REVIEW: The First Sister

Thank you to Simon & Schuster as well as NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book.


When I first saw the cover for Linden A Lewis’s debut novel, The First Sister, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it. The second I stated it, I fell in love with each of the characters immediately and didn’t want to put it down.

The story follows three POVs between The First Sister – a priestess aboard a starship headed to the moon Mars where the Gean people reside, Lito sol Lucius – a soldier who fought with the Icarii during the Battle of Ceres, and Hiro val Akira – Lito’s battle partner who has gone rogue and disappeared. Each of the POVs is written is first person which confused me slightly with the first few chapters, but I quickly got the hang of it and each character has such a distinct way of talking, it is easy to remember who is talking.

The comp titles for this book were Red Rising (by Pierce Brown) and Handmaid’s Tale(by Margaret Attwood), but I honestly felt it was closer to Red Rising meets Dune (by Frank Herbert) with a hint of Star Trek in there. The Sisterhood, the main religion of the Geans that also happens to run their government, strongly made me think of a more dictatorial version of the Bene Gesserit from Dune in the way that the training is strict and aggressive and the rules must be followed to a T or else there are drastic consequences. The addition of these priestesses acting as consorts or concubines in a sense just added to that and made me think of Jessica from Dune. When it came to the levels of society within the Icarii race and the advanced technologies they have, that’s really where theRed Rising aspect fits so well. The rankings of society and the commentary on how poverty works within this alternate future really reflected our current society where the poor “don’t deserve” basic things like fresh food or proper living conditions, or even medicine. The two clashing societies were also fascinating and the natural vs altered debate was a curious one especially given that the genetically altered (read as: perfected) Icarii honestly have a better way of life in a lot of ways compared to the Geans.

But what hit hardest was the characters.

The First Sister was thrust into the Sisterhood because she was housed in a Sisterhood funded orphanage. She was stripped of her voice and her dreams and her freedom to become a part of a religion she didn’t entirely understand. Lito risked it all to rise up from the lower levels and make it into the military where he met Hiro, only to be punished for the military’s failure in battle. Hiro… I have a lot of thoughts about Hiro.

<< SPOILERS >>

To avoid spoilers, please scroll down until you see << >> again.

Hiro is a non-binary character. A person who has faced ridicule and abuse at the hands of his father as well as classmates and superiors. They lost their mother who couldn’t bare it all. They were shown the horrors of the world and couldn’t stand to turn away from them again. After the failure of the Battle of Ceres (set before the events of the book), Hiro was terribly wounded and instead of being allowed to rest, they were drugged and mutilated, shaped into the female warrior who had nearly killed Hiro and Lito, both. Lito was able to make Hiro feel welcomed, feel loved and cared for, and began to love themselves as a result of that, only to be forced into a gendered role by the people who dislike and/or disprove of them.

Reading these moments, as a trans person, hit so hard. It is so hard to explain to cisgendered people what it is like to be perceived as someone you are not, to be seen as something you are not. Hiro being forced into a female body for the sake of espionage and being unable to look at themselves or feel at all like themselves is something I’ve felt personally (well, maybe not the espionage part) and it is the most painful thing in the world. For these reasons, Hiro is a character I immediately grew attached to and I wish I had a friendship, a bond, with some like Lito the same way he has bonded with Hiro.

<< END SPOILERS >>

Another thing with this book that I really appreciated was the depiction of Japanese. I am white and English is the only language I’m fluent in. However, I can understand several languages including Japanese. This was the first time I’ve read a book that didn’t romanize the Japanese dialogue and instead included hiragana, katakana, and kanji to spell out the words. The same was done for the small instances of Chinese that were in the book. I’ve read a lot of books (and even more anime fanfiction) that have romanized Japanese in them and there was always something that felt off to me about it, so seeing it this way in a sense felt more authentic and respectful to the language.

I would honestly be really curious to hear what other people think in regard to this formatting of language in books. I know that romanizing it makes in “more accessible” to those who don’t speak the language but I think it’s little things like this that can prompt avid readers to learn a few words here and there in other languages. It’s not hard to look up a character chart or to put a sentence through google translate, but even literary fiction like Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman has large sections in Italian or Latin that aren’t translated. Even Lord of the Rings or Star Wars have lengthy moments of made up languages that aren’t translated but we all get the gist. If we’ve reached a point in the world where you take university level classes in Klingon, we can all take a moment to learn a few phrases in Japanese using the proper character alphabet.

But back to the book.

As is usual with science fiction, there were lulls in this, and I did find myself wondering where the story could go in order to carry out a full trilogy, but the last handful of chapters had me majorly freaking out. With several plot twists happening all at once, It really is a thrill ride and Ineed more of it. The chess pieces are set, and a few have fallen, but the real game is only just beginning.

Facing the Mind Killer: a review of DUNE

As I previously wrote, this month I decided to tackle a book that I’ve been afraid of reading for as long as I can remember, Frank Herbert’s DUNE.

It took me a week to get through it and I reveled in every page. It’s taken me longer to get to this review because I wasn’t sure how to go about it. There is so much to this book that I haven’t been able to find in any other book I’ve read or loved. It has set a new standard for epic fiction and I don’t think I’ll be able to find in anything else what I found in DUNE.

The story is Paul’s, though it strongly features the goings on that surround him and dictate his every action. The long and short of it is that the Great Houses are warring over the spice planet known as Arrakis. Spice is highly addictive and mind-altering natural drug that can only be found on this one planet, making it worth more than worth it’s weight in profits. Along with this political turmoil, there is religious turmoil as a group of women known as the Bene Gesserit see a male of legend capable of the “witchery” that they are. But in their search, the Freeman of Arrakis have their own legend of this same person. Paul is believed to be this man of legend by more than one group of people and he needs to fight not only in this war for the planet, but the war inside of him as he discovers what his true destiny is… or if he even wants it.

The way the book is written, third person narrative, we get to see inside of everyone’s head. We know what Paul is thinking at the exact same time we learn what his mother is thinking in the same moment. For too long the “single character” POV, as made popular by George R.R. Martin in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, has been the way of writing genre fiction and I’m going to be honest: I hate it. It adds nothing to the stories and creates moments of boredom if there’s an unlikeable character. Herbert’s way of putting all of the cards on the table makes the chess match of the politics game within the book not only more manageable, but creates some incredible tension. We, as the readers, know who is double crossing who, but the characters themselves do not. The screaming match I had with this book over Duke Leto is laughable because of how invested this way of story telling got me. 

The ideas behind tackling the mind and conquering emotions through strict mental training were fascinating and I really got a lot of insight into myself because of it. Fear is the mind killer, as Jessica says. 

As thrilled as I am at how much I loved this story, I will be honest and say that my fears are now directed at the new movie. I’ll keep my opinions to myself on that matter until we have a trailer, so stay tuned, but I do also plan on reading the rest of the series within the coming months, so stay tuned.

Why I’m Afraid of DUNE

One of the greatest science fiction series of all times is Frank Herbert’s, Dune. Six books in the saga and they’re still timeless through the intense political and religious commentary as well as the unforgettable world building.

Everything about Dune has my name written all over it.

So why am I afraid of it?

As a kid, there was a “rule” in my house, and that rule was “There is no such thing as a Dune movie”. It was a running joke as I got older that included an irrational dislike of David Lynch (who I’m still not a fan of) and legitimately telling people I didn’t believe them when they mentioned the 1984 adaptation that featured Sting (yes, the singer) in one of the main roles. That alone made it pretty easy to say I didn’t believe people.

What did exist were the first six books by Frank Herbert and the 2000 miniseries (that starred Alec Newman as Paul), nothing more. I have the vaguest of memories of watching the miniseries and having a huge crush on Paul, but I’ve never read the books, and if you asked me the plot I couldn’t tell you.

To this day I can give you three facts about the series. 1) Paul is the main character, 2) There are giant, phallic-looking sandworms that eat people, and 3) there’s something going on with spice.

So again, you’re probably still wondering why I’m afraid of reading this series.

If I didn’t make it clear enough, this series has been a huge part of my childhood even if I know little about it. My mom is a huge Dune fan and I admire the original books so much and how they shaped my mom’s love of science-fiction, therefore shaping my love of science-fiction. Because of all of that, I’ve always been afraid I’ll miss something, that the allegories and metaphors will go over my head, or – even worse – that I won’t like it.

Is all of this completely silly? Absolutely. But this is the struggle of an avid reader with high expectations and crippling anxiety.

Either way I’m going in. Stay tuned to more thoughts.

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.

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.

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.

REVIEW: The Test

There are very few companies that I have complete and utter faith in, but one of the companies lucky enough to have my trust is Tor Books. The novellas this publisher puts out are always so original, so out there, and so entirely amazing. I’ve honestly yet to read one that I haven’t liked.

Wanting something quick to read this week, I picked up my copy of The Test by Sylvain Neuvel. It is an understatement to say I was not prepared for it. The novella tackles a citizenship test in the not-so-distant future of England. Idir is the one taking the test on behalf of his whole family, saving his wife and his children the pressures of it, and keeping their chances high (only one in three people actually pass this test). But Idir may have signing on for more than he expected when the test goes from questions about football to a choice of life and death.

Not only is this novella very timely given the world’s political climate being more and more radicalized in terms of xenophobic propaganda and hate breeding propaganda, but it is so wild of a ride, it puts you right there in the room with Idir as he is forced to choose who lives and who dies. Reading it gave me the same emotional confusion as the film adaptation of the Stanford Prison Experiment did. It is raw and intense, pulling biases and aggressions towards anyone who is “other” to society that one might not even think of right away. It’s more than a story about racism and the way it unfolds so quickly makes for some serious edge-of-your-seat reading.

This is my first time reading Sylvain Neuvel’s work and damn do I look forward to reading more of his work. As uncomfortable as I felt at times while whipping through this novella, it was so strong and powerful that I hope to hear more of Neuvel’s voice in his other works.

(EARLY) REVIEW: Docile

Thank you to Tor Books and my friend, Ash, for a copy of this gorgeous ARC.

Please note that this book does contain trigger warnings for the following: dubious consent, sexual assault, mental and physical abuse, and also contains some BDSM content.


Docile is a story about voluntary slavery as the debt crisis of the world has reached a tipping point. Everyone inherits their entire family’s line of debt, putting some people multiple millions of dollars behind in the world. Their choices are to risk being thrown in prison for avoiding payments or sell their debt to the highest bidder in exchange for a few years of their lives. As a Docile, people have the choice to inject a memory-wiping formula or to be entirely aware of what is happening to them, and the work is not always something pleasant.

Four years ago, Elisha’s mother sold a million dollars of her debt in exchange for 10 years of her life, and she has never been the same. With three million in cumulative debt from his parents, Elisha makes the decision to sell himself in his sister’s place to make her future a better one. He also makes the decision to refuse Dociline, the “medicine” that took his mother away from him.

And this is how Elisha become a private, off-med Docile for the heir to the Dociline empire, Dr. Alexander Bishop the Third.

Set to be released in March of this year, K.M. Szpara’s Docile is a lot. When I first heard about it, heard that it was being referred to as a “gay Handmaid’s Tale“, I knew I just needed to get my hands on it. What I got was more than that. If Handmaid’s Tale was mashed into the forefront of My Fair Lady, then the comparison would be a little more accurate and it gave me life. It has been a long time since a new book has hitched my breath, pained my heart, and brought me to tears. It has been even longer since a book has overwhelmed me to the point of a mild panic attack, but that’s a more personal side of things.

I loved this book from start to finish and revelled in the characters of both Elisha and Alex. Seeing both of their POVs throughout the story gave both of them so much depth and really expressed their growth over the course of the narrative. The world-building is perfection for a low-sci-fi novel set in the real world and Szpara’s writing really sets in the feeling of dread that stuff like this is entirely capable of happening within the next few years.

Given we’re still a little over a full month away from the release of this book, I don’t want to say too much about it just yet, but I will say this:

Please pre-order this book from your local bookstore. Whether that means Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, or even Amazon, please pre-order this book.

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: Red Rising

During July, I tried my best to participate in the FaeCrate #bloodydamnfae Red Rising read-a-long, but sadly was too caught up in other things to finish it on time.

BUT I FINISHED IT NOW AND BLOODYDAMN HELL WHAT

HOW DID IT TAKE ME THIS LONG TO GET INTO THIS SERIES?!

The story follows Darrow, one of the best miners in his colony beneath the surface of Mars. After his wife, Eo, is martyred, Darrow has a choice to give up or fight for what the girl died in hopes of. Darrow is then thrust into a world he isn’t entirely prepared for, fighting fights without rules against those who were ready for all of it.

Immediately, I was hypnotized but Darrow’s distinct narrative style that Pierce Brown brings. There’s a harshness, a bluntness, there that shows the jagged edge of a young man that Darrow has while also melting it all away when he talks about love and family. Darrow is so observant and self-disciplined and it’s incredibly unique. Considering how aggressive and full of rage he is as a character, Darrow is the kind of alpha male that doesn’t suffer from the nonsense that is toxic masculinity.

Thinking of toxic masculinity, Red Rising is such a great example of not only classism and nepotism, but also of privilege in general and how that plays a factor in the toxic behaviour of some of the male characters. For some minor spoiler alerts, as the plot gets into something of a Lord of the Flies situation, the rougher boys turn to horrible acts of mutilation, slave driving, and sexual assault of the girls who are weaker than them. Darrow and a few of the others oppose these actions right away, but the way Darrow earns over the trust of the rest is a thing of beauty. Even as he consults with victims of abuse later in the book, it’s a true look at how victims should be treated.

I’m honestly at a loss for words over this one.

It did get a little slow in the middle while Darrow was in his transformation, this 400 page paperback is such an intense read it goes by in a blink. I love the characters, I love the world, and I want more as soon as humanly possible.

Bloodydamn brilliant.