Sunday, 2 October 2022

The Strangers by: Katherena Vermette

 Genre: Fiction 

Published: September 7, 2021 by: Penguin Random House Canada 

Pages: 337 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: inter-generational trauma, violence and racism against Indigenous women, addiction

The Strangers have fallen victim to a fractured system that seeks to tear Indigenous families apart. After moving from foster home to foster home, Cedar Stranger moves in with her estranged father and his new family. She struggles to fit into his life when all she wants is to be reunited with her sisters. Phoenix Stranger has just had a baby while being detained in a youth detention centre. She is worried that she will never know what freedom feels like, and she suffers mistreatment and abuse while being incarcerated. Elsie Stranger, the matriarch of the Stranger family, has lost two of her daughters, and turns to drugs and alcohol to cope through the trauma her family has gone through, while still trying to care for the youngest Stranger daughter, Sparrow. The Stranger women have been through too much in just a short amount of time, and they work towards being reunited, if the system will allow them to. 

The Strangers is a companion novel to Vermette's book The Break, which follows an accident that occurred in a small Indigenous community and how each resident witnessed the accident. However, you do not have to read that book first before going into The Strangers. Still, if you wish to revisit the characters in this book, The Break is also an extremely well-written text. The Strangers was a heart-wrenching book about familial ties and the resilience of Indigenous women even when the Canadian government has put in place systems to tear them down. I found myself going through a range of emotions within every page, and I kept wanting to turn the page and learn more about this family and if they would ever know peace. This book does deal with some heavy subject matter, so do please be careful, but overall, I found it to be a very valuable piece of work. 

Inter-generational trauma is a common topic explored in a lot of books by Indigenous authors, as sadly many Indigenous families in North America faced abuse at the hands of the government through things like residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. Vermette chooses to explore inter-generational trauma by using multiple perspectives from the same family. It is interesting to see Elsie's point of view, compared to that of her daughters. In particular, since not all of these family members live together, I got to explore how these women's environments impacted their social and physical wellbeing. Cedar being forced into the home of her father who she has never really known, and seeing that he has moved on in a way and developed a new family, was a really poignant moment, as I got to see how Cedar develops an understanding of family and what she can do to strengthen her's. 

Phoenix's point of view from the setting of a youth detention facility was a really integral part to the book. There has historically been an influx of the incarceration of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian detention centres. Phoenix is still a teenager, and yet she is forced to grow up too quickly by not only going to prison, but also having a baby while incarcerated. Vermette really explores how birth is already a traumatic experience, and is made even more traumatic by Phoenix not having autonomy over her body while she gives birth. While I don't know much about the correctional system in Canada, I could tell that this book was meticulously researched and taught me more about youth facilities and how Phoenix is both serving time for a very serious crime, but she is also the victim of crime herself. That connection between causing hurt but also being hurt yourself was made very clear in this book. 

Many Indigenous communities rely on matriarchies within their familial systems. The Stranger family is no exception. However, this emphasis on matriarchy is made complicated when Elsie is told that she is not fit to be a matriarch due to her struggles with addiction. But, these struggles did not turn up out of nowhere, rather they are a symptom of a continuous cycle of abuse that affected Elsie and the women before her. I really felt for Elsie. I wanted her to get better, but I also understood how difficult it would be for her to get to a place of healing. Still, she fights for her daughters, and in there lies her strength. I appreciated learning about Elsie's story, but I also understood that her story was not fictional, and is actually the reality for many Indigenous women in North America. 

Overall, I would encourage everyone to read The Strangers. While it is difficult to get through, if you are wanting to learn more about some of the issues faced by Indigenous women in Canada, then this book is a great start. Vermette is a powerful author and I am always privileged to read her work. 

Have you read The Strangers? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: Burning Out

 CW: this post will discuss panic attacks and anxiety 

Last week, I was burnt out. I worked eight days in a row, after having to pick up a few extra shifts due to other coworkers calling in sick and my manager needing the extra help. I didn't at all mind helping out my manager. She was in a tough position and the scheduling conflicts were outside of her control. However, in my inability to say "no" to anything, I ended up taking on a lot more then I could handle and paid the price for it. This is me pondering burn out culture, and the problems when you just can't say no in a workplace. 

If you noticed, I was very inconsistent with posting on the blog for the past two weeks. This is because I simply had no extra time to write. If I wasn't sleeping, I was at my workplace, which is supposed to be a part-time job but very quickly turned into full-time because of said unforeseen scheduling conflicts. I felt awful for my manager because I could tell that she very clearly didn't want to ask me to take on extra work, but with other coworkers heading back to school and other folks on vacation, she simply didn't have a choice. But, this is me saying that two things can exist at the same time. I can feel bad for my manager and appreciate that she didn't want to ask me to take on extra work, but I am also allowed to reflect on how real I burnt out and take actions to ensure that it does not happen again. 

Most folks with social anxiety, or any other anxiety may feel the need to people-please. They may think that they just can't say no to anyone asking for help, even if they're so stressed that their help may even just be a hinderance. I definitely fall into this category. Now don't get me wrong, if anyone needed my help with a serious, life-altering issue, I would put aside whatever I was doing and jump right in. However, with smaller things, like picking up extra shifts, sometimes I find the need to just say yes to everything, that I end up neglecting other important things in my life. That is exactly what happened this time. I couldn't say no to anything, so I ended up neglecting other obligations, like driving my sister to appointments she needed to go to, or failing to get the ball rolling on some applications and projects that I needed to get done. I was so focused on pleasing one aspect of my life, that being my work, that I forgot that life requires a balance, an equal weighting of all important things in life. 

By day eight, I almost sent myself into a panic attack. I was so tired, as my work involves a lot of physical and emotional energy. Working in customer service, you do need to be "on" all the time. You can never show any ounce of being tired, or like you don't want to be where you are. However, this can be extremely draining on a person. I didn't feel like myself after a while. Instead, I felt like a customer service robot, who went to sleep every night and woke up every morning ready to keep sales goals up and maintain a sugary-sweet voice. At night when I went home, I still felt like I had to be working. For reference, after every hour when I'm at work, we have to track where the store's sales for the day are currently at in a little chart. When I came home, after every hour, my brain would automatically go to: "I gotta put the information into the chart!" That doesn't seem like a very healthy way to live. 

In the future, I really need to work on being honest with the people around me and letting them know when things are just a bit too much. It was just as easy for me to say: "manager, I understand you really need my help, but I do have other appointments today, so would it be possible for me to do a four hour shift instead of an eight hour shift?" In any sort of environment, compromise is incredibly important, so that all parties are on the same page and so that nobody is taking on more than they can handle. I'm confident that my manager would have said yes, as she would have understood that I was taking on a lot more than in an average week. But, I didn't even ask, because I felt like I couldn't. I just had to say yes, and that is not the way to live. 

Some of you may know that I am looking for full-time positions at the moment. In my future jobs, and even in my job now, I'm going to make every effort to be a hard worker, without compromising my mental health. I'll be a team player, but I'll be honest with my team when things get too tough. I will ask for help when needed. I have learned a difficult lesson that being a hard worker and team player doesn't mean taking on everything by yourself. It's about working with the people around you to make sure that everyone is comfortable and has both the workplace and their own health as top priorities. Burning out is not something to be proud of, and I hope it never happens to me again. 

Have you ever been burnt out? Do you feel like you can't say no to people? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

The Fire Never Goes Out by: Nate Stevenson

 Genre: graphic novel, memoir 

Published: March 3, 2020 by: HarperTeen 

Pages: 198 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: gender dysphoria, anxiety, depression 

Told in a graphic novel format with Stevenson's signature illustrations, The Fire Never Goes Out tells the story of ND Stevenson's life, from entering college and beginning to write, to his success now being a bestselling author and tv writer. Along the way, Stevenson encounters the struggles with coming out as genderqueer, but ultimately, the novel is an uplifting story from a well-beloved illustrator and writer. 

I love Nate Stevenson's work! For those who don't know, Stevenson has been around the writer-sphere for a while using a deadname, and he just shared that his name is Nate during pride month! So, while copies of his books may not be updated yet, he does go by Nate or ND Stevenson. I read Nimona by Stevenson for a comics class last year, and I thought it was a super well-written story about a villainous chaotic shapeshifter. The illustrations were unique and top-notch. So, I knew I wanted to give Stevenson's memoir a try. Plus, a memoir told in graphic novel format seems even cooler! I can say that this book retains Stevenson's charming illustrations and compelling storytelling abilities. 

While not everything in Stevenson's life may have been all sunshine and rainbows, I do admire him for retaining an uplifting storyline while also still being able to get serious at moments. Stevenson's illustration style is incredibly whimsical, so it's hard to remember that some moments of his life were not perfect, but Stevenson perfectly weaves together his drawing style with whatever specific tone he's going for in the story he's telling. But, the book never feels overbearing or difficult to get through. While a lot of memoirs can get dark, I ultimately found this to be a fascinating look at an author's life whom I really admire, which left me motivated for whatever new work he puts out in the future. 

I especially appreciated how Stevenson provides a behind the scenes look at how some of his works were written, such as Nimona, but also his tv show She-Ra. I've never seen She-Ra before, but hearing about how Stevenson conceived of the tv show and learning about his passion behind the show motivated me to want to watch it even more! I love how Stevenson committed to making sure that the show had important representation. 

Stevenson is genderqueer, but like I said, he only recently provided a name and pronoun update this past June. While this book, which was published in 2020, isn't updated to where Stevenson currently is in terms of his gender identity, I could definitely see how Stevenson was beginning to work through complicated ideas surrounding gender and sexuality within his young adult life. I definitely think it is disheartening as a published writer to have people constantly misgender you or continuously use your deadname, but I applaud him for staying true to himself and for working with what makes him the most comfortable. 

Overall, I will continue to consume any of Stevenson's works that I can! I just love how he writes, draws, and presents himself in the writing world. I would encourage all of you to read from this wonderful talent! 

Have you read The Fire Never Goes Out? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Month in Review: August

I'm oddly excited for Fall. I'm really looking forward to watching spooky movies, going apple picking, and baking fall treats. September might even involve some exciting changes, if all goes well. Here's what happened in August: 

What I Read: 

You Made A Fool of Death With Your Beauty by: Akwaeke Emezi: 4/5 stars 

Queenie by: Candice Carty-Williams: 5/5 stars 

Four for the Road by: K.J. Reilly: 4/5 stars 

The Umbrella Academy Volumes 1 & 2 by: Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá: 4/5 stars 

TJ Powar has Something to Prove by: Jesmeen Kaur Deo: 3/5 stars 

Favourite Book of the Month: Queenie by: Candice Carty-Williams surprised me. I didn't really know what to expect going into the book, and while there were some funny moments, I really ultimately felt for Queenie and the struggle she goes through. This was a tough read to get through, but was a great look at the experiences of a young Jamaican woman in London. 

What I Blogged: 

I got the opportunity to receive an ARC from Simon and Schuster of Four for the Road by: K.J. Reilly. It was a great YA book that explores grief, and I'd love for y'all to check out the review. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Cee thinks Way Too Much About Poetic POV's 

Sofia shares 80 Book Recommendations for Latinx Book Bingo 

Marie shares 10 YA Books with a Summer Romance You'll Fall Far 

Life Stuff: 

August was really fun. I started off the month by heading to Pennsylvania for a family vacation, and then went to the Harry Styles concert in the middle of August, which was fab. He puts on a great show! 

At the end of the month, I splurged and bought myself a ticket to Fanexpo, the biggest fan convention in Toronto. I got to meet Joe Quinn from Stranger Things and Levar Burton, both of which I seriously fangirled over. I also got to see some cool cosplays and bought some Buffy merch. Overall, it was a tiring day, but so worth it! 

Now that I'm done school, I've been really committing myself to job searching. I'd love to get a writing or editing position to continue the work I do with my blog, so we'll see what happens. It only takes one person to show interest sometimes, and I'm hoping that will happen soon! 

So, August was full of exciting events, and September will be full of going back to a routine and preparing for the future. 

How was your August? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Monday, 22 August 2022

ARC Review: Four for the Road by: K.J. Reilly

 Genre: young adult fiction, contemporary 

Published: August 23, 2022 by: Atheneum Books 

Pages: 288 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: grief, drunk driving, death of a parent, death of a spouse, nightmares, alcoholism 

*Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review 

After his mother is killed by a drunk driver, Asher is seeking revenge on the man who killed her. He invites three members of his grief support group to accompany him on a road trip to Graceland, Tennessee, but he doesn't share with them that he is going to Tennessee with every intention to kill his mother's murderer. The three road-trippers include Sloane, a teen who lost her father to cancer, Will, who lost is brother, and Henry, the oldest member of the group at eighty years old, who is reeling from the loss of his wife. Together, this group of opposites embark on a physical and emotional journey that allows them to learn more about what connects them and how they can channel their grief into healing.

I wouldn't say that I read a lot of books about grief, so I didn't really know what to expect from reading this book. I have lost people before, but grief is such a complicated thing and everyone deals with it quite differently. I thought the author did something really unique by setting up the book around members of a grief support group, as I often forget that these types of groups exist and can be very helpful (but sometimes even hindering) for some people. I think that this book provided a great look at how different people decide to cope with their grief in either healing or self-destructive ways, and how healing is not about overcoming grief but rather learning to live with it. While some of the topics in this book are hard to get through, I ultimately thought that the author dealt with the subject matter in a sensitive way. 

The book is mostly told from the perspective of Asher, a teen who vows to avenge his mother's death. While at first glance, Asher may appear as an impulsive and destructive kid, I think readers should remember that he is still a teen and therefore is not always going to think before he acts, especially when dealing with the loss of a parent. Asher has shielded away some memories about the circumstances surrounding his mother's death, and the book slowly deals with him accepting those memories and moving forward. However, moving forward is an extremely difficult process for him. I really felt for Asher, especially considering how common it sadly is for children to lose their parents to drunk driving (or vice versa). I appreciated Asher's transformation throughout the book and enjoyed reading from his perspective. 

I liked how the author provided a range of age groups in the core four members of the road trip. For example, Henry's perspective on grief is entirely different from Asher's, especially considering his wife died through doctor-assisted suicide. I think Henry was a brilliantly complex character with a lot of wisdom to offer, and I loved reading about him and how he interacted with the other characters. Sloane and Will were also well-developed supporting characters, and each character overall provided something diverse to the book. 

I really do enjoy road trip narratives, so that detail of the book was great for me. I liked how the book didn't just deal with the characters in their support group, but rather set up the rising action with them in the group, and then provided enough road trip content to keep the journey interesting. This book is also not always sad, and has a good mixture of comic relief mixed with serious moments. 

The one thing I would say this book could have done better is enough context between the climax and falling action. The whole road trip revolves around Asher getting to the home of the man who killed his mother. But, once that happens, I found the book a bit rushed as it attempted to resolve all of the major issues. I didn't find myself particularly wowed by the climax and the events that followed, and I thought that more information to wrap things up towards the end of the book could have been useful. 

Overall, I liked this read! It provided me with some of the tropes I like, such as road trips, but also helped me to learn a bit more about how different people experience grief. I would recommend this book for those who want to learn the same. 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Lore Olympus: Volume One by: Rachel Smythe

 Genre: graphic novel, mythology 

Published: November 2nd, 2021 by: Del Rey 

Pages: 384 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: domestic abuse, sexual assault, drugging, alcoholism, addiction, misogyny 

This post will discuss sexual assault and incest 

Rachel Smythe retells the famed story of Hades and Persephone while using a modern backdrop and contemporary artwork. After dark, the Greek gods go to lavish parties to drink, hook up, and engage in the latest gossip. Currently, the centre of this gossip is Persephone, the bubbly daughter of Demeter, and Hades, the broody god of the Underworld. Hades and Persephone strike up a romance despite their differences.  But interference from other gods and battling their own demons will prove to be troubling to their relationship. 

I will always give a Greek mythology retelling a try. I was particularly intrigued by Lore Olympus because of its graphic novel format. I've gotten really into graphic novels and comics as of late, so I knew that this format could really work. I went into Lore Olympus not knowing much about the style of writing and the artwork, but I was extremely impressed by Smythe's ability to integrate modern themes within well-known stories of myth. 

You might've remembered my post from a while back where I discussed how I often forget to pay attention to the artwork of comics and graphic novels. Well, I think I may have finally found my exception. The artwork of this graphic novel is just so unique, that I found myself captivated by it. Smythe uses colour in such an interesting way, with each colour representing a god and their specific personality traits. Persephone's bubbly attitude is represented in pink, while Hades' emotional side is painted in blues and dark purples. The colours that Smythe uses accurately describe each character and portray them exactly how I would imagined their personality traits to be. Overall, the artwork was a huge selling point to the novel. 

Lore Olympus definitely deals with some heavy themes, that are both taken from the original myths and also applied to a modern audience. For example, sexual assault is so prevalent in myth, and Smythe uses this heavy topic to raise awareness on rape culture, drugging, and misogyny. These themes are definitely dealt with explicitly, so do be aware of content warnings. But, I think Smythe's attention to referencing the problematic handling of these topics within the original myths was a huge plus.

I loved the representation of Hades' and Persephone's relationship, but the book isn't only just about them. I was pleasantly surprised by how Smythe was able to handle sub-plots within the graphic novel, by giving us an inside look into the lives of other gods such as Aphrodite and Artemis. These sub-plots do not detract from the original story, rather they give readers the opportunity to learn more about the extensive cast of characters and how their personalities influence the couple at the centre of the story. 

Hades' and Persephone's story in the original myth is complicated. It is tainted with incest, sexual assault, and abduction. I was worried that Smythe would gloss over these issues and instead glamourize what is originally a problematic relationship. However, Smythe changes things around from the original myth to give us a pretty healthy relationship. Well, as healthy as can be given the setting. Smythe does not make the couple related to each other, and also changes Hades' character arc so that he is a lot less toxic than the original figure of Hades. The result is a pretty well-crafted sunshine and storm cloud relationship with enough drama from the supporting cast to still indicate how this relationship is affected by mythological themes of misogyny and jealousy. I applaud Smythe for paying attention to these problematic details from the original myth and taking action. 

Overall, I loved this graphic novel! I know the original story was released as a web-comic, and I'd love to explore it alongside the countless other volumes that Smythe has about this story. In the world of Greek mythology retellings, this was definitely a win. 

Have you read Lore Olympus? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Month in Review: July


CW: this post will discuss COVID 

July was spent mostly recovering from COVID. If you read my June month in review, I was still crossing my fingers that I would remain unscathed, but I did end up catching the virus and it did leave me with a pretty nasty cough. That being said, I am feeling MUCH better now, and am looking forward to August. Here's what I got up to July: 

What I Read: 

As the Wicked Watch by: Tamron Hall: 4/5 stars 

Indians on Vacation by: Thomas King: 4/5 stars 

The Bride Test and The Heart Principle by: Helen Hoang: 5/5 stars 

Wrong Side of the Court by: H.N. Khan: 3/5 stars 

Scarborough by: Catherine Hernandez: 5/5 stars 

Favourite book: I will be encouraging everyone to read Scarborough by: Catherine Hernandez until the day I die. For those unfamiliar, Scarborough is a district in Toronto known for having a diverse population, but also a lot of poverty. In this book, Catherine Hernandez offers a fictionalized depiction of the lives of Scarborough's residents. It was a fantastic book, whether you're familiar with the dynamics of area or not. 

What I Blogged: 

I really enjoyed my blog post discussing Reading Books with Bad Characters. It was definitely a complicated topic to get through, but I think it prompted a lot of great discussion. I especially learned a lot about the controversial book American Psycho! 

Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Cee says The Devil Wears Double Standards 

Claire shares her experiences living in Korea in My Life Has Changed 

Roberta asks: Movies or TV Shows? 

Life Stuff: 

I won't bore you with any more COVID news. Long story short: it was bad, but I'm better. Near the end of the month I was able to get my hair cut and I got a new tattoo! It's an outline of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the back of my arm, and I am in love with it. 

At the beginning of August, I'm going on a family vacation to Pennsylvania. This will be my first time leaving the country since the pandemic, and I'm really excited. I won't have a new post up next week because of this, but I'll be back in no time! I hope we all stay healthy and have a great time. We're planning on a day trip to NYC, which I'm really stoked for. 

So, that was my month! How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess