Friday, 16 April 2021

My Favourite Romantic Books by Asian Authors

CW: this post will briefly mention anti-Asian racism 

Asian writers have been subject to a lot of racism and trolling as of late. I won't go into the details because I think it will bring up a lot of trauma and I wanted to take this opportunity to spread some joy. So, I decided to share some of my favourite romantic books by Asian authors. 

Asia is a diverse continent full of unique cultures. Not every Asian's experience will be the same, and that's why books by different Asian authors are all interesting in their own right. I encourage you to read from a wide scope of Asian writers in order to get a diverse experience. I have also decided to focus this list on the theme of romance, because I have read so many books by Asian authors that have incredible ships and such amazingly well-written couples. Not all of these books just fall into the category of romance, but some might give you the opportunity to read more light-hearted Asian stories as opposed to just reading about trauma. While stories of the harsh realities of Asian people are needed, it is also integral to read books that spark joy. So without further adieu, here is my list. 

1. Loveboat, Taipei by: Abigail Hing Wen 

This book centers around Ever, a Taiwanese senior with a passion for dance who has been sent to Taiwan to study Mandarin by her strict parents. Ever finds herself in between a diverse group of individuals and soon finds herself falling in love. But along the way she also discovers more about herself and why she may have a strained relationship with her parents. I loved this book. The chemistry between the main love interests was incredible, and Ever goes through a great journey of self-love throughout the book. But not only is the book romantic, it also explores parental/child relationships and the sacrifices that immigrant parents have to make. 

2. Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by: Roselle Lim 

Vanessa Yu is able to tell people's fortunes by reading tea leaves. But even though she knows other people's futures, she is unsure of her own. She takes up the opportunity to live with her Aunt in Paris, and along the way she becomes determined to match her Aunt up with her Aunt's long lost love, and perhaps find some love of her own as well. This book was magical, whimiscal, and beautifully written. The love stories were powerful and adorable, and I loved that this book was set in Paris but didn't contain a white protagonist. 

3. Sex and Vanity by: Kevin Kwan 

Being bi-racial, Lucie has always found herself caught in between her Chinese roots on her mother's side, and her life of high white privilege on her father's side. When Lucie meets George Zao on the island of Capri during a glamorous wedding, she is immediately drawn to him. However, the white side of her family is less than accepting of her choice, and the book follows Lucie and George through a number of years as they make their way back to each other. I know so many people love Crazy Rich Asians by: Kevin Kwan, myself included. His latest book Sex and Vanity explores colonial ideals, white privilege, and growing up bi-racial. Of course, there is also descriptions of the super-rich and amazing chemistry in the middle of it all. 

4. To All the Boy's I've Loved Before by: Jenny Han 

Lara Jean Song-Covey has written letters to everybody she has ever loved. But when the letters one day mysteriously get out, she employs a fake dating scheme with one of her letter receipients in order to protect herself from the embarassment of her new crush. This book is super popular, thanks to the movie series. But if you've watched the movies but haven't read the books, please do. The books are comforting, give great insight into sibling relationships, and also go deeper into Lara Jean's Korean identity. This series will always remain a comfort for me. 

5. These Violent Delights by: Chloe Gong 

In 1926 in Shanghai, powerful gangs rule the streets. Juliette Cai is the heir to the Scarlet Gang, and she vows to make her father proud. On the other side, Roma Montagov is the heir of the Scarlet's rivals, The White Flowers, which is a Russian gang fighting to take over Scarlet territory. Roma was Juliette's first love, and when a mysterious illness and an even stranger creature starts invading Shanghai, the two must reunite to save their families. Roma and Juliette are such a powerful couple. This is a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but it is so much more complex, so intense, and also quite romantic. Please read it! 

6. The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by: Maggie Tokuda-Hall 

Flora is an orphan who has been forced to disguise herself as the pirate Florian on a dangerous ship with their brother Alfie. Soon Flora becomes tasked with protecting Lady Evelyn, a noble girl who is being forced across the seas to enter an arranged marriage. Neither Flora nor Evelyn know the adventure that they will be undertaking, and it will be one that involves magic, mermaids, and new love. I didn't expect to love this book as much as I did. But it was so interesting! Evelyn is Japanese and Flora is Black and genderqueer. He uses multiple pronouns throughout the book. Overall this book had an amazing queer romance and some really interesting characters. 

7. 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by: Sandhya Menon 

Pinky Kumar has always been too rebellious for her conservative lawyer parents. But one summer up at her family's Cape Cod house, she devises a plan to fake-date Sami Jha, a Harvard-bound law student who can get on Pinky's nerves, but who would be the perfect candidate to impress her parents. I love all of Menon's books. They are easy to read and fun, and always have a great dash of Indian culture and humour. Pinky was such a fun protagonist and the fake dating trope was alive and well in this book. 

So, this is my list of books by Asian authors that get love stories right! Let me know if you have read these or if you have any other recommendations. 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 9 April 2021

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimanline

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Science Fiction

Published: September 1, 2017 by Dancing Cat Books 

Pages: 231 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: blood and gore, racism against Indigenous people, colonization, violence 

Futuristic Earth is ravaged by global warming, and it has impacted the world so that non-Indigenous people cannot dream. The inability to dream leads to madness, and a group of people known as "recruiters" are scouring North America for the cure. The cure lies in the bone marrow of Indigenous people, who are now on the run from the people who want to steal their marrow and wipe out their nations. Fifteen year old Frenchie and his friends are a few of the many Indigenous teens that are trying their hardest to reconnect with old family members and stay hidden from the recruiters. But, will they make it across the continent alive? 

I picked up this book on a whim because I had heard good things about it. Boy was I blown away by it! It was suspenseful, tense, and a great addition to the YA dystopia/science fiction genre. The cast of characters were powerful and well-written, and the premise brings about issues that go a lot deeper than just an apocalypse. 

First off, I think it was really smart of the author to have the reasoning of the end of the world being from global warming. This is because Indigenous people have had to deal with colonizers ruining their land for centuries. Indigenous Nations care deeply about the land and the environment, however capitalism that is often driven by racism has caused a lot of the global warming that we know today. While I hope our earth never gets to the level that it is in Dimaline's novel, I do think that the issue is represented well in the novel. This issue tells a greater story about colonization and the drive that Indigenous people have to protect their land. 

The characters were also lovable, but also flawed which I really appreciated. Frenchie is the main character, and he travels with a group of friends, along with other characters he meets along the way. I especially loved Minerva and RiRi, who eventually become like family to Frenchie. The group of teens and children in this novel were extremely tight-knit, and even though they had to survive amongst horrid circumstances, their bond was so powerful. I love reading about powerful friendships in novels. 

This book does make allusions to such horrid things in North American history. The idea of the recruiters wanting to steal from Indigenous people and commit experiments on them is sadly nothing new in the history of Canada and the States. There are also allusions to residential schools, which for those of you who don't know, was a way for the Canadian government to steal Indigenous children and torture them through the guise of Christianity. These issues and more are brought up in this novel, and I thought it was extremely powerful how the novel was able to bring about real-life issues in a science fiction setting. In this case, art sadly imitates life. 

I will say I would have loved a bit more expansion on the ending of the novel. I think I would have loved more development of the characters and a bit of a longer conclusion. I needed more to feel the novel come full circle. However, I applaud the author's use of tension and this was an extremely captivating book. 

It's also worthy to note that this book is Own Voices, which is always a good thing. Overall, "The Marrow Thieves" is for everyone. Whether you are a fan of science fiction or you wish to know more about Indigenous lives, this book does it all. It inspired me to take up a Masters Degree in Indigenous Literature, in which I will be researching the novel in greater depth. I cannot wait, and I hope you all will give it a read as well. 

Have you read The Marrow Thieves? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 2 April 2021

Month in Review: March


CW: this post will discuss COVID-19 and health anxiety 

Happy April everyone! It's pretty rainy here in Canada right now, but we have had some warmer days in March so I am optimistic that things will be looking sunnier very soon. But, this is your friendly reminder that even if the weather is nice, wear your mask, avoid unnecessary outings, and that patio beer isn't really worth it. C'mon people, it's not that hard. Anyways, here's what I got up to in March: 

What I Read: 

The Sword of the Rightful King by: Jane Yolen: 4/5 stars 

Freak the Mighty by: Rodman Philbrick: 2/5 stars 

Sex and Vanity by: Kevin Kwan: 5/5 stars 

The Death of Vivek Oji by: Akwaeke Emezi: 5/5 stars 

Freshwater by: Akwaeke Emezi: 4/5 stars 

Can't Take that Away by: Steven Salvatore: 5/5 stars 

No Friend but the Mountains by: Behrouz Boochani: 5/5 stars 

Favourite book: It was a great reading month for me, with a lot of high ratings. However if I had to pick a favourite, it would go to Sex and Vanity. I have missed Kevin Kwan's writing so much since finishing the Crazy Rich Asians series, and I was so happy to get back into his hilarious footnotes and epic love stories. 

What I Blogged: 

I think I got back into the blogging mood this month, which is good. I wrote a discussion post on If Characters Can be Redeemed, and I got a lot of great feedback on a writing dilemma that I was having. So thank you so much if you offered your help! 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Cee talks about living Outside of the Norm 

Sabrina shares her Nine Favourite Disney Movies

Marie shares her Thoughts After a Year on Bookstagram 

Roberta discusses Social Media as a part of Tell Me Something Tuesday 

Life Stuff: 

This is the time of year where I get the worst allergies. The problem is, that my health anxiety goes haywire whenever I get a sore throat now and makes me believe it's covid. Of course it's good to be cautious when you experience symptoms, but allergies are so common for me and my mind is now going to the worst care scenario. So that's kind of frustrating. But, I am working on calming myself down, working through my symptoms to analyze if it is truly out of the ordinary, and just trying not to panic. Easier said then done, I know. 

But on another note, I am almost done my undergraduate degree! This coming week is my last week of classes, and then it's preparing for the future. Which I am equally excited/nervous about. 

I have been watching a lot of Survivor this month. If you have followed me on Twitter for a while, you will know that I love that reality show, and I've been working on re-watching the old seasons now. It has brought me such comfort and joy, and it's always nice to seek solace in a tv show. 

For April I will work on final essays, that dreaded short story cycle I was telling y'all about, and just staying healthy. I hope you guys have a great April!

How was your March? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 26 March 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: Can Characters Be Redeemed?

 CW: this post will discuss racist characters 

I have a dilemma. So, I am currently enrolled in a short fiction writing class. For the whole year, we have had to write three short stories that appear in a cycle, i.e. they are all connected, and then for our final project we have to edit them so that they are polished. Now, my first two pieces were fairly easy to write. I had a teenaged Pakistani girl who was dealing with her white adoptive parent's racist microaggressions. In my third story, I wanted to write from the perspective of the girl's white mother. I wanted to explore the mother's background and why she ended up the way that she is. Now the problem that I have come into, is that I feel as if this final story gives the mother too much of a redemptive arc. And this is not necessarily what I intended. Now I am left with the problem of: can characters be redeemed? 

I understand that this is a loaded topic, so let me break it down. Basically, the white mother is racist. Through the third story I explore her family background and I reveal that her family life was very toxic and that her grandmother who raised her was very much racist as well. Now I had no idea my story was going to take off in this direction, but I ended up having the mother realize her racist behaviour was wrong and she vows to change. But, I was left very unsatisfied with this ending. I thought I gave the mother an unrealistic redemption and I didn't want to shift the focus from all the harm she caused, to: "look, this white woman is better now!" I'm struggling because I understand that racism is a systemic issue and I don't think I explored enough about this mother realizing that racism is ingrained in her identity. 

I'm just having trouble with where to go from here. You know when you feel like you have been writing a story for so long that you're just not sure how to resolve its problems? That's my feeling right now. I need to find some way to resolve my belief that this woman is too evil to be changed, but also the hopeful side that people can change. I'm just not sure if people can be redeemed from their actions, and if they can, how long would that take? Certainly not only in the 15 page limit I have. 

I want to believe that people can change. I think it is a very hopeful idea that some people can show remorse for their actions and strive to do better. I have seen it before. But, I'm just afraid that in my writing of this character, her redemption comes too soon. Or, her redemption doesn't give the characters who were harmed by her actions any justice. I don't want this story to just tie racism up in a little bow and pretend that it doesn't exist. But, I've gone so far and I am in a state of writer's block right now, that I'm just not sure how to resolve it. 

This is partly a rambling mix of my thoughts and partly a plea for help. What would you do? Do you think you can write characters to change, and if so, how long would this change take place? Would a time jump to show her progression help? Or, do you think I should take focused on the characters affected by her racism? Should I just throw the whole story away? Writing can be such a stressful task sometimes. 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 19 March 2021

Every Last Word by: Tamara Ireland Stone

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: June 16, 2015 by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 

Pages: 358 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: Pure-OCD, intrusive thoughts, delusions, mention of suicide 

Sam is quite popular amongst her friends, but something she would never have the courage to share with them is that she suffers with serious Pure-OCD. Her OCD causes her to have very gruesome intrusive thoughts that she cannot turn off, and she just knows that nobody would understand. That is, until Sam meets Caroline, a quirky girl who introduces Sam to the Poet's Corner. The Poet's Corner is a secret club within Sam's high school where students can gather to share poems, songs, and just feel like they belong. Sam feels welcome in the Poet's Corner, and for once she feels like she could share anything. That is, until she beings to question what is apart of her reality, and whether she can tell Caroline about it. 

This book... damn this book. Have you ever read a book that you could just relate to so much, that it seemed like a letter written to you? That was me with this book. Stone was able to create a world that was so relatable to me, so vivid, that it felt like she was speaking directly to me. And this book was a hard read, certainly the main character Sam goes through some very harsh things. But I felt seen in her character. I felt like I wasn't alone. It was so powerful. 

First off, Stone accurately portrayed what Pure-OCD is like. Accuracy is so important when talking on any issue, and I can say that this book was accurate, at least to my experiences. Everyone's experiences with a mental health issue can be different, so it is always important to read a wide range of reviews on books. That being said, I do think that Stone did her homework on what Pure-OCD is like, and I loved how she dismantled stereotypes associated with OCD. She did powerful work in this story, and it was so needed. 

I loved reading about Sam's relationship with her therapist. Therapy can either be very hard for someone, or it can be a great benefit. But, I personally love reading positive therapist/patient relationships in mental health novels, because I have a great relationship with my therapist. I enjoyed getting to see Sam's progression with her therapist, and I could relate to her struggles with whether or not to share something with her therapist. But, her therapist was understanding and a great representation of a good OCD therapist. 

The Poet's Corner was a great addition to the book as well. I love clubs in books, but oftentimes those clubs actually turn into dark academia, which is not my vibe. But this club was so wholesome as it was just a safe space for students to gather and share their artwork. And I thought that was totally awesome! It made me so happy how Sam felt welcome in the club, and I also appreciated how this club shows how art can be a sort-of therapy for people. 

I was not expecting the ending at all. It came out of the blue for me, but I also appreciated it so much because learning something new about your mental illness can often hit you like a shock. I loved the ending because it revealed that living with a mental illness is not often black and white. And sometimes, you have to go through tough moments and really analyze your mind in order to heal. Sam struggles, but she is also so strong. And I needed to see that. 

This book does deal with some heavy-hitting topics, and the twist can be triggering to some people, so do be careful when reading this. However, if you are struggling with OCD and need to know that you are not alone, then give this book a read. It made me feel so validated. 

Have you read Every Last Word? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 12 March 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: Sometimes it's Good to Take a Social Media Break

 CW: discussion of morality OCD, intrusive thoughts, compulsively using social media 

Recently, I've been doing a lot of thinking about how I use social media. For example, in January, it was Bell Let's Talk Day, an annual initiative in which the Bell Media company donates 5 cents towards mental health charities whenever someone uses the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on social media. However, there have been a lot of recent controversies coming to light about Bell, mainly about how Bell exploits incarcerated Canadians. Still, millions of people shared the hashtag on social media, and I was pressured into doing the same. Even though I didn't want to, I saw the droves of people talking about how the hashtag still does good, and I just felt like I would be a terrible person if I didn't share it. And, this is a common scenario for people with OCD who use social media compulsively. 

I have a tendency to think that if I don't actively post on social media all the time about various issues, that I am a bad person. Now this is definitely my OCD at work. One of my main obsessions is being perceived as racist, homophobic, transphobic, or anything else. I am so petrified of messing up and hurting someone else. This is called morality OCD. My morality OCD has prompted me in the past to stay up much later than I should have, retweeting, sharing, and liking everything related to social justice because I think that if I don't speak out about these issues, then I am a bad person. 

Now, there is great importance in speaking up for what you believe in, and not staying silent while others suffer. However, my problem with social media activism is how often it can trigger folks like me to compulsively post and continue going down rabbit holes of every terrible thing that is happening in the world. And nobody should feel like they have to retweet and like every single thing, because it is simply not healthy to be surrounded by negativity on social media all the time. 

Now, it would be remiss not to mention that marginalized people such as BIPOC folks, LGBTQ+ folks, and disabled folks, sometimes have no choice but to take to social media to talk about harsh issues. The world has made it so these people do not always have safe spaces to gather and share their feelings, and so social media can be a great outlet for inspiring change and being with your community. However, I do think that it is important that we remember to take breaks, to take care of ourselves, and to log off once in a while. 

It is important to remember that social media activism is not the only way to get involved. We can read books, articles, listen to music, and of course volunteer in order to spread awareness. Social media is a fabulous tool, however I have a problem when people are quick to judge others for not speaking out about an issue. We simply do not know what people are going through, and maybe they just can't be on social media right now, or are not in the right headspace to be talking about harsh things. It isn't an excuse, it's just a way for people to take time to heal. 

I have had to take social media breaks in the past. These breaks are integral to my OCD, so that I ensure that I am not compulsively posting and so that I don't let my morality OCD get in the way of me enjoying life. Something that I've been trying to remember, which is also very hard, is that humans are flawed. We are bound to make mistakes. But how we respond to our mistakes, is even more important. 

So, I guess I just want to tell other folks with OCD that it's ok to put the phone down once in a while. It doesn't mean you're a bad person, and it doesn't mean you don't care. It just means you are taking time to heal yourself, so you can come back to your activism stronger than ever. 

How do you feel about social media activism? How do you balance social media? 

For additional reading:

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

SLAY by: Brittney Morris

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: September 24, 2019 by: Simon and Schuster 

Pages: 323 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: abusive relationship, racism, off-page murder, killing within a video game 

Kiera Johnson is a teen passionate about STEM. When she's at school she's an honours student and math tutor. When she's at home, she is the anonymous developer of SLAY, an online role-playing card game that has players take on the personas of famous Black people throughout history. The game is only available to Black people, and Kiera prides herself in giving Black gamers a safe space where they can be unapologetically Black. But, when a troll infiltrates the game, claiming that SLAY "excludes white people," Kiera and the other players suddenly have their safety threatened. Then, a teen is murdered in a dispute over the game. Suddenly Kiera has to grapple with revealing herself as the creator of the game, putting her safety in jeopardy, or staying silent, while racists continue to take over the game that she loves. 

This novel was a thrilling, nail-biting, tense read! I was so impressed by how the author was able to bring in almost a science-fiction tone to a book that is very much in a real-life setting. Kiera was such a savvy, smart individual, and I loved reading about a Black girl who is in STEM. I could definitely see myself reading more of Brittney Morris' books. 

I loved how Morris was able to create tension in this novel. I wasn't expecting how shocking this book would be, and I certainly wasn't expecting the twists and turns it would take me on. I found myself almost gasping out loud at parts, because Kiera and the other gamers of SLAY go through so much, and I definitely did not see any of the big reveals coming. I thought this was such a thrilling novel but ultimately I was happy with how it ended. 

I also loved how this book uniquely explored the topic of white people taking over Black spaces. White people seem to feel so threatened by Black people having safe spaces to express themselves. White people always feel the need to insert themselves into spaces that they have no right to. This book explores this topic, but in the context of a video game, which was really well-thought out. I enjoyed how the game worked and I loved how it brought in figures from Black history. 

I will say, because I am not a gamer, I was more interested in how the game explored Black history than the game itself. I don't really know much about game theory or STEM, so I can't say that those topics really interested me. However, if you love gaming, you will find these moments even more intriguing. From what I know about gaming I know that a lot of gaming culture can be very racist, so I think gamers could benefit from diverse stories such as these. 

This book does deal with some tough topics. There is murder both in the game and in real-life, so please take care of yourself when reading this. But overall, I loved how this story ended. It was a really unique exploration of racism through the lense of a Black girl in STEM. I would say this is a must-read for gamers. 

Have you read SLAY? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess