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 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.

REVIEW: The Omen

I love scary movies, especially old ones. However, when it comes to The Omen, I’ve shamefully only seen the 2006 version with Julia Styles and Liev Schreiber (dir. John Moore)…

When browsing the small horror section at my favourite local used bookstore (Westside Stories, yes that is the real name of the store), I spotted this sweet movie-tie in edition of The Omen, but the 1976 tie-in! I couldn’t say no when I also found the second movie tie-in as well, so I picked them both up. Perfect timing on my part, as my internet was down for the majority of the weekend, giving me some distraction free time to sit down and get some real reading done. Given the slump I’ve been in lately, this was the perfect book to pull me out of it.

For those unfamiliar with the story, The Omen follows the lives of the Thorn family after a grief fuelled decision changes everything… for the worst. As their son, Damien, seems to draw disaster after disaster, death after death, to the family, Jeremy Thorn is faced with a dark choice of murder or mayhem before more people die.

As mentioned, I have only seen the remake of the film and never want to watch it again as the [spoiler alert] death of Kathy is one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen on screen. Despite my strong feelings towards it, the 2006 film is also one I consider strangely cast and more on the cheesy side. This original novel (and by original, I mean the novelization that was released prior to the 1976 film as a marketing shtick) is so much more. The atmosphere of The Omen is so thick and eerie, it drew me in immediately and did not hesitate to fill me with anxiety.

While there are significant differences (obviously) between the book and what I remember from the remake, I found myself absolutely loving the book. It was horrifying, fast paced, and brutal. When I first started reading, I felt the reveal of Damien’s birth came early, and I was worried for the sake of the pacing to come, but I was pleasantly surprised that there was still so much to learn about where the boy came from. The violence was graphic without going overboard and still more or less realistic when it comes to demonic horror. This is definitely a book where you want to yell at the characters for being stupid while also seeing that these characters aren’t stupid, they are conflicted people given a choice to tell a small lie to make their lives better overall. These characters are human. Even if that makes them flawed.

Given that this novelization is written by David Seltzer, himself – the screenwriter for the 1976 film – I do want to watch the film and actually get an eyeful of what he served on the page.

Bring on the Devil.

4 stars out of 5.

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.

 

A Penguin Extravaganza

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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

Looking Back at Vintage Fantasy

Happy International Women’s Day!

In honour of the day, I wanted to take the moment to say I’m starting a new blogging series that’s focusing on female fantasy writers published between 1950 and the very early 2000s. This series will also be in video format (whether I do YouTube or IGTV, I’ve yet to decide)!

I’m going to be starting with The Elvenbane by two legends, Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey and I’m looking forward to discussing it in depth soon enough!

Do you have favourite female fantasy writer? What titles jump out at you the most? Or even better, what titles would you like me to discuss?

February Wrap-Up

February has been a bit of a rough month, but I’ve made it through and did a decent amount of reading at the same time!

While I didn’t meet my reading goal in terms of books I hoped to finish, and I also lowered my GoodReads goal from 100 down to 80, I’m proud of what I was able to read despite the things in my personal life I’m dealing with. Not to mention I did end up reading two out of three of my goal books (Six of Crows and Throne of Glass).

So far this puts me at 16/80 books read this year and I’d say that’s not too shabby!

How did you do this February?


Finished Books

  1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  2. Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells
  3. A Victorian Flower Dictionary by Mandy Kirkby
  4. Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok
  5. the mermaid’s voice returns in this one by Amanda Lovelace
  6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  7. The Strange Case of Moderate Extremists by Alexander McCall Smith

In-Progress

  1. Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James
  2. The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena
  3. Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Did Not Finish

  1. Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Coles
  2. Some Girls Bind by Rory James
  3. Limetown by Cote Smith