Thursday, 13 January 2022

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Thriller, Contemporary 

Published: May 22, 2018 by: Katherine Tegen Books 

Pages: 448 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: child abuse, murder, PTSD, racism 



Claudia and her best friend Monday have always been inseparable, willing to tell one another anything. Until one day, when Monday doesn't show up for school. Claudia knows that it is unlike Monday to leave her best friend without telling her where she went, so she begins to try to put the pieces together as to where Monday is. The problem is, nobody but Claudia seems to be taking Monday's disappearance seriously. The police have no interest in a missing Black child, and Monday's family react defensively to Claudia's questions. All Claudia has are possible clues that Monday has left behind for her, and she is determined to find out where her friend is. 

This book was really quite something. It was shocking and disturbing, while still offering important social commentary on the epidemic of missing Black children and the systemic barriers put in place by the very people who are supposed to protect Black communities. While I did have some trouble with the format of this book, I still overall thought it to be a jarring read that really impacted me. 

Claudia is a fascinating character, and I enjoyed how Jackson wrote and developed both her and Monday. The two come from different economic backgrounds, with Claudia's parents both having stable jobs and high expectations for their daughter, while Monday comes from an abusive household and doesn't really get attention from her mother. Claudia's parents are reluctant to helping their daughter because of their judgements of Monday's background, and I thought these details were needed, because I could imagine such a conversation happening in real life. So often, different communities are labelled as "the bad communities." Parents from middle-class backgrounds are reluctant in having their children associate in these communities. However, this book explored what happens when these stereotyped communities are ignored. It results in children going missing, and parents turning a blind eye. While this story was frustrating in the sense that nobody but Claudia took Monday's disappearance seriously, I thought the reaction from the middle-class people in the story was sadly accurate to a situation that could happen in real life, and Jackson did a great job at showing the consequences that come out of these situations. 

I really liked how this book explored Monday's character even if she was not always present in it. There are flashbacks to Monday, but a lot of Monday's story is told by Claudia and by Monday's own family. I learnt a lot about Monday just by reading about what other people said about her, and this made me want to root for her to come back even more. I ended up reading this book rather quickly, because I wanted to know what had happened to this girl and if she was safe. I ended up rooting for a character who we don't get to see that much in the story, which made the reading more emotional. 

I will say that the main issue I had with the book is the way it is structured. The book follows Monday and Claudia growing up, but also moves forward to the present after Monday has disappeared. The result is that a lot of the chapters use years to explain what timeline we're in, however this made the reading confusing. One chapter could be: "two years before Monday's disappearance," then it goes back into the present, then it goes three years back, and continues. I found it hard to situate myself within a certain timeline and often I just ended up confused as to what time I was in. I would have liked for the book to stay more consistent with one moment in the present, and one moment in the past, in order to be more focused. 

This book is labelled as a thriller, but it is so much more than a mystery in which one is disconnected from the characters. I feel like thrillers are often there to keep the reader entertained, but I wouldn't say that I was entertained in a positive sense by the book. I was certainly concerned, and very disturbed, and I think Jackson did a great job at reinventing the thriller genre so that it still has aspects of a crime that needs to be solved, while still rooting itself within a particular social issue that isn't supposed to be comfortable. Overall, I would recommend this book for folks who can handle its heavy subject matter (see content warnings), because I think it is an important book. 

Have you read Monday's Not Coming? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 7 January 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: How Do You Keep Track of New Releases?



Every December I usually get some Indigo gift cards for my birthday and Christmas. (For those of you outside Canada, Indigo is our main bookstore.) Then on the day after Christmas, I go crazy buying books that I wouldn't normally purchase in a physical format. The thing that I've been noticing, especially this year, is that I never actually save my gift cards for when there's a new release out later in the year that I know I will love. I don't even preorder books using the gift cards. Mainly the reason for this is, that I never can keep track of when new releases are coming out. Part of this problem comes from forgetfulness, and part of it is me being impatient and just wanting to spend the gift cards right away. However, I do think I need to come up with a better system of how to keep track of new releases, so I know just when to wait to buy books, and what to wait for. 

I do read fellow book blogger's posts throughout the year, when people share what upcoming releases they're excited for. But I don't think bookmarking these posts and returning back to them would help with my forgetfulness. I would simply forget to check back on the posts. Putting reminders in my phone on new releases doesn't seem practical, as I try to reserve reminders for really important things. I just don't think at the moment I'm that great at marking down throughout the year what books are coming out and why I should wait for them. Mainly I'm appealing to those of you who do make posts documenting releases you're excited for, and I want to know how you get your information and how to remember what to look out for. 

I do often see upcoming releases through author announcements on Twitter, but again, these announcements often go in my one ear, and out the other. For example, I know that author Mark Oshiro is coming out with a new Nico and Will story as a part of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson universe, and I know that when that book comes out, I would like to be in the loop. However, I can't seem to find a system that'll give me news as soon as it happens. 

I suppose that finding out a new book has been released through blog posts and buzz on Twitter isn't all that bad, as sometimes the surprise of realizing that a book you know you'll love has now been released is a welcome surprise. However, I would love to have this information before I spend all my gift cards on other books, and I just need to find a better way on how to get this information. 

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this post. I think I'm really just looking for some organizational help from fellow book bloggers. What are some simple things I can do to know when new releases are approaching? Are any of you as forgetful as I am? What is your most anticipated new release of 2022? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Vampires, Hearts and Other Dead Things by: Margie Fuston

 CW: terminal illness of a parent/death of a parent, blood/body gore 

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy 

Published: August 24, 2021 by Margaret K. McElderry Books 

Pages: 320 

Rating: 4/5 stars 



Victoria and her father have always loved vampires, and they long for the day when they can find one together. However, her father has terminal cancer, and Victoria knows that if she wants her father to meet a vampire, she needs to find one herself who can make her a vampire so that she can save her dad. With her best friend, Victoria travels to New Orleans where she meets a mysterious man named Nicholas, who vows to deliver on Victoria's wish. However, Victoria must complete a series of tasks before Nicholas is willing to make her live forever, and these tasks will test what Victoria thought she knew about her and her father's greatest interest. 

I love vampire tropes. Whether it's a cheesy supernatural romance, a dramatic tv show, or an old novel, I absolutely cannot get enough of vampire mythology. So, this premise caught my eye. I thought that the idea of combining vampire mythology with the real-life conflict of illness and losing a parent could be fascinating. This book did not disappoint, and it delivered on some interesting themes and characterization. 

First off, I was hoping that this novel would give me some references to vampire moments in pop culture that I love, and it definitely did so. I wanted to hear Victoria and her father's opinions on Buffy, Twilight, Anne Rice, and of course, Dracula. I thought that Fuston did a great job at integrating these famous tropes while also showing Victoria's own unique perceptions of vampire mythology. There are so many different variations of the vampire out there, so it was great that Fuston singled in on what Victoria and her father believed to be true. It made their interest appear all the more real. 

I thought this novel developed Victoria's character well. I was concerned at first that a teenage girl who truly believes in vampires would annoy me, as her character may appear naïve. However, Victoria has so much knowledge in vampires that her interest was very believable. Also, I could understand how her love for her father drove her decisions. Even if it could have gotten her into danger, she was willing to do anything to help her father, and I could respect that. 

I didn't really love the character of Nicholas. I thought he wasn't as developed as Victoria, and he was extremely unlikable to the point where I wondered if he was more of a villain, even though he isn't written to be. I think people who write vampire stories could do better to make the vampire characters, particularly male vampire characters, more likable. Often, they come across as patriarchal, which isn't a good look. I need more soft and sweet vampires in the vampire world. 

Overall, I did enjoy this! I thought the ending was satisfying and the themes were well executed. It was a good addition to my vampire collection, though I would like to see more variety in terms of writing vampire characters. 

Have you read Vampires, Hearts and Other Dead Things? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Sunday, 26 December 2021

I'm Back! Updates and Plans for 2022

Hello blogging world! I think it's been no secret that I pretty much dropped off the face of the blogging earth these past few months. In September I planned on going on a short hiatus to sort out how to find a blog/life balance, as school has kept me very busy. But then, school pretty much only got worse in terms of busyness and I just knew that I would have no time at any point soon to return. However, now that I am on winter break and the main hustle and bustle of the holiday's are over, I have finally had the chance to open up the old blogging app, blow off the dust, and update you all. So here it is! 

What I Read: 

Over the past few months, I have been able to read some great books. Luckily, a lot of the books that I have to read for school are novels, and so even though I was technically doing school readings, I was still able to add to my Goodreads tally for the year. I am finishing out the year by reading about 175 books, which is a huge accomplishment, and the most books I've ever read in a year! I am very proud of myself and I credit a lot of that reading to the huge lockdown that Ontario was in for most of the winter and spring. While it's been very hard to pick some favourite books of the year, I will say that I was happy to read and enjoy some books outside of my comfort zone, including classics and non-fiction books. A few of these include Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, No Friend But The Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, and Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich. I hope to continue to push myself to read outside of my comfort zone in the new year. 

What I've Been Watching: 

Despite not being able to blog, I made it a point to set aside some time in the evening to unwind from school and watch some new shows. I finally got to The Umbrella Academy, and omg I absolutely loved it! Both seasons are on Netflix and the themes are so well-written, the action is so entertaining, and the banter is hilarious. If you love superhero tv and dark comedy, this show is the one for you! If you're curious, my favourite Hargreeves sibling is Diego :) 

I'm currently rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its spin-off, Angel. I do think both of these tv shows have some fascinating themes, and I can't get enough of vampire tropes. So, these shows have very much kept me company these past few months. 

I do still have to get to Hawkeye, and I need to watch the new Spiderman movie. I've caught up with all of the Marvel movies that I've missed over the years, except for No Way Home. Judging by all of the positive reviews, I'm very much looking forward to watching it. 

Life Stuff: 

Obviously, school has been all-consuming since September. But I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't having a good time. I've made a lot of friends in my masters cohort. We're a small group so we look out for each other, which is great. My courses for the fall term were a little bit more general, but next term I have a superhero course to look forward to! I've been able to receive a lot of cool comics that I need to get to, which will for sure prepare me for that course. I'm super excited. 

Overall, my grades were good for the fall term, and the fun thing is, I've also been able to grade first-years as a teaching assistant! I'm really enjoying my position and learning first-hand what it's like to instruct university students. It's been pretty cool to learn. 

I've also been able to apply to a few creative writing competitions, and it's been fun to get back into writing. I also might have the opportunity to travel to Montreal in May for an academic conference, which is nerve-wracking, but would be pretty cool. Fingers-crossed it works out. 

Health-wise, I've been pretty much the same. Obviously I still deal with OCD and panic attacks, however for Christmas I got some cool self-care tools that I'm hoping to implement and see if they help in any way. School has also been a great distraction from worries and it helps to talk to friends as well. So, we're getting through it! 

Over the next few days, I'll be using some of the gift cards I received to buy some new books to read in 2022. I'm appealing to all of you guys to please send me your recommendations! Anything you've got, such as comics, non-fiction, poetry, and of course, YA, I'm willing to try. I'm looking forward to building up my bookshelf for the new year. 

I've been giving some thought into how to best return to blogging, and I think what makes the most sense is to start writing my posts in the evening time while I watch my shows. I think I can manage one post on Fridays, as I did before, and I just need to time manage a bit better. Of course, things might change, and I'm not going to pressure myself to stick to a routine, but this seems like a plan that will work. 

Overall, I want to apologize for not being as active on the commenting front. I'm hoping to get better at it, and hopefully this new plan will help. I'm really looking forward to seeing all that the book blogging community accomplishes in the new year, and I wish you all a happy and healthy 2022! 

Now it's time for you to please share with me what you've been up to these past few months! How was your holidays? Did you receive anything cool? What are your new year's resolutions? Talk to me! I've missed you guys :) 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 17 September 2021

A Short Hiatus- Trying to Find a Blog/School Balance

 Hey y'all! This is just a short message to say that I'll be going on a short hiatus while I try to find a blog/school balance. With grad school just starting, I'm finding it hard to find the right time for blogging and the right time for school, so please bear with me while I find the routine that works best for me. Fear not! I'm not leaving forever, and I'll still be around to read and comment on other blog posts. I just don't have the time right now to write my own. 


Hope to see you all soon! 


Emily 

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: My Conflicted Opinions on It Ends With Us by: Colleen Hoover

 CW: this post will discuss domestic violence



*Spoilers ahead for It Ends With Us by: Colleen Hoover* 

I decided to format my review of It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover into more of a discussion post, rather than a strict review. This is because I had a lot of opinions on this book, many of which are probably going to become very rambly, and I thought that I could turn this review into a conversation about the representation of domestic abuse in novels and how we can perceive them. That being said, because this post will go into lengthy discussion about a book that depicts domestic abuse, I would ask that you proceed with caution. For resources, visit 

https://sheltersafe.ca/ (Find a Canadian women's shelter near you if you're in danger). 

https://nationalactionplan.ca/ (National Action Plan on Gendered Violence in Canada). 

https://www.thehotline.org/  (US-based Domestic Violence Helpline).

It Ends With Us was recommended to me by my close cousin, though she warned that it is a difficult read. I don't know much about Colleen Hoover, however I do know that she has had some problematic controversy in the passed, especially pertaining to her lack of trigger warnings in her books that deal with abuse. I felt comfortable reading this book as it was borrowed and therefore I wasn't giving any extra money to Hoover, but I would overall say to not support this author by purchasing her books directly, as I do think she could do greater work to protect her readers through trigger warnings. If you are interested in this book, consider buying second-hand or borrowing. 

It Ends With Us is about a woman named Lily who moves to Boston for a fresh start. She opens up a flower shop and aims to make a life for herself after the death of her father, who physically abused her mother. Soon after moving to Boston, Lily meets Ryle, a stoic and stubborn brain surgeon who is taken with Lily and aims to start a relationship. However, this relationship quickly turns abusive, and Lily is suddenly faced with the realization that she is exactly where her mother was. 

It is apparent to the reader from the very beginning that Ryle will become physically and emotionally abusive towards Lily. Even in the first moments he meets her, he is patronizing, creepy and obsessive. However, Lily feels comfortable to enter a relationship and she does begin to excuse his behaviour under his false promises that "it'll never happen again." Lily's situation is unfortunately all too common for many people in abusive relationships. Their partners appear charismatic, and their obsession with their victims disguised by romantic gestures and empty promises. When I first began the book, I felt frustrated with Lily because I thought she was naïve that she couldn't see what I saw. The signs were all there, and yet she excused them. However, I quickly realized that my negative opinions towards Lily were because I've never, thankfully been in an abusive relationship before, and so I felt I would have reacted differently. However, I've never been in that situation before, and we can never tell victims how they should've acted, as they were in extremely hard situations that they never considered they would be in. What's in the past is done, and all we can do is support victims in the present. 

Lily states on multiple occasions that she never thought she would be in the same situation as her mother, and that even she judged victims of domestic abuse. She says that she wonders how they could stay with their abusers, and she is shocked that she ends up the same way. However, she comes to the realization that she has fallen in love with her abuser, because of the good times that they had together. When Lily stated that she had fallen in love with Ryle, I at first was a bit shocked, but then I realized where she was coming from. Ryle was the first person she met when she was in Boston, and he came into her life at a very difficult time. I cannot possibly judge her for the love she has for him, because she fell in love while she was extremely vulnerable. 

There is a scene in the book in which Alyssa, Ryle's sister, tells Lily that as Ryle's sister, she wants Lily to give him another chance at redemption, but as Lily's best friend, she needs Lily to get out of that relationship as soon as possible, or Alyssa will never speak to Lily again. I found this scene to be very powerful, as it shows how hard it is for Alyssa to process that her brother is an abuser. She wants to still love her brother, but she loves Lily's safety even more. I found this scene to be an interesting exploration on how family members of abusers process their feelings, and I wondered how I'd react in the same situation. 

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD 

Lily and Ryle eventually get married, and Lily discovers she is pregnant. She first considers never telling Ryle of her pregnancy, but she eventually decides to let him be a part of the baby's life, with a firm warning that if he lays a hand on their child, Lily will leave. Ryle is surprisingly a caring father, and is even in the delivery room with Lily when she gives birth. I found this sequence of events to be the most conflicting for me. At first I was hoping and rooting for Lily to run away and never let Ryle know of his daughter. But, her decision comes after she considers that her child needs two parents and that Ryle actually wants to be a father. They do split up and share custody of their daughter, and Lily whispers to her daughter that the cycle of abuse "ends with us." I thought that the book ended on both a bleak and hopeful note. I just wished that Ryle got what he deserved, that he never knew happiness again. But, Lily chooses a different path. She doesn't forgive Ryle for what he did to her, but she gives him the chance to be there for her daughter. I thought this was a very strong and difficult decision for her, but it was ultimately one that I respected, as Lily looks towards restorative justice and for Ryle to see how to properly raise a child. 

I say my opinions on this book were conflicted because at points I was so frustrated with the characters. I was so angry with Ryle for continuing to abuse his power and breaking his promises, and even times I was frustrated with Lily for giving him second chances and even for telling him of the pregnancy. However, the author's note at the end of the novel helped me to reconcile some of these opinions. Hoover notes that her father was abusive to her mother, however he was always kind to her and he saw the errors of his ways right up until his death. She even thanks her father at the end of the novel for recognizing the harm that he caused. I realized that this book was an accurate representation, but not the only representation of what domestic abuse can look like. Some may choose a different path, but Lily chose a path similar to that of Hoover's own family, and she does still end up free and safe. I learned by the end of this book that healing from an abusive family looks different for everyone, and because of this, nobody can judge the choices made by the victims. Overall, I am thankful to this book for teaching me about one of the ways in which domestic abuse manifests itself, and one of the ways in which victims can heal from it. I only hope that this cycle doesn't continue. 

Have you read It Ends With Us? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Pet by: Akwaeke Emezi

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy 

Published: September 10, 2019 by: Make Me A World 

Pages: 208 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: discussions of racism and transphobia, familial abuse, body gore


 

Jam and the other children of the town of Lucille, live in harmony knowing that monsters no longer exist. Jam is able to live in a world where she can be unapologetically herself, and she and her best friend Redemption are looking forward to growing up in a world that respects them. That is, until a creature called Pet comes to life. Pet tells Jam that there is a monster hidden in Redemption's house, and its job is to hunt them down. Pet is suddenly faced with the realization that some monsters may have been left behind, and Pet will stop at nothing until the monster is conquered. 

This was a book unlike anything I have experienced before. With a unique premise and beautiful, lyric writing that Akwaeke Emezi does so well, Pet was a riveting novel from beginning to end. While I did have some minor issues with some of the themes, I think this book is perfect for young adults and adults alike who want to be immersed in a diverse world of characters who just want to keep the peace. 

Jam is a vibrant teenage girl, who is also transgender. However, her identity as a transgender girl is not something that is filled with trauma and hardship. Her parents are fully accepting of her, and accepted her as a girl the moment she realized she was one at such a young age. I found the detail that Jam knew she was a girl at just three years old so important, as trans kids are often told by transphobic adults that they can't possibly know their identity so young. But Jam does, and she lives a full life. 

I also loved Jam's friend, Redemption, and his close family. Redemption's parents are in a queer, polyamorous relationship, and this kind of familial bond was so amazing to see. Rarely ever do we see authors write of polyamorous relationships, and especially in young adult novels. I commend Emezi for writing a book that was filled to the brim with representation. Emezi never writes what colonialism has taught us is the "normal," and I appreciate that. 

This book is placed in a utopian setting, in which all of the monsters of the world have been destroyed. Homophobia, transphobia, and racism don't exist anymore, and Jam never even thinks that she will face these monsters. However, Pet throws Jam for a loop with the reveal that there is a monster still left. The idea of a utopian setting is not something that I usually read about, as I am more used to dystopia. But putting Jam into a world of utopia was so important, so that she can grow up without trauma or fear. Jam is also selectively mute, and her family and friends respect this. She is such a layered character and was a joy to read about. 

The one and only problem I had with this book, is that some of the action towards the end of the book was a bit jarring. I was very much caught up in the idea that this was a utopian setting, so the reveal of a monster and the inevitable climax did disturb me a bit. However, this is completely a reflection of my personal opinion and where my head was at during the time of reading. I was in a place where I really just wanted to read something cheerful, and while this book is full of joy, it does also contain some darkness. I think I didn't necessarily read this book at a time that was right for me, however I'd be totally willing to give it a re-read. 

Overall, you need to read Pet. Akwaeke Emezi is one of the best writers of their generation, and they bring such a treasured tradition of Nigerian culture and oral storytelling to their works. I'd be curious to read Emezi's next young adult books, as their work is such an important part of literature. 

Have you read Pet? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess