even with the limited cast of characters, I still had a hard time cracking the case before the end of the book. It was the right balance between an armchair mystery and a horror-inspired thriller, with the mystery itself being on the gruesome side while very clearly knowing where the line was in terms of the descriptions.

The romance plot wasn’t exactly a slow-burn, but it moved at a good speed as the characters unfolded on the pages. We really get to know Gabriel and his dedication to those he cares for as well as Sophronia and her fear of being hurt (emotionally and physically) by those she thinks she cares for.

This is definitely a great book for the upcoming Halloween season and is a good cozy read for a chilly autumn day. If you’re an older reader who enjoyed the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco, this would be a title I would certainly recommend.



#countdowntodarkdawn: Godsgrave

Throughout August, I did my best to keep up with the #countdowntodarkdawn event hosted Instagram’s @sammaybereading, @grumplstiltskin, and @amandasnoseinabook. After the weight of the density of Nevernight, I felt a little intimidated by Godsgrave but after a month and a half I finally got through it (with a little help from the audiobook).

Godsgrave picks up a few months after the ending of Nevernight, but does get into it rather quickly. After learning what she’s really up to, Mia teams up with the traitor, Ashlinn, and the two formulate a plan to help further Mia’s want for revenge against Duomo and Scaeva. The plan? To sell herself into slavery in order to fight in a gladiator-style death match known as the Venatus Magni and kill the pair when they declare her the winner.

If y’all thought the first book was not meant to be in the YA section, then this one definitely should never be considered YA. In the most delicious way possible, this book was violent, graphic, and smutty. I loved the way all of it tied together in the most devastating and gruesome ways, showing sex as another kind of chess game in this world of master players. Topping it all off with some of the most wild reveals I’ve ever read, this book had me cheering one moment, and cussing it out the next. Especially towards the end.

Again, this was a rather dense read, so listening to the audiobook in small doses was a big help in getting through it but that doesn’t make me enjoy it any less. I loved the tidbits of more information we get about the darkin even if it’s the most vague nonsense you’ve ever been given. Eclipse and Mr. Kindly were scene stealers amidst the chaos of Mia’s slave life and their little interlude brings up so many questions! I’m like Oliver Twist standing before Jay Kristoff begging for more and knowing full well he’s not going it give more over (and I’m not even mad about it).

I didn’t throw this book across the room once I finished it but that had more to do with not wanting to chuck my phone across the room. While I do need a break before reading Darkdawn, I’m itching to get my FaeCrate hangover kit for it so I can see if I get any of the answers I’m looking for thanks to Godsgrave.

Damn you, Mr. Kristoff.

We love you so much.