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.

 

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!

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!

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.

 

May Wrap-Up: When Mental Health Gets You Down

I had set a big reading goal for May, to read all 10 of the Star Wars: X-Wing Series books. But with work and life wreaking havoc on my mental health, that didn’t happen.

I read one book this month and that was the first X-Wing book, Rogue Squadron.

June for me is set to be an even rougher month (for reasons that can be explained in this post from last year) but I’m going to do my best to get through a reasonable list of books of all genres to keep myself from getting sucked into an even bigger reading slump.

The number of books I read is so directly connected to my mental health it’s probably strange, but I do want to make up for being something of a vegetable this month. My goal is four books to actually finish even if the list is longer than that.

June TBR List:

  • Killing Floor (Jack Reacher #1) by Lee Child
  • The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5) by Sarah J. Maas
  • Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
  • The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
  • The Curse of the Werepenguin by Allan Woodrow
  • The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow (audiobook)

I’m also doing a two-man bookclub with a good friend of mine and we’ll be reading through A Song of Ice and Fire together so even if I don’t finish it this month, I’ll be reading Game of Thrones this month as well.

Tell me what you’re reading this month!

A Penguin Extravaganza

Screen Shot 2019-05-24 at 10.58.09 PM
Penguin staff Sylvia, Sam, Vikki, and Evan (photo from @penguinteenca on Instagram)

This past Thursday night, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Penguin Teen Social party hosted at the offices of Penguin Random House Canada. I have been blogging about books for almost three years but have only recently been trying to make a serious mark through my blog as well as my Instagram. Still being considerably new to the scene, I had never been to one of these events before and wow was I in for a serious treat.

I spent a lot of the night making some incredible new friends as well as chatting with the lovely publicity agents I’ve been chatting with via email for the last few months. With wine and pizza, I was a very happy camper to just talk about books for once. On a personal note, I don’t have many off-line friends who read like I do and therefore I don’t get much of a chance to really get into things. It was so much fun to talk to other bloggers and book sellers about new releases and old releases and upcoming hype train books. Even laughing and chatting with the Penguin staff was a total blast and the chance to put a face to an email signature.

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Photo thanks to Mallory! (And Jeff, of course!)

But the most magical moment of the night – which my Instagram followers already know about – was the chance to meet Jeff Zentner. Being a party, everyone was mingling and I genuinely feel bad about not interacting with the other authors, but as I’ve said in both my reviews for The Serpent King and Rayne & Delilah’s Midnight Matinee, Jeff has changed my life in so many ways that I can’t even begin to express. It was a spark that reminded me of why books are so special and why writing books is so special. After having been through so much in my personal life lately, it was such a reward to have the time to really talk to him (and get a million pictures with him thanks to Mallory of @readwithmallory on Instagram).

I’m still over the moon – two days later – and so incredibly thankful to everyone at Penguin. Especially staff members, Sam and Evan for tolerating all of my emails, haha! I can’t wait for next year and really hope for the chance to attend more events like this.


The book haul!

As seen in the header image, I got a ton of books from the event so here’s just a quick little list of them all:

  • We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra
  • Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
  • Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya
  • Life Sucks by Michael I. Bennett and Sarah Bennett
  • Viral: the fight against AIDS in america by Ann Bausum
  • Samplers for The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh and Fireborne by Rosaria Munda
  • A finished copy of Rayne & Delilah’s Midnight Matinee

We All Need A Break Some Time

It’s been a weird week, and a long weekend.

Some really good things happened but I also haven’t been feeling like myself at all. A lot of what’s going on lately feels like one step forward two steps back, which we all know is not helpful, productive, or fun at all.

Because of this, I think I’m going to step back for a few days and just give myself a chance to get caught up on the things I need to get caught up on without feeling all stressed out. This includes the Throne of Glass read-a-long I’m hosting (the next Crown of Midnight post was supposed to go up today but I don’t think it’ll be up until Monday or Tuesday at this rate).

I just need a minute to breathe and I don’t feel like I’ve had that chance in awhile.

Thank you everyone for your understanding.

The Pressures of TBR Lists and Reading Goals

Looking at my GoodReads TBR (to be read) list verses my owned TBR, there’s a lot of stress – and pressure – to read through everything. I know one of the biggest reasons my TBR on GoodReads is so long because it’s full of books I see people being hyped about that might not even be my thing, but hey, someone I follow said it’s amazing so I have to read it right? Right?

Wrong.

There are so many releases every week it’s impossible to keep up with everything even though series (and sometimes stand-alones) become so hyped and so popular that the pressure to come aboard the hype train is very real. It doesn’t help when subscription boxes do special edition kits and that FOMO vibe kicks in because exclusive always means worth it.

Also wrong. (But 100% no shade towards some of the amazing exclusive boxes I’ve seen out there.)

Now you’ve probably noticed I’ve been using the word “pressure” a lot already in this little post, and there’s a reason for that. Maybe I’m the only one, or one of a few, but when series become hyped up on social media, it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out on something. An example of this is Caraval, Throne of Glass, The Raven Boys, The Grisha Series, or even Harry Potter. Some of these I read and loved and was able to join in on the fun online, but others I felt like I was missing something and therefore didn’t feel like a “real” book blogger because I hadn’t read something or had but didn’t like it.

A lot of my TBR has been built up of books that have been hyped either on GoodReads, Instagram, or Twitter, and it’s a similar thing to what I touched on last week about impulsively buying books because they looks pretty on Instagram. It’s much less self-destructive to simply add things to an online list that doesn’t affect my wallet, but it does affect how I see my downtime. Constantly feeling like you should be doing something isn’t always a good thing, and can be really stressful. Seeing my TBR list at 400+, 500+, and recently 600+ makes me feel not only like I should be read at all free moments, but it also makes me feel like I should be reading quickly.

Much like the imaginary pressure to complete double or triple digit reading challenges on GoodReads can be counterproductive (hence why a lot of people have recently only set their challenges to one), having huge TBR lists can start to feel the same.

This year I set my goal to 100, but then dropped it down to 80 recently because it felt like a less stressful number. I will probably drop it again because the size of books I’m reading right now is significantly higher than what I was reading earlier in the year.

It’s okay to read slower and/or read fewer books in a year. It’s okay not to add every single book you see to your TBR lists.

Something I’ve started doing, is going through my GoodReads TBR and deleting first every book that I can’t remember the synopsis to, and then deleting books added years ago (that I don’t currently own) but still haven’t read yet. As of right now my TBR of 608 books has been reduced to 420. I’m also setting a rule for myself that until the book is in my possession or on hold at the library, I’m not adding it to my TBR on GoodReads.

It’s so easy to get sucked into that rabbit hole of adding everything to your lists, but life is too short for books you don’t absolutely want to read. My motto has always been that life is too short for books you also don’t like.

What are some things you do to stay pressure-free while reading? Let me know in the comments!


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The [Instagram] Envy Is Real

Today marks the first time I’ll be doing Tuesday Truths, a weekly blog series that discusses some truths that I have learned as a blogger and instagrammer.

This week I want to discuss Instagram Envy. Specifically, in my case, Bookstagram Envy.

It’s tax season, and my finances are honestly not all that great. I work part time and definitely need to start looking for more work to start actually reducing debts and saving money. But this isn’t about that. This is about how my finances aren’t great and that’s a mixture of impulsiveness caused by mental illness, retail therapy, and constantly oggling all the pretty things I see on Instagram.

The thing with social media is that we are constantly bombarded by new shiny things to throw money at or else it will go away forever. The exclusives, the pre-orders, the bonus, the giveaways. It’s thrown at all any time we look at our screens and it can be hard to fight those shopping urges. It’s all fun and games to do impulse shopping unhauls, and it doesn’t matter if it’s books, or make-up, or clothes. It can really be anything these days. And I know for me it only seems to increase my habits when I see the habits of others.

I said in my March Goals post that I was going on a book buying ban, and I’ve broken that four times over already. And for what? For some pictures on Instagram and even less space in my tiny room already full to the brim with unread books.

It can be hard to keep your real life in line when your online life is thriving with others who may or may not be better off than you. I know that the bookstagrammers I follow are almost all married/engaged with full-time jobs and homes of their own. That’s a situation plenty of us would love to be in (even if you’re not looking to get married), and it’s something that is easily forgotten when you’re walking to the bookstore or even Sephora or online shopping at your fav Etsy stores when you work part time and want nothing more than to move out.

The reality is, trying to emulate those we look up to might only dig us farther down. Myself included. I know I would love to travel, to get more tattoos, to have an apartment and a cat of my very own again. But if I keep buying up every pretty book I see on Instagram, absolutely none of that is going to happen.

So what I am going to do about it? What can you do about it?

First, I’m going to be keeping a list in my phone of all the things I want to do with my life, and how much those things cost. New tattoo? $200-$800. New clothes? $50-$100 depending. Trip to New York? $1000. My own cat? $60-100 plus ongoing expenses. My own apartment? $1100 monthly before utilities.

With this list I’m going to really make myself think about how much longer I’ll need to wait to do all of these things.

Second, I’m going to start limiting my own screen time. Am I repeatedly seeing things that I want and feeling those impulsive urges to buy/order them? Put the phone away for at least 25 minutes. I’ve already cut down my show/movie watching time by cancelling my Netflix account (see more on this next week when I talk about being more focused), so why not try to limit my Instagram time if all it’s doing is causing me to spend money I don’t even have?

And lastly, I’m going to track my spending. Along with books, I am also a compulsive notebook hoarder, and with these dozens of notebooks I’m going to do things the old fashioned way and physically keep track of every penny I spend so I can see where it’s going and try to adjust myself accordingly.

It’s not easy to curb a retail therapy addiction, but there are ways to do it. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever had to really put a tight leash on your spending and what you did to help!


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