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.

REVIEW: Temper

Thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC.

Layne Fargo’s debut novel, Temper, is a thrill ride of obsession, passion, and what it means to be devoted to art more than well-being. Pitched in an email from NetGalley as something fans of the Darren Aronofsky film, Black Swan, would love, I figured I would give it a try and request. For the first time in a stupidly long time, I have been presented with a book that is exactly what I was told it would and so, so much more.

For fear of giving away any good stuff, I will make a lot of this vague, but the story follows two points of view, one from Kira and the other from Joanna. Kira is an actress fighting to make ends meet while she strives for her big break. Joanna is one of he two people behind one of the larger theatre companies in Chicago looking for what she truly wants. The one thing that ties these two together is a script written by an unknown author and the man who plays the lead, Malcolm Mercer.

When I say this book is like Black Swan, I am only talking about the aspect of passion, and striving for that perfection while being allowed to feel and move through a scene, through a performance as though it could be reality. That is really where the comparison ends and it because a dance of psychological warfare between unmovable forces. This is where I would compare it to the play adaptation of Venus in Fur (my favourite show of all time).

The way every character moves around the others is so complex as they all become intertwined to the point of being knotted in each others’ faces is hypnotic. The layers so carefully worked that even the predictable is set up as though that was the purpose of the moment. I saw the ending coming a mile away – the principle of Chekhov’s Gun is very real here – but I didn’t care because that didn’t change how beautifully executed it was. It’s a cyclical story of desperation and egos and arrogance while also one of desire, love, jealousy, and what it means to be obsessed with perfection.

I almost hate the degree these characters had me obsessing over them, but it has been a long time since a character like Malcolm Mercer has had my little queer heart racing. Even Kira had me wishing I was her more than once, while I’ve felt Joanna’s pain so viscerally it almost made me want to cry. I know these people, I want to be these people, I am afraid of these people, and I love all of it.

I know I am absolutely gushing without giving much substance here but this is a book I highly recommend going into as blind as possible. Don’t read the reviews on GoodReads. Skim the synopsis on the back. Pick this up and let it eat you whole. You won’t regret it.

REVIEW: Red, White, and Royal Blue

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an eARC of the book.

One of my most anticipated reads of the year and so far my favourite read of the year, Casey McQuiston’s debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue, follows an enemies to lovers romance plot between the son of the first female President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, and the second born Prince of England, Prince Henry of Wales. While being a romance novel first, the story also tackles some poignant socio-political issues in the US as well as the stagnant traditions of English royalty and is so much more than “a simple romance novel”.

Right from the start I loved Alex. He’s constantly moving, thinking, feeling, and being a hilariously obnoxious little prick and the way he thinks about this just felt so alive. He feels real despite the circumstances of the story. Henry came more to life the further I got into the story but it didn’t take long for him to grow on my either. Even the more secondary main characters like Nora, June, Pez, and Bea feel like good friends with how warmly they’re written.

There was a decent amount of suspension of belief in this one, but it didn’t matter. While it covered the impending doom of the GOP, it still felt hopeful. From a political view (and despite my being very much Canadian), it felt like there was still hope that humanity isn’t all terrible and there are still people fighting the good fight for those who need and deserve a better life than the one the current real-world majority is trying to deny them. There are young people and “adultier” adults who are doing their damnedest to make the world a better place and this book is a reminder of that wrapped up in a queer romance screaming to the world to chose the life you want not the one everyone is tell you to choose.

The sexual content in the book was incredibly well done, giving readers a little more than just a “fade too black” without being too explicit either. And given the content, I was really happy to be reading about characters in their 20s rather than 17- or 18-year-olds like usual. The world needs more queer stories that aren’t about barely legal high schoolers/college freshmen.

While this book may look like it is targeted towards teens, the novel is definitely more of a new adult title in terms of content and even reading level. That being said, this is definitely an important book to read and I would easily recommend it to anyone looking for a hopeful story like this that spares us the violent homophobia that often borders on sympathy/suffering porn I see in a lot of queer stories.

All in all, this is so far my top read of the year and I’m so excited for everyone to bear witness to this wild ride of a political romance.

REVIEW: Spectacle

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the ARC

I went into this one based on what I was hearing from others who were reading it (and enjoying it) so I was definitely intrigued. The Stalking Jack the Ripper vibes were strong with the description so I was excited at what the story would be like.

Spectacle takes place in the late 1800s in Paris, following Nathalie as she works as in secret as the morgue reporter for a large newspaper. While taking a look at the first of several murder victims killed by The Dark Artist, Nathalie touches the glass separating the viewing room from the display room and sees a glimmer of the girl’s murder as it happens in reverse. Her visions get clearer and more disturbing as the murders themselves violently escalate.

For the most part, I really liked the writing style and Jodie Lynn Zdrok has a really great voice. Spending my disbelief in regards to a 16-year-old girl writing for a newspaper in the 1800s, I still really liked Nathalie (and really, she’s not much different than Audrey from SJTR) and her tenacity to write and be involved in such a grisly task and basically recapping the previously night’s murders. Her friendships seemed really natural and her fear felt real.

I loved the accuracy of her family’s relationship with each other and was also fascinated by the depiction of her aunt’s mental

But here’s where the spoilers in my opinions come in.

My issue with the book was that it had me almost 99% and then they introduced the plot point that Nathalie’s powers made her part of a group known as the “Insighters”. Many of these Insighters got their powers through blood transfusions and the whole “secret society” feel about the reveal just didn’t grab me. I’m sorry to say I cared even less.

I skimmed the next dozen chapters hoping for something good, but it just seemed to drag for the remainder of the book. The last chapter, too, was a not a well done lead-in to the next book and it didn’t feel satisfying at all. It just… ended.

I guess I just went in with my expectations too high and ended up letting myself down. What I will say though, is that even though this might not be a series for me, I’ll still be keeping an eye on Jodie Lynn Zdrok’s future releases because her writing style is definitely worth another chance.

REVIEW: the mermaid’s voice returns in this one.

Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy
the mermaid’s voice returns in this one is available March 5th, 2019

I’ve loved Amanda Lovelace’s work since her first collection and even though I don’t know her personally, I want to mention how proud I am of her for her women are some kind of magic series.

I really enjoyed this final instalment of her first series and can truly see the growth in her poetry in comparison to the princess saves herself in this one. That being said, I did struggle with getting through this one. Rather than being able to read it over the course of a few hours as I was able to do with the previous two books, this one hit closer to home. As a victim of assault myself, it pressed on a lot of nerves in a way that I’m not yet ready to deal with, which meant taking many breaks in between poems in order to collect myself.

I more or less knew that would be the case and definitely appreciate that Amanda’s books all begin with a reminder to practice self-care, even while reading her poems. This is a strong and viscerally real collection on what it means to survive as a victim and not. It reads like a slap in the face for a lot of the poems, but not in a bad way. It’s a reminder to be strong and that you are strong even when you don’t think you are.

So thank you, Amanda, not only for your poetry, but for the message behind each word. Not all of us have a voice, so thank you for sharing yours so that we might find our own.

REVIEW: Slayer

As many of my friends know, my hero is Buffy Summers. I wrote essay after essay on why she was so important to me. I had several seasons of both Buffy and Angel memorized. I drafted letters to the creators and show runners. I avidly read the comics every month. She is and always will be my number one idol.

So to say I went into this book with the bar high is to put it mildly.

Slayer follows Athena (aka. Nina) as she is constantly brushed aside by the rest of the remaining Watchers, her mother included. After Buffy threatens the world again, Nina ends up as the world’s newest, and final, Slayer. As if things couldn’t get any worse for a girl who’s whole life has been ruined by Buffy Summers time and time again.

I won’t lie, this book started off a little rocky, and I was concerned I wasn’t going to get into it since I had a hard time connecting to Nina in the beginning, but the second the ball really gets rolling, I was hooked. Nina’s struggles to come to terms with being the Slayer were really interesting to me because I’d never really seen anti-Slayer attitudes from anyone but bad guys in the show. The rational of the Watchers was really interesting and what I loved the most was that Kiersten White tied it in to the movie!!! I know next to no people who have seen the terrible Buffy movie but I love it and was so happy that it’s properly tied into the canon along with the connections made to the comic books.

For all y’all new fans, knowledge of the show is recommended, but not necessary. Same goes for those who haven’t read the comics. It’s a great way to dive into this 90s classic and I hope it inspires people to go back and watch the show regardless of whether they’ve seen it already or not.

I’m so happy that this turned out well and can’t wait for book two in the series.

REVIEW: The Little Book Cafe

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the ARC

This collection of Georgia Hill’s The Little Book Cafe trilogy follows the lives of three small-town women as they re-evaluate their relationships, their goals, and their lives in general. When I requested the book through NetGalley, I went into thinking cheesy Hallmark-movie romance, but I got so much more than that.

Tash’s Story

Book one follows Tash, a well-to-do estate agent manager with the perfect job, the perfect house, and the perfect – wealthy – boyfriend. But not all is as it seems as Tash starts to become unsure of her actions as well as Adrian’s. With the help of friends who also take part in charity marathons as well as the new book club, it’s up to Tash to figure out what she really wants.

Tash’s story is one of an abusive relationship as she starts to pick up on the gaslighting and the psychological abuse that comes with being physically intimidated. The way the story unravels and how Tash puts the pieces together is incredibly realistic and I appreciate the way the author approached the subject despite the series being an over-all light-hearted set of stories. I admire Tash as a character and really enjoyed her progression.

I will say though, trigger warnings for domestic and implied animal abuse.

Emma’s Story

Emma’s story was more in line with what I was expecting in terms of over-all tone. She is Tash’s right hand at the real estate agency, but struggling to keep her head above water financially. Her family is struggling, her relationship is suffering, things are not going Emma’s way. When she starts doing something for herself by taking an English Lit course, she thinks she has found something in the teacher.

The conflict in this one is very on brand to “typical romance” archetypes. Emma and Ollie aren’t happy so she looks to her intellectually attractive teacher, Joel. However the main focus of the story is communication is important to let those around you know what you want. Emma’s biggest issue is she feels bored with Ollie as he is so focused on being a volunteer is the small town’s equivalent to the coast guard and wants something new, without telling Ollie any of this.

I like Emma a lot as she represents – to me – the struggling youth who have decent, secure jobs but are still struggling to make ends meet. She represents that the grass isn’t always greener and that other side may only make matters worse when they should be getting better. Communication is key.

Amy’s Story

Amy, manager of the Little Book Cafe and leader of the book club, probably has the most relatable story line. She’s incredibly kind, smart, and talented, but taken for granted by many because she is soft spoken and self-conscious. Her mother picks on her, she doesn’t feel she has many friends, and she was even left at the alter by a man who didn’t even respect her enough to call it off face-to-face. But Amy is in love with a local author and dreads the one-sidedness of it all as she doesn’t want to risk their friendship.

I loved the heartache in this final part of the collection and enjoyed watching Amy slowly begin to believe in herself as she shows everyone in the town what she is capable of doing. Patrick is a wonderful love interest and it was just such a lovely way to close out the trilogy.

Final Thoughts

I really loved this little collection. It was a lot more engaging than I was expecting – in the best of ways – and I definitely plan on reading Georgia Hill’s previous collection that seems to have much of the same cast, Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe, as well as keeping an eye out for her future works. If you want something fun and cozy, I definitely recommend picking up this trilogy all-in-one collection.