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.

 

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!

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.

How Kaz Brekker Saved My Life; or A Very Personal Review of Six of Crows

While this blog post will also contain my review for Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, it will also contain subject matter some reader my find triggering. Therefore, there is a content warning for suicide and suicidal ideation.

Should you only want to read the review, simply scroll past the first section.


It has taken me a long time to get to reading the beauty of the book that is Six of Crows. With it’s beautiful cover art, and stunning black sprayed edges, it’s a treasure on my shelves even if only to look at. There’s no real reason why I haven’t read it before now, but I will admit to reading it now primarily because I was told I’d get more from King of Scars (Bardugo’s latest book in the Grishaverse) if I did. I went into it thinking I knew what I was signing up for: a teen version of Peaky Blinders with more diversity and a touch of magic. As usual, I got a lot more than that, but I wasn’t expecting just how much more I got.

As followers of mine may know, I lost my 12-year-old cousin a year ago to suicide and it’s something I’m not ashamed to admit I’m still very much struggling to handle. As someone who has suffered very serious and very chronic depression along with being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, suicide is something that is constantly haunting me.

Does this mean that I, myself, am suicidal?

At one point it did but I’ve gotten a little better at handling the dark days to the extend it’s more like intrusive thinking on it’s own rather than an impulsive urge to follow through on said intrusive thoughts. It’s background noise that gets louder on bad days, but still background noise. Since losing my cousin to something that I’ve thought about so intensly over the years, the noise is harder to quiet. Considering my life is not nearly where I was hoping and wanting it to be right now, it’s especially hard to ignore.

My day job is not ideal. The feeling of being a burden to those around me is suffocating. Being 24-years-old and not even really knowing who I am in my own head, let alone to the world around me, feels embarrassing when I see those around me who are younger and still more successful. These are things that make the noise loudest and sometimes it’s to the point where it’s hard to breathe.

In the past I’ve tried to keep thinking of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones or even hyper focusing on anime like Naruto, Bleach and Full Metal Alchemist for motivation to keep moving forward (a prominent line from FMA) but those things always taper out and fade away and I’m stuck scrambling to find something else to chase away the overwhelming pressure of depression.

So where does Six of Crows come in?

Right now.

The moto of the gang (essentially) run by Kaz Brekker is “No mourners. No funerals.” To paraphrase the book itself, this passes between members of The Dregs as “good luck”. But to me, it spoke to the background noise telling me “Hey, wouldn’t things just be easier if you stepped in front of the bus?” It told this voice, this noise, “No. There will be no mourners. There will be no funerals.”

6c413a0f076a683ae908f290fdbe95dbTo me, it’s a reminder of the hardships that come with death. It points at my cousin’s still mourning family and says, “Do you really want that to happen instead?”. There are many books I can get lost in for hours at a time to simply forget what’s going on around me or to help me ignore the storms of conflict that are raging in my head. No mourners. No funerals. can calm the anxiety that tightens my throat when the last thing I want to do is be a cashier. It can remind me that there are people who care about me without sounding patronizing. It’s a warm blanket in the rain that pushes me to make things better myself. And that’s what Leigh Bardugo has given me.

She has taken spite as motivation and given it a strength and a voice that I can hear in my own head and use with my own strength.

Mental illness is different for every person who deals with it, but that’s the thing. We deal with it. And sometimes it’s impossibly hard to just deal with something that makes us legitimately considering the possibility that ending our lives will make it easier for those around us and even for ourselves. Let that sink it. Death as something easier. Coping is hard no matter the healthy or unhealthy method being used, because coping isn’t a solution. But it’s something that can keep us going which is so important.

Therapy and medication are proven to help, but therapy isn’t always accessible and medication doesn’t always provide ideal help as often the side effects outweigh the positives. If you are capable of trying either of these methods, I encourage you to. But if you are unable to find at least one thing to keep you moving forward. It doesn’t matter how small that thing is or how insignificant you think it might be to someone else. It does not matter what it is long as it matters to you. For me it’s this quote. It’s not wanting to put those I care about through mourning and funerals.

So this is the story of how Kaz Brekker, the Bastard of the Barrel and a very seriously fictional character, showed me that spite and perseverance can be enough. That it’s okay if that’s enough. Because as long as there are no mourners and no funerals, everything will still be moving forward. And maybe that will be okay.

And, please, if you are depressed: tell someone. If you want to die: tell someone. If you have no one to tell, I will listen to all venting. Just send me an email. If you’re struggling, there is no need to struggle alone.


THE BOOK REVIEW

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk on my personal experiences coping with mental illness. If you skipped it, thank you for coming to this review.

Six of Crows takes The Grisha Trilogy to the level the world truly deserves. The third person perspective makes the narrative so much stronger and using what I’ve been calling “the A Song of Ice and Fire method”, switching between characters every chapter is great (and with a much more manageable cast size than ASOIAF).

The Dregs we meet in this book are Kaz Brekker – the ring leader and best known criminal in the slums of Ketterdam, Inej Ghafa – Kaz’s secret finder and Wraith of Ketterdam, Jesper Fahey – gunner, gambler, and secret Grisha, and Nina Zenik – ex-member of the Ravkan Second Army and known Heartrender. We also get to know the latest Dreg still proving himself, Wylan Van Eck – son of a promenant merchant and explosives expert, and Matthias Helvar – a Fjerdan Grisha hunter.

This band of misfits joins together for the biggest heist of their careers and wind up stuck in a trap bigger than they planned for.

I loved the way each character bonded and how their motivations were all so entirely different and yet they were still so supportive of each other. I loved how this book had my heart racing at every twist to the point that it actually took me almost three weeks to finish it (something unheard of when it comes to how fast I normally read).

The diversity of the characters and even how their different cultures kept clashing just made the world feel so much more real and alive than it did in The Grisha Trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a supporter of the original trilogy, but the growth in Leigh Bardugo’s writing is an absolute honour to see.

I do think that the best part of the book is definitely Kaz. I felt a real connection to him and his constant anger hidden behind fierce nonchalance and sass. I related to his dislike of being touched and appreciated that while his emotions changed throughout the story, that his ticks remained the same. He’s come to mean a lot to me, even if he is fictional.

While being very late to this party, I adored this book from cover to cover and once I have recovered from the ending, I look forward to the beauty that is my red sprayed hardcover of Crooked Kingdom that has been sitting on my shelf since release day.

#JulyBookstagram Day 7

I’ve skipped a few days because I’m trying this new thing where I don’t force myself to do photos. I’m never happy with my photos when I do that so I’m trying something new. But here we are on this lovely Saturday with a new post!

Today’s challenge theme is Want To Re-Read, and my choice for that is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I adore this book so much and am planning to re-read it (along with the sequel) later this year. The only downside to loving this series so much is that it’s got GRRM Syndrome – meaning that it’s taking forever for the final book to come out.

What’s a book you’re planning to re-read this year? Do you have a go-to re-read?


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Join in the fun on Instagram!

 

Fun with Ahsoka Tano

Yesterday was a wonderful day here in Toronto. The weather was cool, I spent the day with my best friend, and – better yet – I got to meet one of my favourite Star Wars characters, Ahsoka Tano!!

her-universe-lego-dress.jpgI have adored the Her Universe clothes line from the moment I first heard of it, and during a fashion show livestream I watched from SDCC, I died when I learned that the one making all the sure cool Ahsoka clothing was Ahsoka herself!! Ashley Eckstein is such a bundle of joy and nerdiness I’ve wanted her to come to Toronto for ages now. Any Clones Wars or even Rebels fans know how important Ahsoka is and how strong she is as a character. Her development through five seasons of one show and then her several appearances in the other mean the world to me. So when Ashley posted on Instagram she was coming to the Eaton Centre, I couldn’t say no.

The reason she was coming was to promote her new book, It’s Your Universe: You Have The Power To Make It Happen. Flipping through it in line, the book is part autobiography and part inspirational guide to making your dreams come true. It’s about showing how someone who has been told nothing but “No” or “You can’t do that” can still be a success and achieve dreams others felt impossible. It can be for children or for adults because at the end of the day, we could all use being told to never give up no matter how impossible our dreams my seem.

The signing itself was held in the Eaton Centre’s Hot Topic (a dark place I haven’t set foot in in ages) and felt to take forever, but for once I didn’t mind waiting in line in a store that was a thousand degrees. No, I’m serious. Ashley – and surprise guest E.K. Johnston – were taking their time and talking to every single fan that was there. She was asking people who their favourite character was, why they came to see her, if they liked Rebels or Clone Wars better, and then thanking every single fan for taking time out of their day to come down. Not only that, but E.K. and Ashley were also taking pictures with everyone.

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It was probably one of the best book signing experiences of my life and I am still so happy I got to meet Ashley Eckstein while decked out in Star Wars everything. (She even complimented my Mud Trooper hat from the Smuggler’s Bounty Solo box)

PS. – I had already had the honour of meeting E.K. Johnston when I was at March Toronto Comic Con, but it was so nice to see her again. She’s a lovely person and I always love hearing authors and celebrities geek the hell out over things. I love her.