REVIEW: All Together Now

In April 2020 I was supposed to see Alan Doyle at Copps Coliseum (I guess people nowadays call it the 1st Ontario Center though) here in Hamilton, Ontario. The last time I saw him live was back in 2013 for a Great Big Sea anniversary tour, and while that night ended up horribly, the time I spent in the plush theatre seat singing The Night Pat Murphy Died at the top of my lungs while a drunk couple next to me did a jig in the aisle was one of the best concert experiences I’ve had.

I grew up on his music and on Great Big Sea.

And then the pandemic hit.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 2020 was a hard year for a lot of us. It was – and still is in 2021 – isolating and hopeless and just hard… So when I heard that Alan Doyle had a new book meant to be full of silly stories he’d tell at the pub I thought maybe that would cheer me up. Seeing it was called All Together Now: A Newfoundlander’s Light Tales for Heavy Times had me hitting “purchase” immediately.

Right off the bat, this book had me smirking and it wasn’t long before I was actively laughing while reading along with the audiobook narrated by Alan himself playing through my headphones. Not even a full story in and all I could think about what how aggressively and heartwarmingly Canadian this book is. I’ve never been the most patriotic of people but I do love my country and many of these shorts reminded me why. Right now our government is failing us and while there are more regular people that are also failing us than I’d like to count, a lot of what Alan wrote about reminded me of the good in Canada. The people that come together to help one another, the strangers who ask if you’re okay on the street or in a store, the people in a pub who chat over a pint or something stronger like they’ve known you for years.

I miss a lot of my friends. I miss my family. I want to be there for the people in my life who are not only struggling mentally to keep going but the handful who are at their physical limits, too.

These silly shorts by a goofy Canadian folk-rock star lifted my spirits when I was reading. It reminded me of the pleasant things in the world after so much of it is dark and sad.

Maybe one day I’ll get to see Alan Doyle in concert again and maybe I’ll be one of those lucky fans who meets him at the pub. If that ever comes around, I want to thank him for this book. It truly was light tales for heavy times and if you’re a Canadian like me who’s having a rough go of things, I highly recommend picking it up.

Cheers.

How a small business led to a found family

I have been book blogging and been a part of the “bookstagram” community for just over five years now. I’ve seen all the drama and all the scandals as well as seen people come into their own both as maturing people and skilled product photographers. It’s a community where – despite the drama that accompanies any online culture these days – content creators are constantly promoting and uplifting one another whole sharing books that we love and adore. Not only that, but we are all supporting those who have made small businesses through the book community by making bookmarks and booksleeves, mugs and clothing, jewellery, art prints, and even subscription services.

Around this time last year, I was selected as a rep for the adult romance subscription box, BaeCrate – a sister company from the team behind the increasingly successful YA (young adult) subscription service, FaeCrate. Being gifted three months worth of boxes in exchange for promoting and sharing the items in those boxes was a dream come true as a small account on Instagram. It meant more followers, more engagement with my posts, but it also meant some new friends I might not have met were it not for the rep group chat. Having purchased several FaeCrates beforehand and then seeing the unboxings for BaeCrate, I knew the items would be fantastic and the types of books selected would be a wide range which is always exciting for a mood reader such as myself who is always on the lookout for new genres to explore.

Being the only male rep was far from strange as everyone was so kind and welcoming and I had fun altering one of the items that was geared towards women (adding the word “team” in a matching font to a had that read “Headstrong Obstinate Woman”). I even got a message from Meagan, one of the owners, to make sure it wouldn’t upset me, being trans. Even now, as we prepare to say goodbye to BaeCrate to put more focus onto bigger and better projects with FaeCrate, I am so happy to be a part of the farewell rep team while also now coming to the end of my term as a first-quarter rep for FaeCrate. There has been nothing but love and kindness and friendship from everyone involved.

Both boxes have a strong focus to always been inclusive regardless of race or gender or sexual orientation. There is always something for everyone and great care goes into selecting books that are not only incredibly diverse, but also might not be as actively noticed. Indie authors are frequently featured for the eBooks that are included in every box and rarely have I noticed much of a crossover between the FaeCrate choices and the choices of other, more “high demand” subscription services. Not to mention the “hangover kits” that include exclusive goodies around sequels that come out for major series such as Red Rising, Nevernight, The Cruel Prince, and more. I’ve discovered so many amazing series and fantastic authors through both of these subscription boxes that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.

But more important, I wouldn’t have found some of the most amazing people I now have in my life. I will be forever grateful to call Meagan and Brittney my friends. I will be forever grateful for Michelle and her wild enthusiam. I will be forever grateful for Stacy and Malia and Nikki and Kaine and McKenzie and Andy and so many other incredibly people who I joke with, vent to, commission, and adore in general. In a time where everyone feels so incredibly isolated I can’t believe I am lucky enough to have friends all over the world thanks to books and to a subscription service that supplies those books.

These people have become like family to me and have supported me on some of my lowest days during the most difficult year of most of our lives. They have listened to me vent about my gender dysphoria, they have watched me enjoy some rum and rant about Yu-Gi-Oh, they have laughed as I express my love for hamentaschen cookies despite my not being Jewish, they have sent me silly anime statues to cheer me up and autographed posters of my anime husbands for my birthday. They have all been there for me when I didn’t think I had anyone else and I can’t even begin to think of how I can repay them for such kindness.

And it all happened because I was asked to take pictures of the items in a romance novel subscription box.


You can support FaeCrate by visiting their website HERE and help us send off BaeCrate by visiting HERE. For the time being, using the code LUCIEN5 on either site at checkout will give you a discount on your first order.

A Delayed List of 2021 Goals

I made a list of reading goals that I shared on my Instagram, but I hesitated writing up a blog post about them. I don’t exactly know why I hesistated, maybe because so much of 2020 left me wondering what the point was, but now that I’ve taken some time, I have found the energy to write them up in a blog post.

Reading Goals

  1. Read More Non-Fiction: I have a habit lately of becoming fixated on complicated topics and through 2020 I order several intense non-fiction books about various topics from Marxism to Japanese history to feminist film industry readings. I hope to try and read at least ONE non-fiction book each month this year and learn a little bit more about the topics I got fixated on earlier.
  2. Read More Light Novels: To those unfamiliar with the term, light novels are a kind of book that comes mostly from Japan that are more serialised novels that tend to be mostly fantasy or romance. Many are more “slice of life” rather than the kind of fantasy and romance English books fall into and I tend to feel more relaxed and connected to them. With more and more series becoming licensed for translation, I’m hoping to find more new series as well as continuing to read my favourites.
  3. Read All of One Piece: In December, I wrote my thoughts about the first ten volumes (roughly the first 90 chapters) of the famous One Piece series by Oda Eiichiro that broke records the beginning of 2021 by releasing the 1000th chapter of the longest running manga series of all time. For so long I avoided this series because of it’s length and thinking it was stupid and I’m so pleased I was wrong. I love this series and hope to be caught up by the end of the year through reading 10 volumes every month.
  4. Read What I Want, When I Want To: This one was a goal I was worried about sharing. My plan is this: No more cancelling books because of little things. Yes, authors need to be held accountable for their actions but the entire publishing industry needs to be held equally accountable. It’s exhausting to keep up with everything at every single moment, so from here on out unless it’s a problem that was expressly done with malicious intent, I don’t care. The book community continues to demand people be perfect and I’m tired of it. I’m going to read books the same way I did when I was a kid and 90% of social media platforms didn’t exist. Does it sound good? Do I like the cover? I’m going to read it. End of discussion.

Personal Goals

My personal goals are a little simpler. I want to try and find my confidence again with my writing. I want to build up my Japanese language skills again. I want to succeed in my university classes this semester while understanding that I don’t need to be perfect (a lesson I started to get better with learning during last semester – my first time back in school in 5-ish years). I’d love to find a new day job that is easier for me to manage mental health wise, but living through a global pandemic puts something of a wrench in that one so we’ll see. I’m also going to play a bit of catch-up for books I read in 2020 that I will be reading the sequels to in 2021, so expect me to be a bit more active than usually for the rest of the month.

I’d like to clean my apartment as well. I know that sounds like a silly one but as a person with mental illness living on his own, it’s difficult to stay organised especially when simply making it through the day is so draining.

There’s not much else I have to say in terms of looking forward in 2021. It’s hard to even attempt it when there’s so much uncertainty. But we’ll see how it goes.

Take care of yourselves.

Saying “No” To Book Blogging

Hi everyone. It’s been a minute since I’ve posted a review and I want to take this time to explain why.

I’ve been involved with the social media side of loving books and reading for nearly five years now. I’ve worked hard to take photos and read books and post reviews for the sake of being noticed by other bloggers as well as publishing companies in order to gain more followers and therefore be able to take part in more blogging opportunities. When I first started in the community, it was a lot different. Everyone was more or less reading the same books, the drama was kept to a minimum and mostly just involved spoilers, outrageous demands for ARCs wasn’t really a thing I was aware of. These days it seems like there is nothing but drama between authors and reviewers and publishers. Every day someone has messed up (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) and my feeds are flooded with vague tweets that require at least an hour to dig through to find any names, or call-outs for bigotted people to be cancelled, or more and more things that I just can’t keep track of anymore.

With all of the civil unrest regarding Black Lives Matter as a movement and an organization turning a human rights issue into a political one, with the harmful transphobia of a once-beloved author that will lead to the deaths of transgender children being brushed aside in the name of nostalgia, with statistics from both COVID and police brutality numbers being skewered in the name of “pro-life” religious bigotry, there is so much going on and it is hard to have the strength to keep up with everything. It is hard to find the mental and emotional and physical capacity to continue moving on when there is nothing but awful on all sides.

But you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the book community. Allow me to explain.

As all of these civil rights movements gain more and more ground, those who oppose them are doubling down on their bigotry and becoming just as vocal about why the minorities involved shouldn’t be listened to. Within the book community, there are people who don’t see the point in “forcing” Black authors’ works onto other – or other racial minorities for that matter. There are people who don’t want to listen to trans folks who are directly hurt and harmed by the foul words of J.K. Rowling because they would rather cling to their nostalgia for a series that has always been riddled with racist, anti-semitic, homo- and transphobic depictions. There are people who side with a bigotted book-themed Etsy shop owner who was using statistics listing how many people have been killed by police in 2020 to ask where the outrage was for “how many babies have been murdered” and using religion to force right-wing anti-abortion (or as I prefer to say, anti-choice) views on people. This latter example also called for her supporters to report Instagram accounts who were speaking out against her.

What hurts the most is that many of these people who I have unfollowed and/or blocked on social media have huge followings within the book community and many of these people have publishing companies among their follower counts even after months of horrible statements. Several of these people are constantly receiving ARCs for massive releases or even finished copies or several copies of both ARCs and finished copies.

There are 200 people following this blog. I have less than 200 people following my Twitter. I have 875 followers on Instagram. Compared to bloggers I look up to as well as these hurtful bloggers, these numbers are barely a fraction of what they have. Perhaps this is a selfish opinion, but every time I have worked with a publishing company, I have jumped at every opportunity, I have worked hard on blog tour posts that involve interviews as well as book reviews. I have accepted ARCs out of my preferred reading genres to prove I can and will read whatever I’m offered and do my best to put out some positive content with which the company can use to promote the book in question.

Bloggers big and small do all of this work for free that vast majority of the time.

But no matter how hard I work, my counts aren’t nearly as big as the huge accounts and therefore my time is worth even less. This means that while accounts spouting off bigotted views will still receive specially packaged exclusive ARCs for the biggest titles of the year while bloggers like me are left with the scraps.

So with all that has been happening, I have made the decision to stop being a part of blogger teams until I can be sure that these teams are properly vetted to ensure that everyone will be respected. Will I continue to just email companies directly for the bigger ARCs I would love to read? Yes. Will I continue working with the smaller authors for release posts? Yes. Will I still apply for ARCs on NetGalley? Yes. But when it comes to the publishing companies directly, I plan on saying no far more often than I plan on saying yes.

Before I learned about how to get ARCs and before I got sucked into hype holes, I just read what I wanted, when I wanted and enjoyed myself. I think we all need to get back into that kind of thinking. I think we need to remember how to care about each other.

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.

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!

2020

We’re back to the roaring 20’s and I am so honestly thrilled that 2019 is officially in the past.

It was a really tough year for me where I was kicked a lot during the times when I was down, but there were good times too. I went to my first blogger events, I took my mom to see Michelle Obama on her birthday, I got an apartment all to myself! But the tough times weigh heavily still so I’m very excited to be moving past them.

Now that it’s 2020, the start of a new decade means it’s time to set some goals regardless of whether or not I actually complete them. For my GoodReads Reading Challenge, I want to read 65 books at least and unhaul any and all books I don’t finish. I have a bad habit of putting books down and saying “Now just isn’t the right time for this book” and not picking them back up. Well no more! Life is too short and my shelves are too jammed for books that don’t interest me. The same goes for ARCs. I have so many ARCs that I was dying to get my hands on, and yet they all still sit on my shelf. I don’t plan on doing much “influencer” blogging this year, at least not until I can get through the ARCs that I already have.

I want to have a more regular posting schedule on my blog, and I’ve got a relaxed schedule all planned out in my bullet journal to stay on top of it all. So stay tuned for weekly reviews every Wednesday with a manga feature on Mondays!

In personal goals, I want to quit smoking and use the money I’ll save to get a cat. I want to finish writing my book. I want to really live my life as myself, for myself, and stop being so concerned with how other people see me. I try way too hard to try and make other people happy or to get them to like me without taking care of myself. It’s time I think about how I want to live MY life and let’s hope a brand new decade will help me do that.

So here’s to 2020 and all the lovely books I’ll have to share with you all! Below is the list of books I’m hoping to read this January!

Pastel Vintage Bike Facebook Cover

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.