Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

Melancholic Parables Cover

Reading Melancholic Parables is like listening to someone speaking what sounds like gibberish but you understand every word.

What is this book, this compilation of microstories? It’s about all those tiny thoughts that run through your head, which you’ve never bothered to ask if anyone else wonders too. How would it feel to live your life twice, if you remembered everything? Is that weird feeling of being watched because of time-travelling tourists? What if there was a language in the dial-up modem buzz? Bellatrix Sakakino wonders along with you, and lives through the answers. That’s part of this book. But that’s not all of it, not exactly. This is a book about being born in the wrong time, the wrong body, the wrong world. It is a book about failing to belong. It is a book about loneliness.

The microstories are absurd and deeply meaningful. I found myself wanting to quote them, but all-too-often unable to pull apart passages into neat quote-sized fragments, because sentences hung on paragraphs, on microstories, on the book.

“Not every book is for every reader. A book must rhyme with you, or you with it.”

This is a witty, clever book, but it’s also a dark work: a work of uneasy ghosts and climate change, of loving your abuser and hating yourself. It might be better for me if this book didn’t rhyme. But it does. This is a book for me. It might be for you, too.

Preorder Melancholic Parables ahead of 29 November 2022 at Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple Books, or Smashwords.

(We received an advance copy of the book for review purposes.)

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

The Pink and the Blue cover

Merey’s books lodge themselves in my heart, take up residence somewhere near the left auricle, leave me breathless and internally bleeding. His books are raw and visceral and they hurt like memory.

The characters in The Pink and the Blue are drawn in their truest sense, sometimes so transparent that you can see the city through their outlines, sometimes melting off the page, sometimes with limbs scattered around the bedroom. It’s body horror, but the horror is that it reflects a reality that we fail to observe when we look at a person in meatspace and think they are whole, think they are okay. As always, art is truer than life, because art is not bound by physics or convention.

I got this book in physical form because I needed to touch it. It’s hard to explain why. It’s digital art, and there’s a note that the colours are brighter in the pdf version. But I need to touch the pages, to run my fingertips over the smooth paper of textured pixels and images of cut outs. I needed the book to be as real in my hands as it is in my heart.

You can find it here.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

Phantom of Nob Hill theater cover

We were given a review copy of The Phantom of Nob Hill Theater in exchange for an honest review.

This book is ridiculous in the best possible way. John Luke Maxwell wrote a gay romance with enough spice to burn off the roof of your mouth. An ordinary guy falls in love with his former porn-star crush, who is also a top-notch chef, painter, and sleuth. Named, appropriately enough, Holmes. Good thing too, since crimes seem to be piling up all over the place. The world needs a man with a smoking pipe, deductive reasoning, and several pairs of tearaway pants, and Holmes is up to the job. Very up for it.

The writing in this book is solid, but the style is playful. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. I never had a moment’s concern that the men might fall short of their happy ever after, but I was still curious enough about the murder mystery to stay engaged the whole way through.

A perfect book for a summer read! Find it on Amazon here.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

In Flames cover

In Flames opens with Sera telling us, “I am attuned to three things: blood, fire, and love”, and this book delivers on all three.

Sera is a sorceress with a rare gift for predicting love matches, and when she goes to college—a magical medical school—she meets her own celestial matches. But nothing is as she expected. Instead of one partner, she’s matched with two men, and they matched with each other as well as her. And the college itself holds darker secrets, secrets of blood and murder. Sera and her partners need to fight for their match to survive.

This book is in the best tradition of magical dark academia. Imagine a grown-up, poly Harry Potter. A sexy Ninth House. I’d originally been quizzical about the idea of a matchmaking sorceress, but I loved the worldbuilding of a sex-positive culture where love is considered divinely inspired. The world exists at an intersection of magic and technology, where sorcerers text each other on their phones and hockey fans are kept magically warm in the arena stands. Then, of course, the mystery calls into question the entire society which built this so-called school of healing. It’s a delightful play on a familiar genre, and I was left hoping for a sequel where I could see something of the world outside the school.

“But I’ll burn for you, Seraphina. I’ll burn for you if you ask me to.”

Then there’s the romance plotline, which is sizzlingly hot. There is a reason this book is called In Flames. Do not read this book in a drought or you might be accused of arson. I adored Seri, Alexi, and Dario, and it was pure delight to have a novel where no one had to choose between love interests in a love triangle. I will avoid spoilers, but I’ll leave you with two words to end this review: hot chocolate.

We received a review copy of In Flames. Get your copy here.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

by Sabitha F.

Ghost in the Vending Machine by Saevelle is a Wattpad novel, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. In fact, that should have you running to it, as not only can you read it for free, you don’t even have to wait for your hold on it to come in at the library. You can read it right now!

Now, as one of the founders of Night Beats, I’m heavily biased. Maybe you are too, since you’re reading this very blog. If you’re new here, though, Night Beats is a Creative Commons-licensed concept for a cheesy early Noughts paranormal police procedural—think X-Files meets Supernatural meets Forever Knight. Basically, you can slip it into your creative project if you need to make a reference that won’t get dated.*

So it’s been used in various creative works quite a bit already, and you can find out more on this very website. But to my knowledge Saevelle is the first person to actually write an entire episode. And it’s glorious. It’s so wonderful.

The story alternates between the episode itself and the behind-the-scenes filming of it. In the episode, a sex worker is murdered by some kind of monster, and Jordan and Jane have to both solve the case and keep her ghost, trapped in a coin, safe. Meanwhile in Toronto, the actors, stunt people, and makeup artists deal with the ups and downs of minor celebrity and on-set romances. It’s sweet and funny and as a Torontonian one degree away from the film industry, I believe she gets it perfectly. And I love the episode itself—it has all the dramatic beats and character moments of a show like this, and Saevelle’s cinematic writing style lets you picture it as if on screen.

Basically, I adore this story with my whole heart, and if you’re a fan of campy, witty, self-aware fiction, I’m guessing that you will too.

*In other words, it exists purely because JKR is a TERF and Rachel had to edit all the Harry Potter references out of the second draft of Cascade. True story.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

Noema Cover

Now is not the first time the Earth’s climate has changed. Now is not the first time that temperatures changed, that animals were driven to the brink of extinction, that food production dwindled. Noema is a story about human survival through environmental change twelve thousand years ago. But Noema is much more than historical fiction.

This book is about the price of survival, and who pays it: the animals, the people, All Life. It is about the Law of Unintended Consequences and about complicity for what is done in what is done in your name, when you have been the one to teach people your name. Or when those people are the ones who gave you a name in the first place.

Names and identity are major themes in Noema. I still can’t tell you who the narrator is, but then, I think that’s the point. We are interconnected. We are the living and the dead. We are the humans and the horses and the wheat. We are All Life, and sometimes to preserve All Life, we have to make terrible sacrifices.

Noema is a book that lingers with you, that offers up its precious secrets deliciously slowly. It is a book you can read over and over. Find it here.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

cover of planet oster

We were given an Advance Reader Copy of Planet Oster: Fertility Fusion (The Holiday Hedonism Series #4) by Vera Valentine, J.L. Logosz, in exchange for an honest review. And we were simply not prepared for this novel.

I knew this book would be funny, and it was hilarious. The premise is delightfully silly–an eternally horny space smuggler agrees to carry the eggs of a triad of anthropomorphic bunny space pirates. It’s treated with enough seriousness to tell a great story, but enough joking that I quite literally laughed out loud.

I knew it was gonna be sexy, and it was incredibly hot. The sex is weird, by human standards. There are tentacles, and multicolored goo, and more nipples than most humans possess. But the thing that makes erotica sexy isn’t sharing bits with the characters. It’s people being deeply devoted to each other’s pleasure, and experiencing their own. This book knows how to have a good time.

The thing no one warned me about was the feelings. No one told me I’d be deeply invested in alien bunny people discovering love and acceptance in a found family. I was not prepared for how much I’d care about this disaster-magnet of a space smuggler and her socially awkward space pirate boyfriends navigating a relationship through very different cultural expectations and past trauma of social rejection. When you read this book and you find yourself biting your lip in concern because Zul’s lying again to avoid disappointing his partners–at least I warned you.

Best of all, this book is another addition to the Night Beats extended universe! It’s seamlessly worked into the story, and the characters all love this terrible TV show as much as we do.

You can find this romp of a hilarious, surprisingly heartfelt erotic science fiction romance here.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

Like everything I truly love, I have no idea how to describe Most Famous Short Film of All Time. This is not going to be a very good book review, which is a shame because it is a very, very good book. I got an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review so I’m honour-bound to do my best, even if it’s an impossible task.

I wish I had written this book.

In some ways, when I write, this is the book which I am trying to write. I can imagine telling Lev, the main character, that I no longer wished to write novels because he had already told my story better than I ever could. I imagine him answering that if I didn’t write, I hadn’t understood his story.

There’s a Philip K Dick book, Valis, which I read twice. I have never met anyone who read it even once, so I never get to talk about it. The book seamlessly weaves together mental illness, science fiction, and religion in a pseudo-autobiographical narrative. The first time I read it, I, along with the narrator, lost track of what was real. Years later, on reread, I still believed the narrator over my own memory of the storyline.

I was 25% through Most Famous Short Film of All Time before I realized that the protagonist’s name, Lev, was not the same as the author’s name, Tucker, so even though the book is written in the first person, it is not, strictly speaking, an autobiography. I’m making a joke about Valis but no one will get it unless they’ve read that book.

Philip K Dick had a religious epiphany that time was broken, and we’re actually living through one moment in 50 AD, waiting for the boss to come back. In the film Waking Life, they say Philip K Dick got it partly right. Maybe 80%. Time is stopped, and there’s only one moment, but it’s not 50 AD. It’s now. Like Alice (of Wonderland fame), Lev is stuck with jam yesterday and jam tomorrow but never jam today. Most Famous Short Film of All Time is about Lev choosing now.

This is not how to write a book review. I don’t know where I went wrong.

Please read Most Famous Short Film of All Time. I would like to talk about it with someone.

This stunning book came out yesterday. You can find it here.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

A picture of a city that says Night Beats

We’re reviewing The Ghost in the Vending Machine, by Saevelle

Have you ever wondered what it’s like for authors when they read fanfiction of their work? When someone takes a thought they had and turns it into something bigger and brighter, a living, breathing story? The answer is: overjoyed.

Saevelle writes Night Beats stories. Not just stories with Night Beats in them—she writes paranormal investigations starring Lilith the vampire medical examiner, Jane the werewolf cop, and Jordan, the boring human cop. If that wasn’t fantastic enough, Ghost in the Vending Machine gives us both sides of the story. Not only do we see the investigation of Trix’s murder on the show, we also see the actors, stunt doubles and special effects creators as they create the magic, and as they live their own lives with their own dramas.

Both sides of the story are perfect. Saevelle brings all my favorite moments to life (or at least to undeath), from Brent the ghost making bad puns to the political implications of cryptids taking refuge in your city. I found myself invested in the murder mystery, not just seeing it as a plot device. And the actors’ stories are equally delightful. There’s an ongoing gag with Ao3 and rabbits that had me cackling with laughter, and a truly heartfelt romance between Fynn the enby deathly make-up artist and Derrick the presumed-straight stunt double.

This story is a must-read for Night Beats fans, and also anyone who likes the paranormal, investigation, humour, and romance, not always in that order. You can read it for free on Wattpad.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

the devil you know cover

We were given an Advance Reader Copy of The Devil You Know (Hotel Heat Book 1) by Nicole Northwood in return for an honest review.

The Devil You Know is a romance, a steamy, smolderingly hot romance, the kind of book you’re grateful has an art cover so no one wonders why you’re smiling to yourself as you read it in public. It’s a very, very good romance. But it’s more than that.

Cam, the Prince of Lust, demon from Hell, is funny. He’s got a wry, self depreciating humour that makes me want to quote half his lines in my group chats to make my friends laugh. (I restrain myself to no more than a third of his lines.) And he’s got stuff going on in his life besides love, or maybe the love is a catalyst for the rest of his life. Lucifer wants him back in the unchanging world of Hell. Demon hunters want him off Earth or dead, preferably the first one. God isn’t impressed with him. Cam’s not only choosing between being with Giselle vs not being with Giselle. He’s choosing between the security of an eternally static existence and the pain and joy of growth.

Giselle has her own demons to fight (pun absolutely intended) but to avoid more spoilers, I’ll only say that I love her, and she is not an afterthought in someone else’s story. She is on her own journey, and she’s found herself in the liminal space of the Hedonism Hotel, deciding which destination her travels will take her to next.

Last but not least, Lucifer keeps a cat named Satin, and I love her with my whole heart. If she’s not in a future Hotel Heat book, I’m throwing my Kindle out the window.

If you’re looking for a story with love, and self discovery, and the occasional appearance from a distractingly attractive Prince of Wrath, The Devil You Know is the book you’ve been waiting for.

Find it here.