Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: How I Choose What Book To Read Next

Hello everyone! Today's post is going to be a discussion that I feel like there are a lot of mixed opinions on: how I choose what book to read next. I think that everyone's got a different method as to deciding what books they're going to read and in what order. My method may be a bit odd to some. But, I'm mainly writing this post because I find my method a little bit boring, and I'm looking for ways to shake up how I read. I would love to hear your opinions as to how I can make choosing my next read as enjoyable as reading is. 

I'll start off by saying that I don't exactly relate to the idea that I have tons of unread books on my shelf and I can't choose which one to read next. Books can get pretty expensive in Canada, and so if I buy a book, I'm buying it because I absolutely want to read it. Books that I buy physically will most likely get read first, because it's rare that I have brand-new physical copies in my possession. I make the most use out of my online library when I'm not buying my books, which now leads me to my method of deciding what book I want to borrow online. 

My method mainly is... that there is no method. However, this is why I say that I need to make things more interesting. I have a few favourite book genres that I've bookmarked on my online library, mainly pertaining to YA. Most often I will go through the YA romance and YA social themes categories, and I will just scroll until I hit a book that I've seen buzz for online, or that catches my eye either through the cover or who the author is. The problem with this method is that I don't necessarily go for lesser-known books or indie authors, as I tend to let my focus on buzz and well-known authors win the battle for what books get chosen. This is partly my fault, and I do think that I should broaden my horizons as to what books I go for. However, my library also doesn't do the best to highlight lesser-known books, so I would like some ways to get around this issue. 

Another thing that does sway what book I will borrow is diversity. At least for myself, if a book doesn't have at least one element of diversity in it, then I won't pick it up. I prefer to go for books that are OwnVoices, however I understand that the OwnVoices discourse is very complicated nowadays and I also don't like to assume somebody's identity or go digging for something that may be private. That being said, sometimes I will do research on an author whose book catches my eye, to make sure that they seem like they're respectful and conscious of the subject matter that they're writing about. 

So diversity and book buzz aside, I would like to find a way that will make choosing a book at the library a little more fun. This is because my reading tends to stay a bit more in my comfort-zone, as I choose books that I know are hyped, or that only pertain to my favourite genres. I do watch booktube and get some recommendations from there, but as a whole, a big chunk of my reading just comes from sticking to what I already know. I would love to experiment more with unique tropes, different genres, and different types of characters. I think I need to refine my technique (or lack thereof) to make this possible. 

One of my favourite booktubers, Jesse @ Bowties and Books, sells TBR cards in which you can pick your next read based on a fun category that the cards bring up. This is one way for me to make reading a bit more fun. However, I'm also open to other options, and I'm genuinely curious as to what you guys do to make your tbr fun. Or, are you like me, stuck in an endless cycle of scrolling through a library app? 

Please share your thoughts with me. I'm looking for ways that are library friendly, cost effective, and most importantly, fun. If you know me in real life, you know that I love games, so any way I can turn reading into a game is perfect with me. 

How do you choose what books to read next? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

I Wish You All The Best by: Mason Deaver

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: May 14, 2019 by: Push 

Pages: 329 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: homophobia, transphobia, mis-gendering, parental neglect, anxiety and panic attacks 

When Ben comes out as non-binary to their parents, their parents immediately react with hatred and kick Ben out of the house. With nowhere to go, Ben reconnects with their estranged sister and her husband, and the couple take Ben in and begin to reconcile the past. Ben is forced to attend a new school and meet with a therapist to cope with their anxiety disorder. While at their new school, they befriend Nathan, a charming and energetic student who shows Ben that there is hope even in the darkest of times. Nathan's and Ben's friendship begins to blossom into something more, and Ben soon learns that family does exist where you least expect it. 

This book was a whirlwind of emotions. There were moments of anger, frustration, sadness, but also times of joy and renewal. While this book deals with some very emotional subject matter, it is ultimately a tale of triumph in a young non-binary teen's life. I think that this book is a great example of a coming of age story for non-binary teens who need to know that they do belong. 

Ben is an incredibly well-rounded character. They go through a variety of stages throughout the book, as they start at their lowest point, and eventually come into their own. Ben at the beginning of the book is completely different to Ben at the end of the book, and this development was so wonderful to see. While this book does start off very hard for this young character, you will end up rooting for Ben through every of their milestones. 

I loved the character of Nathan and the sunshine that he brought to the book. While Ben goes through very low points for obvious reasons, Nathan was always there to lift them up and to offer some support and sometimes humour in tough situations. I haven't read a book in a while with such a strong sunshine character, and Nathan certainly fulfilled this role. He was a great addition to the cast of supporting characters. 

I also really loved Ben's sister and brother in-law. Things start off very awkward when Ben arrives to their sister's house, as they haven't talked in forever. While having a non-binary sibling is new and unexpected for Ben's sister, she grows, apologizes when she makes mistakes, and commits herself to getting pronouns right and making life a little easier for her sibling. This was great to see. 

I also loved the therapy representation in this book. Ben is dealing with some serious mental health issues, which all becomes amplified due to parental neglect. Their therapist is understanding and patient, as well as incredibly open to the unique needs that Ben has given that they are non-binary. I enjoyed all of the scenes between Ben and their therapist and how therapy has a positive impact in Ben's life. 

Overall, I loved this book. You will get angry at Ben's parents for the pain that they put their child through, but I also think it's important that readers know that there is hope at the end of this novel. While tough issues that face non-binary teens need to be talked about, non-binary joy should also be shared, and this book does just that. 

Have you read I Wish You All The Best? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 9 July 2021

A Discovery of Witches by: Deborah Harkness *Spoiler Review*

 Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance 

Published: February 2011 by: Viking Penguin 

Pages: 579 

Rating: 1.5/5 stars 

CW: gore, torture, violence, death of a parent 

*this review will contain spoilers because I can't contain my frustration*

Diana Bishop is a descendent of witches, however after being orphaned at a young age, she has tried to distance herself from her magical powers. Instead, Diana turns to scholarship, and she becomes an accomplished professor at Oxford University. When calling up a manuscript as part of her research, Diana learns that the manuscript is bewitched, and there are many magical creatures, including vampires, who want to take the manuscript from her grasp. Diana soon finds herself in the company of Matthew, a charming vampire who is willing to help her protect the manuscript and herself. However, Diana soon realizes that in order to protect herself, she will have to start using her powers again. 

I like to describe this book as Twilight for adults. Now, I am not one for book shaming. Twilight is very much a comfort series for me. While the books have obvious problematic elements, I can appreciate them for what they are: entertainment. However, A Discovery of Witches pissed me off more than Twilight ever has. I think it's because it tried to do something intelligent with the paranormal romance genre, and instead it came across as condescending and just plain cringy. 

Let's start with the main character, Diana. Now I could very much appreciate that she was a scholar and gained her own independence once her parents died. The problem is, that this all gets thrown out the window once Matthew arrives. When Diana grows closer to Matthew, she seems to lose all sense of street smarts and instead opts to trust Matthew's misogynistic and creepy ways because his eyes are dreamy. She is also an incredibly predictable character, who magically becomes this figure of "The Chosen One," even though she's been out of the practice for so long. How convenient that Diana is suddenly uplifted to be this all-magical being in all of two minutes despite her distaste towards magic? I know we were supposed to root for her, but she contained all of these basic white woman tropes and I was just generally annoyed that her scholarship was watered down once the man came into the picture. 

Matthew is Edward Cullen. He is sexist, believes that he needs to control every aspect of a woman's life, and he whispers sweet nothings into Diana's ear, except the sweet nothings are always in French, to make it fancy. He is also rich but blissfully unaware of his own 1000 years of privilege. Side note, but why do vampires always have to be rich? He marries Diana without her consent, and he rarely asks for her opinions on things because he's a super-smart vampire and he can just make all the decisions himself. Am I supposed to like this guy? 

Harkness wastes a lot of time describing things that just seem unimportant and a little bit condescending to the average person reading the book. Diana and Matthew drink wine, but it's an expensive wine because they're both super rich and can afford it. Diana and Matthew go to yoga class, because they like to stay in shape and because they're super rich and can afford it. Diana and Matthew go to stay in Matthew's castle, because Matthew is super rich and can afford it. These characters did not seem relatable to me at all and I'm over having to like characters that just have it all. 

Now, I still rated this book 1.5 stars, because believe it or not, there was one thing about this book that I liked! Diana is a history professor who is especially intrigued by alchemy. So, the book does go a bit into the history of alchemy which I found to be interesting, and it did send me into a rabbit hole of googling to learn more, which was a good thing. However, this did not fully redeem the book for me, obviously. 

Overall, I would not recommend this book. I think if you want to read a comforting paranormal romance, then read more diverse novels that explore more complex themes than what wine Diana and Matthew are going to drink with dinner in a castle. 

Have you read A Discovery of Witches? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 2 July 2021

Month in Review: June

It's very hot up here in Canada right now. Not that I'm complaining. I love the warm weather and everything about summer. However I also understand that this weather is not for everyone, so I hope you all stay cool if you're in a hot climate right now as well! This is what my June looked like: 

What I Read: 

Love After The End edited by Joshua Whitehead: 4/5 stars 

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah: 4/5 stars 

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga: 5/5 stars 

Kate In Waiting by Becky Albertalli: 5/5 stars 

People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry: 4/5 stars 

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: 4.5/5 stars 

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee: 4/5 stars 

Jay's Gay Agenda by Jason June: 4/5 stars 

Favourite Book: Seven Fallen Feathers was an emotional but important non-fiction novel about the epidemic of Indigenous children and teens going missing in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The book has elements of a crime book while still being extremely sensitive to the victims and their families. The author is also Indigenous, so this book truly comes from a place of respect. While it's a very hard read, it's also extremely necessary especially considering the things coming up in Canadian news as of recent. 

What I Blogged: 

I really enjoyed my post about The Fetishization Of M/M Romance And Representation That I Need To Read More Of. I am really passionate about that subject matter so it was good to get some frustrations off my chest, and receive some great tips from fellow readers! 

Favourite Blog Posts Of The Month: 

Simone says: "Please Don't Assume That I Need Healing" 

Nicole talks about The Joys Of Verse Novels 

Cee discusses the film Jojo Rabbit: The Bittersweet Tale of Captain K

Life Stuff: 

This month was very busy! I continued to freelance write, which got me through the beginning and middle of the month, but by the end of the month, my manager called me back to work at my in-person job. Ontario has been in lockdown since December, but vaccine rollout has gotten better, so the government decided it was okay for retail stores to open up again. Now I'm doing freelance stuff on the side, while also working a couple times a week in-person. While seeing strangers again is always worrying, I'm glad to get back into a normal routine. 

In other great news, I am now fully vaccinated! I am so happy that me and my entire family have put the vaccination stress behind us. It's a huge weight off of our shoulders. If you can, please go get the shot! 

I watched Loki this month, and I am absolutely loving it. It's such a complex, unique show and I never knew how much I loved Loki until watching it. Now I look forward to every Wednesday when it comes out. I can't believe season one will be over soon :( 

This July, I will continue to work, and also try to do my part to raise more awareness on issues that Indigenous populations face. As July 1st marks Canada Day, I am thinking a lot more critically on the problems with this country and why it's crucial that the world doesn't write Canada off as being "better than the US." I also hope that people will think about how capitalism exploits issues like this, so that we can decide how to ethically support marginalized communities. For more information on the capitalization of Indigenous issues, visit this link 

So, that was my June. Very busy, but also very hopeful for a better future. How was your June? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: The Fetishization of M/M Romance And Representation That I Need To Read More Of


CW: this post will discuss fetishization of m/m romance, lesphobia, homophobia and transphobia 

If you're on book twitter, then you might have seen the horrid post that someone put on booktok, explaining that they loved author Casey McQuiston's book "Red White and Royal Blue" because they were "attracted" to the two male protagonists and their romance, however they hated McQuiston's new f/f novel "One Last Stop" SIMPLY because the protagonists were two women in a relationship. This post rightly pissed me and a lot of people off. For more info on this matter, you can view this twitter thread. 

The fetishization of m/m romance by straight women has been going on since forever. These novels typically get a lot of publicity and become staples on people's bookshelves. I cannot tell you the amount of times that I've seen someone recommend "The Song of Achilles" on booktok. However, the same cannot be said for sapphic romances. Books with f/f romances are usually not as popular amongst the booktok (and in other book communities) crowd. It's saddening to me that people aren't recognizing McQuiston's talent as a writer with their new novel just because it's f/f. Straight women tend to fetishize m/m romances because their homophobia continues to see gay men as only existing for their entertainment, and they only see gay men as hypersexualized people. This could also be tied to the "gay best friend" trope, in which straight girls in movies in tv tend to have a flamboyant gay male best friend, which leads to many straight girls in real life wanting this for themselves. 

Similarly, there's the fact that drag queens are usually more popular amongst straight girls than drag kings, and trans performers don't get nearly the same publicity as cis-gendered performers. This fetishization will only continue the more us straight readers only read from one group. Now don't get me wrong, there are amazing m/m romances out there, and it is CRUCIAL that we continue to read these, especially from queer BIPOC authors and trans authors specifically. However, we cannot only read m/m romances and call ourselves well-read. We need to give f/f romances the same attention. This discussion has only prompted me to think about the representation that I could read more of, and I want you to think about this as well. 

I have found that for myself, my bookshelf is severely lacking in books featuring trans women protagonists. I have a plethora of amazing books with trans men in the leading roles, such as "Cemetery Boys" by Aiden Thomas, "Felix Ever After" by Kacen Callender, and "Stay Gold" by Tobly McSmith. However, to this date, I can only think of author I've read from who features trans girls in leading roles, and that would be Akwaeke Emezi. Now this is nobody's fault but mine. There are trans and non-binary authors out there who are writing books with trans girl protagonists, however I have pushed myself to read the books that are more in the spotlight, which are typically books with trans men. This goes back to the fetishization discussion, as these books often feature m/m romances. 

I came to the realization that I needed to expand my reading of trans women protagonists a while ago. However, when I googled recommendations, the results that came up pointed me to a few trans women authors such as Meredith Russo, however the books still recommended to me were mostly along the lines of Cemetery Boys, Felix Ever After, and more books with trans men. I LOVED these books, but they're not what I'm looking for currently, and its frustrating when I google specifically to find more books with trans women characters, and the results point me to a general post about books with trans characters, that always offer me the popular m/m books I've already read. I'll also mention that most of the trans women authors that come up in results are white. Seriously, one of the authors recommended to me on google was Caitlyn Jenner. Not exactly what I'm going for. 

I did do some digging, which is of course my responsibility, and nobody else's. We cannot expect trans and queer people to do the work for us. I am looking forward to reading from Meredith Russo, April Daniels, and anything Casey McQuiston puts out next. However, I know that these authors are white, and I need to expand my reading far beyond reading just from white trans women and white non-binary people. Akwaeke Emezi is a fiercely talented non-binary Black author, but their works are quite heavy for me and I prefer books in the contemporary realm. So, I'll keep looking, but I also would like for publishing agencies and people in the book community to understand that m/m romances and trans men are not the only LGBTQ+ books out there. Straight people cannot call themselves allies when they only look out for one group. 

This was a bit of a rambling post. Basically what I'm trying to get at is that fetishization of queer men needs to stop, Casey McQuiston and other authors writing sapphic novels deserve the world, and there is always room for improvement in how we read. I am looking forward to reading some great sapphic novels in the future, especially featuring trans women as the protagonists. If you have any recommendations, please share them in the comments. I would be eternally grateful. 

What do you think about the fetishization of m/m romance? What representation could you read more of? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 18 June 2021

More Than Just A Pretty Face by: Syed M. Masood

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: August 4, 2020 by: Little, Brown Books 

Pages: 352 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: discussion of genocide against South-East Asian people, cyber-bulling/revenge porn 

Danyal Jilani is a charismatic Pakistani-American teen from a traditional Muslim family. He dreams of becoming a chef, though his father wishes something more stable for him, and his crush Kaval's family does not see Danyal as a good fit for their daughter. When Danyal is entered into a contest to write a speech, he seeks the opportunity to show the world how capable he is, and he enlists the help of studious and shy Bisma along the way. However, the more Danyal researches the subject of his speech, the more he finds himself conflicted with doing what is expected from him, and doing what is right. 

I received this book from the lovely Tess @ Book Rapt. I was excited to read a cute, Pakistani rom-com and I was hoping for something similar to the vibes that Sandhya Menon's books have. This book did not disappoint on witty banter and some great character development, however there are some issues to address. 

First off, I was really happy to read a YA Pakistani rom-com from a boy's perspective. Most of the YA contemporaries I read come from a girl's POV, and I really wanted to change up how I read. I loved reading from Danyal's point of view because I could definitely see how he is in conflict with the traditions his father wants for him, and his actual aspirations. I think choosing to portray Danyal as an aspiring chef was a great move on the author's part, because we got some great food descriptions and I loved seeing how passionate Danyal was about food. 

One of the book's major topics is a discussion on Winston Churchill. Churchill is the subject of Danyal's speech, and the more Danyal researches about him, the more he finds out about the atrocities that Churchill put onto South-East Asians during English colonialism. Danyal is expected to write a speech that praises Churchill, but he begins to question if this is the right move. Danyal starts off as a character that everyone underestimates, however he really takes up an interest in this subject and I loved how he developed to become more active in the issues that his community faces. 

I also thought Bisma was a great backing character. She was super smart and strong, and her commitment to helping Danyal succeed despite her initial distaste towards him was really great to see. Bisma also has to deal with issues such as revenge porn and misogyny in the novel, and I liked how the author handled these issues. 

The issues I have about this book are ones that I'm not necessarily equipped to handle. I'm Pakistani but not Muslim, and I know some Muslim reviewers have had issues with how relationships were portrayed in the novel. Some stated that rules were not followed through, and I did think myself that I wasn't sure if the Muslim representation was all that great. The author is Muslim, and it's important to see all sides of the argument, however I do think these reviews need to be taken into account. Here's a link to the Goodreads page for the book to see some own voices reviews. 

I guess another thing that just kind of irks me a bit about books featuring South-East Asian characters is that most of the time, the families are super strict, mean, and sometimes just downright misogynistic. Now while it's true that a lot of brown families are very traditional, I think sometimes books tend to mistake traditional for being a negative home environment, and I just want to say that not all brown families are traditional in the first place. Yes, many Indian/Pakistani families have high standards for their kids, but this doesn't mean that respect isn't in place. Overall, I think I would like to read some more books with brown families that are just fully supportive of their children. I think we need more of that family dynamic in South-East Asian YA lit. 

That's it for my review. Overall, More Than Just A Pretty Face was a fun novel to add to my Pakistani YA lit collection. However, I do think us Pakistanis could improve in our writings to encompass a greater scope of families and characters. 

Have you read More Than Just A Pretty Face? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 11 June 2021

Highlighting Books by Indigenous Authors

 CW: this post will discuss trauma against Indigenous people through residential schools 

The whole world has been paying attention to the devastating discovery of a mass grave site at a residential school in Kamloops, BC, in which the bodies of 215 children were found. For those of you who don't know, the residential school system took Indigenous children across Turtle Island away from their homes and into an abusive system which attempted to force the Indigenous culture out of the children. The number of children who died in the system is much larger than what was reported by the Government of Canada, and the schools were run by both the Catholic and Anglican Churches. To this day, Pope Francis has yet to apologize. 

For those of you who want to learn more, you can access the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. The TRC was implemented in 2008 in order to call attention to the abuses suffered by Indigenous peoples in Canada and what the Government and all settlers can do to reconcile with Indigenous peoples. 

You can also access the Indian Residential School Survivors Society which offers counselling and support to survivors, and in which you can also donate to. 

As a settler, it is crucial that I listen to survivors and turn my anger into action for all Indigenous people. As this is a book blog, one of the most powerful things we can do is read from Indigenous authors, listen to their stories, and uplift them as much as we do white authors. I have had the privilege to read many fabulous books by Indigenous authors across Turtle Island, which I will share with you all. Similarly, if you have any further recommendations, please add them to the comments. We can all turn our love of reading into action. 

1. The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline 

Cherie Dimaline is a writer from the Georgian Bay Métis Nation who writes mostly young adult and adult fiction. Her novel The Marrow Thieves is a YA science fiction book about Indigenous families who are on the run from settlers who want to steal their bone marrow in order to gain the power to dream. I have now read this book twice, and I absolutely love it. The book alludes to residential schools through its sci-fi setting, and also contains a tight-knit family who will stick together no matter what. It is a staple in my opinion. 

2. Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson 

Catherine Knutsson is a member of the Métis Nation, and her novel, Shadows Cast by Stars, is a dystopian tale set on a fictional version of Vancouver Island. In this novel, a plague which only affects settlers has taken over, and so Indigenous people seek haven before settlers come hunting them down for their blood, which may contain the cure. This book has a number of sci-fi elements, and also offers a look into Indigenous spirituality. Knutsson has a magical way with words. 

3. Love After The End edited by Joshua Whitehead 

This book is a speculative fiction anthology edited by Joshua Whitehead and featuring two-spirit and queer Indigenous authors. I loved the exploration of gender and sexuality that was present in each and every story, as well as general themes of utopia and hope. If you are a fan of spec-fic and also want to learn more about what it means to be two-spirit, give this anthology a read. 

4. Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith 

Cynthia Leitich Smith is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, and she writes mostly YA contemporaries centering around Native-American characters. Her novel Hearts Unbroken is a contemporary book about a Native-American teen named Louise whose brother Hughie is cast in the school play, The Wizard of Oz. However, Hughie's casting stirs up racism in the town as people question his worth in the play, and Louise also struggles with L. Frank Baum's racist past. This book was a fabulous contemporary and I would love to read more by Smith. 

5. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese 

Richard Wagamese was an Ojibwe author, whose novel Indian Horse became a bestseller and was even adapted into a movie. In this novel, an Ojibwe child named Saul is forced into the residential school system where he takes up an interest in hockey. However, the trauma he endures in the school carries with him, even when he enters bigger hockey leagues and endures racism from the other players. Richard Wagamese was a fiercely talented writer who everyone should read from. This book deals with some extremely heavy themes, so please be careful. However, I would encourage those looking to learn more about residential schools to read this. 

6. A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas King 

This is a picture book by bestselling Cherokee and Greek author Thomas King. This book retells Christopher Columbus' invasion of North America through the eyes of Coyote, the trickster animal. The illustrations in this book were so vibrant and well done, and this book is great for children to learn more about Indigenous traditions. 

7. Dreaming in Indian edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale

This book is a non-fiction anthology of short stories, poems, and other art by Indigenous creators. The editors did a fantastic job at including a wide range of Indigenous artists from across Turtle Island, and overall this book is intended to inspire Indigenous youth to take up activism in whatever their art form may be. 

These are my recommendations for anyone who would like to expand their reading of Indigenous authors. However, I recognize that this list is not complete. Please include any more authors who you love and I will add them to the list along with who recommended them. I want this post to continue to shed light on Indigenous creators and the value that their work brings during a time which is often filled with so much sadness. 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess