Friday, 6 December 2019

Helen of Troy by: Margaret George

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mythology
Published: August 3, 2006 by: Viking Adult
Pages: 611
Rating: 4/5 stars



Helen is the most beautiful woman of the Mediterranean. Fathered by Zeus himself, Helen's divine beauty becomes a hot commodity, and eventually she is married off to Spartan king Menelaus. But, their relationship soon turns sour, and Helen finds herself enthralled by Paris, a young Trojan prince whose land has just aligned with Sparta. All alliances are off when Helen flees to Troy to be with Paris, and Menelaus and his ruthless brother Agamemnon launch a brutal 10 year war to get her back. Inspired by the infamous Iliad, Margaret George changes up the classic formula of the Trojan War, by having Helen narrate her own story.

If you know me, you know that I am a sucker for anything related to the Trojan War. I read the Iliad for fun. David Benioff's Troy is one of my biggest guilty pleasure movies. I know, I know, the movie kinda sucks. But, movie adaptations of the Trojan War are slim so I don't really have much to choose from. And we got Ned Stark as Odysseus, so it's still a decent movie in my book.

I will pick up any and every book having to do with the Trojan War. I saw this book at the library, and with a whopping 600 pages, I knew it would be just the thing to read over summer vacation. (Yes, I read this book in the summer and am only reviewing it now. Can you say, behind on reviews much?)

Anyways, I was not disappointed by this novel. I knew at some point I just had to read a retelling of the Trojan War through a woman's perspective, because a lot of the adaptations are pretty misogynistic. And who better to hear it from than Helen herself? I think George perfectly captured Helen's voice, and I was not disappointed by her characterization.

Helen's characterization was something I was a bit worried for. A lot of adaptations portray her as dull and naive, basically just a pretty face. I thought she had large levels of intelligence and rationality within this novel. The girl knows what she wants, and I could appreciate that. I found that in this novel, Paris was more of the naive one, which I loved because I have always pictured Paris as a really stupid guy.

I thought that this book was accurate to the classic depiction of the Trojan War, which I really loved. I don't like it when adaptations sensationalize the war, or give it a Hollywood-esque feel. There are still classical texts that should be followed as the basic guidelines for the story. I could tell that George did her research on this novel, and didn't just piece together what is commonly known about the Trojan War and call it a day. There was textual accuracy.

The one thing that I didn't love about this novel, is that it is extremely character driven. I mean, this is rightly so, because the novel is from the perspective of a character who did not directly fight in the war. It makes sense that the novel would be based more off of her life then in the direct action of the Trojan War. But I guess for me, I was expecting more allusions to the battle and the important figures in the battle. I would have liked to see more of Helen's opinions on important figures such as Odysseus, Patroclus, and Achilles. I f*cking love Achilles. (When I say this, I picture Achilles as the morally developed gay icon in Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles, not Brad Pitt's misogynistic adaptation in Troy).

I knew that this review would veer off track, because I get a little carried away when someone so much as mentions the Trojan War. I'm just a little passionate, ok? Anyways, bottom line is, I really loved the characterization of Helen and George's attention to detail. I didn't love how we didn't see as much of the battle, and I wanted the novel to have a better balance of character vs. plot. But, overall, I would call this retelling a win!

Have you read Helen of Troy? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 29 November 2019

Month in Review: November


The Christmas season is officially upon us and I am almost done with this semester! Time flies when you're trying not to fail your classes :D Here's what happened in November:

What I Read: 

Anne of Green Gables by: Lucy Maud Montgomery: 4/5 stars
The Island of Dr. Moreau by: H.G.Wells: 1/5 stars

It was a bummer of a reading month, and both of these books were for school. I obviously enjoyed Anne of Green Gables a lot more, which is surprising because I didn't think I would like it at all! As for Dr. Moreau, well I am currently stressed out of my mind trying to write an essay on it. It's funny how difficult essays become when you really hated the book.

What I Blogged:

By far, my favourite blog post that I published this month was my rant on Canada's Idolisation of an Old White Man and his Racism. It was a discussion on the Don Cherry scandal, and it generated a lot of traffic blog-wise for me. I'm so happy it was well received!

Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Veronika asks if YA Prices has Gotten out of Hand? 

Cee discusses Marginalisation in Dystopia 

Shayna reveals the Odd Things She's Found in Library Books 

Life Stuff: 

I am preparing for final papers and exams right now, and just wishing for Christmas to be upon me already. However, a part of me is also quite stressed for December. As a socially anxious person, the prospect of the amount of parties that Christmas entails is very daunting. I am already stressed about my work Christmas party on Monday, because I have had full on panic attacks at these kinds of gatherings before.

I also have my final road test on December 18, (one day before my birthday!) which has been the main source of stress at the back of my mind for probably the past three years. Once I pass this test I will finally be done with all of this bullshit, but I do not test well AT ALL and even though I am a good and careful driver, as soon as the instructor is in the car I will freeze up. I always joke that road tests take like five years off my life in terms of the stress they give me. So let's hope that come the end of December when I'm writing my month in review, I will only have good news to share!

That being said, I really do enjoy (the quiet) parts of Christmas and getting to go home. I am also getting a new tattoo this month which I am excited about.

I love how this portion turned from talking about stuff that happened in November, to worrying about the future. But, that's just how my brain works!

How was your November? What are you looking forward to in December?

Emily @ Paperback Princess


Friday, 22 November 2019

Heretics Anonymous by: Katie Henry

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Published: August 7, 2018 by: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 329
Rating: 4/5 stars



After his dad switches jobs, Michael is sent to the strict Catholic school St. Clare's. There's only problem though, and that is that Michael is an atheist. He is determined that Catholic school will not change his mind. When be befriends Lucy, a loyal Catholic determined to make progressive changes to the church, he is whisked into the world of Heretic's Anonymous. This secret society plays host to a number of kids who want to live their lives truthfully, despite what their school may tell them. But, when Michael starts a mission that threatens to reveal the society to the school, he must grapple with his the new relationships he has formed, and his faith.

I have seen this book around many bookstores, and finally decided to pick it up. I am an agnostic who has struggled with faith and spirituality all my life. I also went to strict Catholic school, so I thought there would be an element of relatability to this book. I was definitely right.

This book was very funny. I am a sucker for using humour to deal with religious themes, and this book does that. There is also a heavy element of morality/ethics to it. Think of it like YA's answer to The Good Place. I happen to love that show, so I found this book to be equally as enjoyable.

This book was very easy to get through. It was light-hearted, and it didn't try too hard. It was funny enough to keep me thoroughly entertained, so I didn't find myself getting bored. It was a very fun read.

I'm not giving this book five stars, simply because it didn't give me a real "wow" factor. Yes, it was enjoyable. Yes, it was funny. But, there wasn't anything truly impactful about it to warrant it five stars. Sometimes books are just light-hearted entertainment, and that's fine.

Have you read Heretics Anonymous? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 15 November 2019

Paperback's Pondering's: On Canada's Idolization of an Old White Man and his Racism


Today's post is going to be EXTREMELY different from anything I have ever done. It's not even book related. But, if you're from Canada, this story has been the main headline for the past week, and I have so many opinions about it that I need to get out. I decided to take a page out of Cee @ Dora Read's book and get start writing about social justice issues that I care about, whether book related or not. So, let's get started:

For those of you who have no idea what's been going on, basically Sportsnet (one of the main sports networks in Canada) fired Don Cherry, a sports commentator who has hosted Hockey Night in Canada's Coach's Corner every Saturday for over 30 years. Basically, Don, now 85 years old, has a segment every Saturday night during the intermission for the NHL hockey games that feature Canadian teams. The broadcast airs nationwide, and he comments alongside his partner Ron McLean on hockey news, how the teams are playing, but he is also well-known for his dedication to veterans and his speeches on the Saturday before Remembrance Day. He basically became a Canadian icon, and a lot of people grew up watching him every Saturday. Myself included.

Growing up, I thought Don was kinda funny. I didn't really pay attention to what he said hockey-wise, but he always wore funky suits, and I thought he was just a cool symbol of Canadian culture. But when I got older, I began to recognise that the stuff he was saying seemed a little bit outdated, and offensive. Soon I began to see him as he really is: a racist bigot.

Last Saturday, so right before Remembrance Day, Don went on a rant, critcizing immigrants who come to Canada looking for "the land of milk and honey," but don't wear poppies. He called immigrants "you people," and he cited Mississauga, one of the most culturally diverse cities in Canada, as being one of the places in which he never sees people wearing poppies.

*for those outside the commonwealth, most commonwealth countries wear poppies up until Remembrance Day as respect for veterans.

Don never apologized for his actions, and people were outraged, myself included. How dare he state that immigrants, who may be coming here with absolutely no knowledge on Canadian culture, have no respect for veterans? How care he criticize culturally-diverse cities, while praising the "small towns" where nothing has changed. We know what you mean there Don, you mean small towns with all-white populations.

I also found it interesting that he seems to know who "immigrants" are just by walking the streets of Mississauga. Are you just assuming, Don, that if you see a brown person without a poppy, that they are an immigrant with no care for Canadian customs? You're not thinking of the fact that maybe their poppy fell off, or they're wearing a different coat, or they're wearing it under their coat? Of course you're just assuming, because you have a racist mindset, and a vendetta against anyone who isn't from the small-town white Canadian life you seem to champion.

The main argument from his defenders, is that he is an 85 year old icon who shouldn't be fired after all these years for one mistake. But, the truth is, that Don has made plenty of mistakes in the past. He has constantly made fun of European hockey players who react when getting hurt, calling them soft. He has championed that getting hit in the head is just "part of the game," and that concussion protocol isn't needed. He has perpetuated toxic masculinity within the sport. I don't care how many episodes of Coach's Corner I have watched in the past, I will certainly feel better not seeing him on my tv.

I'm also very pissed off that he decided to take the poppy, a cherished symbol of remembrance, and use it to perpetuate racism. However, this is a trend that I have been seeing with a lot of Canadians nowadays. For some, the poppy is now a symbol of how "good" of a Canadian you are. Wearing one automatically gets you the stamp of approval in the Canadian books. I feel like I'm being judged if I forget to wear mine, and especially if you are brown, not wearing one immediately puts a target on your back.

And, some people choose not to wear one for personal reasons. Some people don't wear it because they feel as if it glorifies war and militarism. Some First Nations people and other people of colour choose not to wear one because of the history of mistreatment both before and after the war against their people. It's a personal choice, and by not wearing one, it does not say anything about your status as a "good" Canadian, and it doesn't say anything about your respect towards vets. To me, you can still be respectful and appreciative of veterans without having something pinned to your coat. There are other ways to show your appreciation. And Don has no right to judge anyone for that.

I'm happy he was fired. He has consistently preached a white, nationalistic agenda, and his opinions are outdated and wrong. I just saw today that he was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on Fox News, so that should tell you everything you need to know about Don Cherry. I think it is about time somebody put him his place, and I don't think he receives any pass just because he was idolized by so many Canadians. If anything, I think that the fact that he is 85 years old, and still got fired, is a good example of how racism is not excusable at any age. He should not be excused just because he is from an older generation.

Good riddance, Don. My Saturday's are a lot nicer without you in them.

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 8 November 2019

YA vs. NA: Why is it So Hard To Categorize?


I think it is obvious that I mostly read YA. I find it the most enjoyable to read personally, though I have read some standard fiction novels that I absolutely love. Recently, I have been branching more into New Adult territory.  This is mostly because I ain't getting any younger, and since I am well out of high school now, I do find some YA to be less relatable to me. However, a problem arises when trying to research New Adult books. I am finding that most of the books I am looking for are being categorized under the YA genre, when they are so clearly not YA.

I realized I wanted to write this post when reading Red, White and Royal Blue by: Casey Mcquiston. I absolutely adored the book, but I was shocked while reading some of the details, because all this time I had seen the book being marketed as YA. Even on Goodreads, a substantial amount of people had labelled it YA. There are some detailed sex scenes in the book, and the characters are a bit more mature, so I wondered why YA was the standard for it to be labelled as.

I think that people forget that YA is not just a genre for older high school students. YA begins at age 12, and I personally don't find Red, White and Royal Blue appropriate for a 12 year old. Now, this can all depend on the maturity of the teen, and I don't think we should censor what teens want to read if they are willing to learn, however sometimes books are just meant for an older audience, even if they are labelled as something different.

I have seen on twitter that Ninth House by: Leigh Bardugo was being marketed as YA, simply because of Leigh's past YA novels being such a success. Now I haven't read Ninth House yet, but judging by the synopsis, I don't think it is anywhere near YA territory, even if the author has written YA. Why should she be labelled to one genre for the rest of her life? It just seems so restricting to me.

Other books such as the A Court of... series by: Sarah J. Maas are sooo not YA, but again, I have seen them on the YA shelf at bookstores. These books are very explicit in sex content, and again, I think some parents would be weary of their 12 year old reading them. There is absolutely no reason for this book to be labelled as YA.

I think I know the answer as to why a lot of books are mis-labelled, and it comes down to good old marketing. YA is a much larger field than NA. YA books are super successful, whereas NA is a relatively new category with not as many recognisable bestsellers. I think some marketers label books as YA because they know the book will make a lot of money if under that category. It opens the book up to not only teens, but also the adults who do read YA, whereas less teens read NA. I guess it just makes more money that way.

I think that booksellers and publishers should be careful when labelling novels. If Jenny Han, the queen of YA contemporary in my opinion, were to write a book tomorrow with graphic content, I don't think it should still be put into YA just because she is a well-known YA author! There are certain guidelines that should be followed.

So, if a mature teen would like to branch into NA, then good for them! However, when unknowing younger teens are picking up novels in the YA section, only to be shocked and confused by the content, then there is a big problem on our hands. New Adult is a great genre, so let its books flourish! The only way to expand the genre, is to allow books to be apart of it.

Have you found this to be an issue?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 1 November 2019

Month in Review: October


I know I am not as consistent with monthly wrap-ups anymore, but a lot of stuff did happen in October which I am happy to share!

What I Read: 

The Beetle by: Richard Marsh: 2/5 stars
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 by: Jordie Bellaire, Dan Mora, Raul Angulo: 5/5 stars
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by: Lewis Carroll: 3/5 stars
Agamemnon by: Aeschylus: 4/5 stars
Prometheus Bound by: Aeschylus: 3/5 stars
The Picture of Dorian Gray by: Oscar Wilde: 5/5 stars

The randomness of these selections is all thanks to my school reading list. Although, the two Greek plays were actually pleasure readings due to a beautiful copy of Greek tragedies I found!

Favourite book: I got the new series of Buffy comics back in the summer, and finally got around to reading it. Not only was the art beautiful, but it was a really cool modern take on Buffy!

What I Blogged: 

I think I stayed pretty consistent in blogging once a week! (Minus one week, but we'll get to the reason later) Anyways, my favourite post was my review of Red, White and Royal Blue by: Casey Mcquiston. I just loved that book so much that it was so good to finally get my thoughts out!

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Shayna writes a beautiful Tribute to Sylvia Plath 
Veronika discusses Unreliable Narrators 
Cee sheds light on the recent tragedy in Essex- 39 (Content warning)

Life Stuff: 

The main thing that happened in October, was that for my fall break from university, I went to England! There was a purpose to my trip, I want to do my Master's there and so I went to go visit some universities and do some campus tours. I basically went all over, which was tiring, but also really cool because I have never explored England outside of London. My favourite university I saw was Warwick, however, I also did have *a bit* of an anxiety attack while I was there, wondering if I could really go abroad. So we will see what happens in the future.

I did get to spend one day in London though, and I was so happy that I could finally see Hamilton. This musical means so much to me and it was so awesome to finally be able to see it. I also got my programme signed by some of the cast members which was a major fangirl moment!

So that was my month. Now I am looking forward to switching to Christmas mode soon. I have already seen some commercials (gasp!) What did you get up to in October?

Emily @ Paperback Princess





Friday, 25 October 2019

Red, White and Royal Blue by: Casey McQuiston

Genre: New Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Published: May 14, 2019 by: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 421
Rating: 5/5 stars



Alex Claremont- Diaz is the quintessential golden boy. He is handsome, charming, and his mother just also happens to be president of the United States. There's only one problem though, and that is that Alex has an extreme distaste for England's golden boy, Prince Henry of Wales. When Alex and Henry get into a controversial fight at a high-class gathering, the US and UK both agree to stage a friendship between the two boys to ease tensions. However, this pretend friendship soon blossoms into something more, and with his mother searching for re-election, Alex must decide if this love is truly worth it.

This book was on my radar as soon as I realized it was coming out. I needed a fluffy romance in my life, especially during the summertime. Mix that with my interest in the British royals and American politics, and I got myself a great read!

This book has the classic enemies to lovers trope. I absolutely love this trope because the romance tends to be slow-burn, and thus means so much more in the end. I really got to see Alex and Henry's relationship develop, and it was really adorable to see. Also because they're enemies at first, there are a lot of sarcastic quips throughout the novel that just makes their relationship so darn lovable.

The secondary characters are also awesome throughout the book. Alex's sister, the vice-president's daughter, and even Henry's sister were all so iconic! There are some strong female characters throughout this book that I really enjoyed reading about.

This book is extremely diverse. There are bi-racial characters, bi-sexual characters, gays, lesbians, the whole works! I think these details make the book so awesome, because every character has something unique about them. This isn't a cookie-cutter romance. It is an adorable novel that doesn't fetishize gay relationships. It's also more NA than YA, so it's a little bit more mature and realistic to the stage in life that I am in right now. Overall, I loved every second of it.

Have you read Red, White and Royal Blue? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess