Friday, 18 December 2020

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by: Kacen Callender

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: October 30, 2018 by: Balzer and Bray 

Pages: 290 

Rating: 3/5 stars 

CW: cheating, grief after the death of a parent

Nathan Bird, a film buff and aspiring screenwriter, has lost all hope in love after his girlfriend Florence breaks up with him. However, Nathan and Florence remain friends, and Florence is determined to make Nathan believe in love again. Enter Oliver James Hernรกndez, Nathan's childhood best friend who has just returned to town. Nathan realizes he still has feelings for Ollie. But can he build up the courage to tell him? 

This was my first Kacen Callender book. I saw everyone talking about Felix Ever After, and while I had that book on hold, I decided to give this one a go. I will say, I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. However, I still have faith in Callender's books because I ended up LOVING Felix Ever After. I just think the characters and themes in this novel fell a little flat. 

Let's start with the positives. I did think this was a cute and easy to get through novel. In a year that was filled with doom and gloom, it was nice to read something relatively positive and just get a bit of a serotonin boost. I liked how this book did not have many heavy themes or sorrow to it. It's a solid contemporary, and I appreciated that. 

I liked how this book incorporated a diverse cast of characters. Most of the characters are LGBTQ+ and POC. The love stories are not really sad and upsetting. The queer characters simply exist without being put through major trauma. This was refreshing to see, and I think is definitely needed in more books. 

That being said, I did have a problem with a lot of the character's actions. Nathan is kinda a jerk. Yes, he is a teenager and should make mistakes. However, he does a lot of shitty things to Oliver and his friends, and these actions are swept under the rug without any resolutions. I think it's important for teenagers to learn from their mistakes, and we don't get that here. 

There is also far too much cheating in this book for me. Cheating is so common that it's almost written off as normal. Nobody really shows remorse for cheating against their partners, and the cheating happens so quickly that you almost forget it's happened. I think this book didn't do its best to represent healthy relationships and honesty in relationships, and that was unfortunate. 

I think Callender is a writer who I want to read more from. I definitely don't want to write them off as a never to read again author, because Felix Ever After was incredible. However, this book didn't blow me away like I hoped it would, which sucked. 

Have you read This is Kind of an Epic Love Story? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 11 December 2020

What's On My 2021 TBR?

 I don't usually do TBR lists. I am a huge mood reader, and I get most of my books from the library, so normally I just browse the library until I find something that interests me. However, I feel like there have been a lot of books lately that I really want to get to in 2021. Some are new releases, and some have been out for a while. Hopefully I can check some of these off my list! 

1. These Violent Delights by: Chloe Gong 

These Violent Delights is a Romeo and Juliet retelling about rival gangs in 1920s Shanghai. This gives me major West Side Story vibes and I am here for it!!! 

2. The Tyrant's Tomb and The Tower of Nero by: Rick Riordan 

I really need to finish the Trials of Apollo series. I have two books left, and although I know I'll be so sad to leave the Camp Half Blood chronicles behind, it's about time that I see where Apollo's story ends. Ugh I will be a wreck though! 

3. The Ship of the Dead by: Rick Riordan 

Speaking of finishing Rick Riordan series, I also need to finish the Magnus Chase trilogy. I'm surprised this series hasn't been spoiled for me yet, but I plan to keep it that way. Like with the Trials of Apollo, I will be really sad to let this series go. But I do see plenty of rereads in my future. 

4. Son of a Trickster by: Eden Robinson 

Son of a Trickster is about a teenager named Jared who is trying to keep it all together despite his difficult family life. But to make matters more interesting, Jared's grandmother insists that Jared is a son of a trickster, and ravens start to talk to him. 

I really want to read this book because I plan on using it for research for (hopefully) my masters degree. I want to do a masters based on Indigenous literature, and this book is definitely on my list for books I think would benefit my research. 

5. Shadows Cast by Stars by: Catherine Knutsson 

In a world ravaged by a plague, Indigenous people's blood is being harvested as it contains the antibodies used to fight the disease. Sixteen year old Cassandra is on the run from government officials who will stop at nothing to get to her. She is determined to protect her and her family. 

Another novel that I hope to use should I be admitted into my masters program. I do love plague books, even during this time of COVID, and I think reading a science fiction novel from an Indigenous voice will be super interesting and will offer a unique perspective. 

6. The Gilded Wolves by: Roshani Chokshi 

I plan to buddy-read this novel with the members of my book club. The Gilded Wolves is about a treasure-hunter in 1889 Paris who is sent on a mission with a few unlikely companions in order to track down a hidden artifact. I love books set in Paris so I am really looking forward to reading this one. 

7. All Boys Aren't Blue by: George M. Johnson 

I love a good memoir. All Boys Aren't Blue chronicles the childhood experiences of George M. Johnson. Johnson discusses growing up in New Jersey and Virginia, attending college, and all of the trials that came in between. Along the way, they write about issues of toxic masculinity, gender identity, and more. This is supposed to be a really well-written memoir about what it's like to be Black and queer. I cannot wait to read this. 

8. Here for It; Or, How to Save Your Soul in America by: R. Eric Thomas 

Here for It is a nonfiction book of essay's by R. Eric Thomas. This book is supposed to be really funny, as Thomas discusses what it was like for a Black boy to go to school in white suburbia, but he also discusses coming to terms with his sexuality despite attending a highly conservative church. I do love when nonfiction books are able to bring in humour, so I have high hopes for this one. 

So, these are the books on my 2021 TBR! I can't guarantee that I'll get through all of them, but hopefully I will make some progress :) 

Do you have a 2021 TBR? What's on it?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 4 December 2020

The Silence of the Girls by: Pat Barker

 Genre: Historical Fiction, Mythology 

Published: September 4, 2018 by: Doubleday Books 

Pages: 291 

Rating: 3/5 stars 

CW: graphic descriptions of r*pe, graphic descriptions of war, blood and gore, misogyny, slavery

Briseis is a native Trojan, but her world comes crumbling down when the Greeks invade Troy. The Trojan War has begun. Briseis is kidnapped by the Greeks and brought to their camp as a slave. She is set to be a slave to Achilles, however Agamemnon also demands that Briseis belong to him. Achilles refuses to fight in defiance, and Briseis observes the two men fight for power. Briseis' story echoes that of many Trojan women during the war. These women were forgotten and abused, forced to endure trauma despite having no say in the war whatsoever. This novel seeks to tell their story. 

To say that I wanted to read this book would be an understatement. I have wanted to read this since it came out two years ago. But for some reason, I didn't get the chance until now. I absolutely love Trojan War retellings, and I figured that a book from Briseis' perspective would give a voice to a character who in the Iliad, is essentially voiceless. However, I can't say that this book was fully enjoyable. It was just... ok. 

I think Barker writes really well. This was my first time reading one of her novels, and her vivid descriptions really help to establish the world building in this novel. She did a great job at setting the scene of the war, and nothing was glazed over. I think it is definitely needed in a mythological retelling to make sure that the reader gets to know each and every character that plays a part in the story. Barker does develop all of the significant characters. 

 I will read any Trojan War retelling, and I will most probably not hate it. I'm very fascinated by the story of the Trojan War, and I'm always curious as to how different authors characterize the characters. I think Barker gives a great voice to Briseis, and I loved how she was the storyteller. Her perspective is one that I have always been curious about, and I'm happy that Barker took this opportunity to tell her story. Despite this story being a myth, you can't help but think about the countless women in Ancient Greece who did have to go through this trauma during war. It's a necessary story to tell. However, that being said, the story is also very disturbing with a lot of graphic descriptions. So be careful when reading, and be aware of the content warnings.

Like I hinted at before, I didn't love this book. And this is because Barker chooses to give Achilles' perspective about halfway through the novel. I thought this was unnecessary, as well as counterproductive, because the whole point of the novel is to give a voice to the Trojan women. By doing this, I think Barker attempts to humanize Achilles. But Achilles is canonically an asshole. Similarly, there are already a ton of books telling his story. We don't need it, and it significantly took away from my experience with the novel. 

I saw someone review this book saying that they think Barker actually wanted to tell Achilles' story, she but realized that was overdone, so she hid Achilles' story in a story of Briseis. I definitely see how this might have been the case. This book was too Achilles heavy, which disappointed me. Nobody needs an Achilles redemption arc. Give me the stories that haven't been told. 

Overall, this book was an example of one that I was so looking forward to reading, but it did fall short. It wasn't all bad. Like I said, Trojan War retellings pretty much always get at least a three star rating from me, because I love the story so much. However, I'm not sure this is the best retelling out there. 

Have you read The Silence of the Girls? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess 

Friday, 27 November 2020

Month in Review: November


I am in Christmas mode. After the year it's been, I think everyone who celebrates any kind of holiday during this time of year has started celebrating a little bit earlier. We could all do with a little bit of cheer. But, even if you don't celebrate anything during this time of year, I hope you still find joy in something. Here's what I got up to in November: 

What I Read:

A Discovery of Witches by: Deborah Harkness: 3/5 stars 

Dear Justyce by: Nic Stone: 5/5 stars 

Furia by: Yamile Saied Mendez: 4/5 stars 

An Ember in the Ashes by: Sabaa Tahir: 5/5 stars 

A Torch Against the Night by: Sabaa Tahir: 4/5 stars 

A Reaper at the Gates by: Sabaa Tahir: 4/5 stars 

Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by: Roselle Lim: 4/5 stars 

Favourite book: Dear Justyce was an incredible sequel to Dear Martin. I was very curious about Quan's story from hearing about him in Dear Martin, and this book offered an amazing insight into him, and the lives of incarcerated black teens. I think this book gives a great outlook on racism within the justice system. I thought it was really well written. 

What I Blogged: 

My favourite blog post of the month was my discussion on The Orenda by: Joseph Boyden. This post took the longest for me to write, about two months in the making, and I'm really happy with how it turned out and the discussion it created. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Roberta shares Gratitude on Tell Me Something Tuesday 

Sabrina shares Five Signs that You Should Take a Reading Break 

Claire interviews author Maurene Goo 

Cee discusses Setting Work/Life Boundaries 

Simone shares Wheelchair Facts and Stories 

Life Stuff: 

November was a very busy month school-wise. I rarely ever get stressed out about school, but this month I almost sent myself into a panic attack! To be honest, I was actually kind of happy that I was stressed about school and not other things, because I feel like school is a more common thing to get stressed about rather than the stuff that usually stresses me out. I know it's sad that school is such a common thing to get anxious over. We definitely need professors and teachers to be a bit more understanding. 

Anyways, this month was spent at my desk studying and writing masters applications. It's so nerve-wracking! But, hopefully December will be more under control. I'm looking forward to the winter break and I'm definitely looking forward to the holiday season. Even though it will look different this year, the spirit will still be there. But please party responsibly this year and limit social gatherings! Let's have a happy new year, instead of a sick one. 

How was your November? Do you have any plans for December? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 20 November 2020

With the Fire on High by: Elizabeth Acevedo

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: May 7, 2019 by: Quill Tree Books 

Pages: 400 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: slut shaming, difficult parental relationships

Emoni Santiago has a young daughter to care for and her abuela to support. She also has a dream of working in a real kitchen, and her high school culinary arts class is the perfect way to get there. Emoni loves to cook, and when she is in the kitchen, all her troubles go away. But, her responsibilities are tolling, and when Emoni gets the opportunity to attend a class trip to Spain, she will stop at nothing to get the funding for that trip. Mix that with a budding romance, and her complicated relationship with the father of her child, and Emoni is in for one hell of a senior year. 

I loved this novel. This was the first Acevedo book I have read, and I believe she mostly writes in verse poetry, though this novel was prose. The story was incredible. I immediately took a liking to Emoni as a character, and I was rooting for her the entire way. Also, can we discuss this gorgeous cover? Everything about this book was just fabulous. 

First off, I loved how this book wasn't just a sad story. Often times when reading of girls who have teenage pregnancies, their lives are just absolutely horrible. Now I'm not saying that having a kid in high school is all butterflies and rainbows. But Emoni's story is one of triumph, and that's refreshing to see. She is an amazing mother, and amazing granddaughter, and an amazing chef. She is so much more than just a teen mom. 

The food descriptions in this book will make your mouth water. Emoni is Afro-Latina, and so a lot of her cooking is based off of Latin American cuisine. I loved how Acevedo describes the flavours that Emoni uses, and how each ingredient is meticulously used. I am a sucker for food descriptions in books, and this one had a lot of it. There was something really magical about all of the food descriptions. You could really see how this is Emoni's passion. 

I also enjoyed the secondary characters. Emoni's best friend is so supportive of her, and I loved her sarcasm and wit. Even Emoni's ex who is the father of her child, was not a super hateful guy. I mean, he definitely has his faults. But he and Emoni were able to make it work for their kid. And that was great to see. Also, Malachi, who is Emoni's love interest, was so adorable. This book had a great slow-burn romance to it. And I loved every second. 

With the Fire on High was a fantastic read, and it really made me love Acevedo as a writer. I think she is so gifted in her writing, and she writes fantastic, diverse characters who I rooted for every step of the way. I was so happy that I got a book about an Afro-Latinx teen mom that wasn't just doom and gloom. 

Have you read With the Fire on High? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 13 November 2020

The Orenda by: Joseph Boyden: Who Has the Right To Tell Stories about Indigenous People?

Content Warning: this post will be discussing racism and colonization against Indigenous people, as well as graphic and negative depictions of Indigenous people in literature. 

 Before I begin, I would like to direct your attention to a fabulous blog post from Dani @ Dani Sallyann: Joseph Boyden, an Anishinaabekwe's Take. Dani is Indigenous, and can explain the controversies surrounding Boyden a lot better than I can. I would encourage you guys to give that post a read first. 

The Orenda is a book by the famous Canadian author Joseph Boyden. It was published in 2013 and is apart of a trilogy depicting the lives of the Huron Nation of Canada during the 17th century, a time in which Jesuit priests from France came to Canada to attempt to colonize and convert Indigenous people to Catholicism. I will say that everyone can make a personal decision as to whether they want to read this book or not. However, this book has a lot of extremely graphic content, and so the content warnings are as follows: 

- war, major violence and major body gore 

- de*th and d*sease impacting Indigenous people

- attempted conversion to Catholicism onto Indigenous people 

- on page s*xual assault and r*pe

- pr*datory behaviour onto minors 

- t*rture 

- racial slurs used against Indigenous people 

*And probably more that I have forgotten. Seriously, this book is not for people with weak stomachs. Also side note, but I read this book not by choice for an Indigenous literature class, and we were given no content warnings whatsoever so I had no idea what I was getting into. I think English professors need to get into a greater habit of providing content warnings to their students. It keeps everyone more at peace. But, that's a discussion for another day. 

So now to the book review/discussion portion of this post. My professor actually selected this book for us to read to have a discussion surrounding the author's identity of a white man writing about Indigenous people. Joseph Boyden is a famous Canadian author, and he is actually popular because of his Indigenous literature. He has won many awards for his books depicting the lives of various Indigenous nations. I myself, before my course, actually assumed that he was Indigenous because of his reputation. The problem is, that Boyden is white. He has claimed in the past to have distant Indigenous ancestry, though he has turned up no proof of any ancestry. For all intents and purposes, he is a white man. 

In my class, we discussed at great lengths about who has the right to tell stories. Now this may be a conversation you have heard already, through the Own Voices discussions that have been going on lately. Many argue that people have the right to write whatever they want within reason, which seems to make sense. The problem is, when white people write stories about a community that they don't belong to, then generate all kinds of fame and awards from said stories, and said stories also happen to be very gruesome. 

Boyden writes Indigenous bodies in the worst ways possible. By this I mean that his Indigenous characters are put through the most terrible conditions imaginable. They are tortured, killed, or scarred for life. Now Boyden is writing about time periods in which these things sadly did happen to Indigenous people. It is a reality that many Canadians wish to forget, but it is important to talk about. However, I am beginning to find a problem with white people who continuously write negative stories about BIPOC people. Why do BIPOC characters always have to be put through the ringer? Why do they always have to die? Why can't a BIPOC character have a happy ending? 

I understand that this is an extremely complicated issue. Because on the one hand, we need stories that depict the harsh realities of being an Indigenous person in a colonial space. But do we really need white people writing them and generating fame because of it? Some Indigenous people do not see a problem with Boyden writing their stories. In fact, Boyden has been adopted into the Ojibway nation as a spiritual brother. For more information, see: this article. It is extremely important that we respect each and every Indigenous person's opinion on this issue. Boyden does research his novels. He seeks counsel from many Indigenous nations. If Indigenous people choose to support him and teach him more about the people he writes about, we as non-Native people can absolutely not fault them for that. But that doesn't mean that other people's concerns go unnoticed. 

I also would like to mention that oftentimes bi-racial people are hounded to "prove" their identities to certain races. I have had experiences myself of not feeling white enough, or not feeling brown enough. I don't think that it is any of our rights to invade the privacy of bi-racial people and force them to pick a side. The problem with Boyden lies in the fact that he has claimed many nations as his Indigenous ancestry, only to go back on those claims, be ignorant to the customs of certain nations, and flip-flop between nations. I think this takes away from the diversity and sense of community between each individual nation. 

I thought The Orenda was an ok book. The violence freaked me out a bit, but I thought the story was well-researched and the prose was well-written. But I couldn't help but wonder at the back of my mind why Boyden is the poster-boy for Indigenous literature in Canada. His awards take away from Indigenous people who may be writing the same stories, but who don't get the same recognition. His stories are heart-wrenching, yet extremely upsetting. His identity cannot go unnoticed when reading and reviewing his literature. 

The main question of this post is: "who has the right to tell stories about Indigenous people? The truth is, I cannot answer this, because I am non-Native and have no right to tell anyone what they can and cannot write. But I do think that Boyden's fame has overshadowed Indigenous writers for too long. I think he needs to be more sensitive to the community that he writes about, and I think he needs to accept and recognize his privilege as a white man. Boyden is writing about some critical moments in Canadian history. But I wonder if we have moved past the need for white people to be the only storytellers of BIPOC people's lives. 

Have you read The Orenda, or do you know anything about Joseph Boyden? Who do you think has the right to tell stories about BIPOC people? 

Further Articles:

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 6 November 2020

Foolish Hearts by: Emma Mills

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: December 5, 2017 by: Henry Holt and Company 

Pages: 320 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: panic attacks, seizures, high-risk childbirth

Claudia is trying to get through helping out with her school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. There's just one problem. She is working with Iris, a girl who has little respect for Claudia after Claudia accidentally eavesdropped on Iris' rough breakup with her girlfriend Paige. Claudia and Iris must work together to keep the production afloat, all while dealing with their sourness for one another, and working with Gideon, a goofy guy who Claudia just might have a crush on. 

I LOVED this book. I read it unexpectedly for a Shakespeare readathon I participated in a while back, and I didn't really know what to expect. What I got was a fun, heartwarming book about love, friendship, and Shakespeare. Not to mention that the cast of characters were diverse and so easy to love. 

First off, I will say that we need more books that show teenage boys having deep friendships with other teenage boys, and not being afraid to be emotional. Gideon's friendship with his best friend Noah was so lovely to see, especially considering that toxic masculinity makes most teenage boys afraid of being emotional with another boy. I loved how Gideon and Noah were able to call out the bullshit of the boys in their school who were disrespectful, and we love seeing white men who are able to check their privilege and do something to help those who are not privileged. It was awesome to see. 

This book tackles a lot of subjects that I don't see much in YA. For example, Claudia's sister is dealing with a high-risk pregnancy, and Claudia is concerned for her safety. I thought this was an interesting topic to deal with in a YA book, because high-risk pregnancies can be very stressful situations and are not usually discussed in fiction. I thought it was handled really well. 

I also loved how this book had a sapphic relationship that represented the "It" couple at the high school. Usually in really tropey YA high school novels, the "It" couple are straight. But Iris and Paige are the relationship that all the girls wish to have. Yay for sapphic representation! 

This book was super easy to get through, and I loved the Shakespeare references as well. It wasn't too much Shakespeare that left me overwhelmed or bored. Mills is able to bring Shakespeare into YA in a really crafty way. Shakespeare does not overshadow the stories of the characters, and I can appreciate that. 

Overall, anyone who loves YA contemporary, needs to read this book. I loved how the diverse characters in this book aren't necessarily put into upsetting situations. This book really lifted my spirits. 

Have you read Foolish Hearts? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 30 October 2020

Month in Review: October

 Happy (almost) Halloween! I'm spending the day carving pumpkins and savoring the last bits of spooky season. Come next week, I am in full-on Christmas mode. Here's what I got up to in October: 

What I Read: 

Cemetery Boys by: Aiden Thomas: 5/5 stars 

Such a Fun Age by: Kiley Reid: 5/5 stars 

Hearts Unbroken by: Cynthia Leitich Smith: 4/5 stars 

The Glass Hotel by: Emily St. John Mandel: 4/5 stars 

More Than Just a Pretty Face by: Syed M. Masood: 4/5 stars

Of Curses and Kisses by: Sandhya Menon: 3.5/5 stars 

Favourite book: I had a really good reading month, with some new favourites that honestly blew me away. My favourite book of the month was a difficult decision, but ultimately it goes to Cemetery Boys. I just ADORED this novel. The writing was beautiful, the characters were lovable. And, Aiden Thomas replied to my tweet praising this novel, which was honestly a bit of a fangirl moment for me. I will reread this book for years to come. 

What I Blogged: 

This month had OCD awareness week in it, and so my favourite post has to go to my post about My Problems with the word "Obsession." It was good to get some thoughts out that I have been carrying for a long time. 

Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Veronika shares How She Avoids Blog Burn Outs

Cee says: "Mr Trump, the USA Would be Lucky to Look More like Wales"

Tessi writes, Dear Uneducated Professor

Life Stuff: 

I had a really good October. This month I have gotten into running, which is something I never thought I would do regularly. But it really helps with my anxiety, and I enjoy my time immensely when I run. It's a work in progress and I still cramp up, but I am definitely looking to stick with it! 

I had a great time watching a bunch of Halloween movies this month, and gorging on candy. I think I actually enjoyed this Halloween month more than I have in previous years, because my family has been all together. So it's been fun! 

The month ended on a bit of confusion. I always thought that once I finished my English undergrad degree, I would abandon English and move to a mythology degree, as I have really disliked my English courses before but have always been passionate about Greek mythology. However, one of my English professors just told me that she would strongly encourage me to stick with English, and now I'm just confused. I feel like she knows best because obviously she sees potential in me, but just... idk. What's fourth year university without a little confusion about where you're headed?! 

So, I guess November will be spent researching the pro's and con's of what I want to do with my life, all with a little Christmas music sprinkled in. Not a bad way to spend the month to be honest, as I have had much worse months in the past. I'll take it! 

How was your October? What are your plans for November? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 23 October 2020

Dear Martin by: Nic Stone

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: October 17, 2017 by: Crown Books for Young Readers 

Pages: 224 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: racism against Black people on both the macro and micro level, murder, police brutality, gun violence

Justyce McAllister is a bright teen set on going to an Ivy League university. But his confidence is shattered when a white police officer puts him in handcuffs for no reason. After receiving targeting from his classmates due to the incident, Justyce begins writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hoping to find some answers to the world he is living in. Justyce's life is once more turned over when he is targeted by another white cop, this time while driving with his friend Manny. Justyce is trying to recover from one tragedy after another, and all the media cares about is labelling him and other Black teens as the villains. He begins to lose hope, but seeks comfort in the civil rights activists who came before him. 

I read this book all in one sitting. It is not for someone looking for a light read. It is heartbreaking, disturbing, and unfortunately so incredibly real. I completely understand, especially nowadays, if people would rather seek stories featuring Black teens who are happy, without tragedy. I need that too. But, I do think this book was an emotional experience that was important, as a non-Black person, for me to go through. 

Justyce was an incredible character. He is so well-rounded, and Nic Stone writes teen characters very well. I appreciated how Justyce went through a range of emotions throughout the novel. He is not put in this position where he needs to be the hero, he needs to have it all together and never break down. Justyce does lose hope. He is recovering from some serious trauma. Stone represents him as an average teen who has had immense pressure put on him. I appreciated that Justyce is well-developed throughout the novel. 

I thought the format of this novel was super unique. The incorporation of the letters to Dr. Martin Luther King was a great idea on Stone's part, because it gives us a look into Justyce's mind as opposed to just the story that is going on around him. The letters are so personal and real, it almost seems like Justyce is a real person. I thought that displaying this book as someone from the modern world, looking back to someone from the past, was a really great way to display topics such as racism and police brutality. Because we do see everyday how history repeats itself. Stone is able to represent this in a poignant but also powerful way. 

I think it is my duty as a non-Black person to read the stories of Black people, both the good but also the bad. This book not only shows the racism that Black people endure on the macro level, but also the microaggressions that occur in Justyce's own school community. We know these stories are disturbing, and we usually avoid talking about them. But, when we avoid talking about anti-Black racism because we fear we're getting too "political" then we are entering a harmful idea that human rights are somehow political, which they are certainly not. Talk about anti-Black racism. Support Black authors. And don't expect Black people to have it all together to educate you. Do the work yourself. Black Lives Matter. 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 16 October 2020

OCD Awareness Week: My Problems With the Word "Obsession"

 CW: This post will discuss obsessions and intrusive thoughts related to OCD, as well as ableist language related to OCD and other mental illnesses. 

If you're apart of fan culture, you've probably said the word "obsessed" before. In fact, I am guilty of this myself. "Omg, I am obsessed with Stranger Things," "this book has me obsessed!" "Here are my latest fall obsessions." The word is everywhere, and is very much used colloquially in day to day life. But, my relationship with the word has changed overtime. And now, I see it as more of a negative word, with negative connotations. This is all stemming from the fact that, if you have OCD, you know that the word "obsessed" is much more than simply liking a tv show. 

People struggling with OCD have to deal with many people mis-using language related to our disorder. The sentence: "I am so OCD" gets on my last nerve. It is insensitive, stereotypical, and nine times out of ten, the person using it does not have OCD or know anything about OCD experiences. If you're a neat person, that does not necessarily mean you have OCD. STOP USING THAT SENTENCE. But, a word that gets used very much in common language that I have started to have some problems with, is the word "obsessed." 

The truth is, many of the people using this term colloquially probably have never experienced what a real obsession is. Obsessions take over your life. They consume you. They cause you unimaginable stress. Liking avocado toast, or enjoying some new trends during fall, are not obsessions. For someone who sees obsessions as such a negative thing, this word being thrown around like it's no problem is a little hurtful. In fact, the dictionary definition of obsession says: "an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind." The word most important here is "intrudes." This denotes that an obsession is unwelcome. It is not positive. 

One of my largest obsessions right now is related to a tv show I like. But, these obsessions do not give me joy. I am constantly thinking about the people on this show. I feel the need to watch this show to ignore my problems instead of facing them. These obsessions have made me petrified that this show will take over my life, and so I have resorted to avoiding content related to this show, and the celebrities that I really love. Celebrities who I look up to, have now sent me into panic attacks. All because of an obsession. 

I'm not writing this to get any sympathy. Similarly, I'm not writing this expecting that this word will be completely taken out of everyone's vocabulary. I completely recognize that there are bigger problems than the use of this word. There are a lot more offensive words that people still use that harm groups of people, and those should be dealt with first. We should be ensuring that marginalized individuals with mental illnesses get the help they need, and we should be paying great attention to folks with lesser-known mental illnesses to ensure that they are not stereotyped. Using "obsession" is not the biggest issue at hand right now, I totally get that. 

However, I have been thinking a lot recently about how common mental-illness language appears in people's vocabulary. These words seem so simple to people who do not deal with these illnesses. People don't understand that for people with mental illness, these words become dirty. We don't want to hear them used as jokes, we don't want you to undermine them. 

I'm not sure how to go about a solution to this problem. Because like I said, I'm not expecting a word that is so commonly used to magically disappear. Please do not feel like I'm calling you out if you use this word, or that you're a bad person because you use this word, because that is not the case. I have used this word in the past as well. But, I do think it is important that we are more conscious about how the language we use affects others. We should be willing to listen, we should be willing to learn. As more people are working to break the stigma of mental illnesses, changes need to be made. If it does not consume your life and make your life extremely difficult, then you cannot be "obsessed" with something. Keep that in mind. 

For more information related to OCD, visit The International OCD Foundation 

Struggling with your mental health? Visit Mind Your Mind for Canadian and International Resources

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 9 October 2020

The Starless Sea by: Erin Morgenstern

 Genre: Fantasy

Published: November 5, 2019 by: Doubleday Books 

Pages: 498 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

Content Warnings: minor gore, mention of suicide, abduction, animal and human death. 

Beneath the surface of the Earth lies the Starless Sea, a magical system full of secret societies and interconnecting libraries. The Starless Sea appears to those who search for it, whether they know they are searching or not. Zachary Ezra Rawlins becomes entangled in the Starless Sea when he is drawn to a mysterious book in his campus library. Soon he is whisked away on an adventure with an eccentric painter named Mirabel, and a handsome wanderer, Dorian. There are people who wish to destroy the Starless Sea, and it is up to Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian to try everything to save it. 

This book was one big beautiful journey, and I loved every second of it. I did not expect to get this book. I thought it would be some weird philosophical fantasy that I would never understand. But, I became captivated to the story from the first page. With lovable characters, stunning prose, and a magical adventure, this book gave me everything I needed. 

I will start by saying that this book talks about some themes that I think any avid reader and writer will enjoy. As the premise of the Starless Sea lies heavily in magical libraries, one has to appreciate the written word in order to love this book. This book examines what it means to be a writer, how it feels to be transformed through a book. Every mind-blowing sensation that you have ever felt while reading a book, will be felt while reading this one. 

The characters were well-developed and extremely unique. Zachary is a character I could relate to. He's a level-headed bookworm who is obviously skeptical of the adventure he is about to undertake. But he develops throughout the story as he learns more about the Starless Sea, and his story ends on such a powerful note. 

Dorian and Mirabel are also characters to love. Mirabel is a fierce, badass painter who is an incredible mentor and also extremely intelligent. Dorian is a bit morally grey, but I could relate to his indecisiveness and I loved reading about his story. Overall this book gives you characters to love, characters to hate, but you can't help but be enthralled in each and every one of their stories. 

Erin Morgenstern is everything I wish to be as a writer. Her work is stunning, and she is able to write fantasy within a modern world that seems so real, that you almost wonder if the Starless Sea is beneath the world after all. Her book will blow you away, and will make you wish that you could sail the Starless Sea as well. 

Have you read The Starless Sea? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 2 October 2020

Month in Review: September

CW: This post has a brief discussion on COVID-19, and on hyperfixation OCD. 

 I am so cold. Fall is officially upon us and it seems like I won't see sunshine again until May. But, I'm actually more accepting of fall this year. I've got a lot of blankets to keep me warm, and a lot of great books to read. Here's what happened in September: 

What I Read: 

Latinx Book Bingo occupied most of my reading this month, which was awesome! Here are some of my favourite Latinx books that I have read so far: 

In The Dream House by: Carmen Maria Machado: 5/5 stars 

Don't Date Rosa Santos by: Nina Moreno: 5/5 stars 

Mexican Gothic by: Silvia Moreno- Garcia: 4/5 stars 

Lobizona by: Romina Garber: 4/5 stars 

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by: Carlos Hernandez: 4/5 stars

A special shoutout has to go to Don't Date Rosa Santos as my favourite book of the month. I did not expect for it to have as big of an impact on me as it did. It's contemporary, but with a theme of curses, grief, love, identity. Ugh, it was so beautiful. 

For those interested, Latinx Book Bingo continues until October 15. You can find all the details on Sofia @ Bookish Wanderess' blog. Here is her main post: Latinx Book Bingo Announcement 

What I Blogged: 

I celebrated a milestone this month, with my 500th blog post! This was a super fun post to write and I loved getting such lovely comments from everyone. Blogging is such a dream, and I love every second of it. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Tessi discusses why she No Longer Uses Bookstagram As Her Main Platform 

Cee writes on LGBTQ+ Own Voices 

Sofia says, It's Not Magical Realism: Fantasy Books by Latinx Authors 

Life Stuff 

You know, life has been hard lately. COVID cases are going up, I'm locked in, and my OCD has been driving me up the wall. I've been suffering with a lot of hyperfixation recently, which I was thinking of writing a blog post on, but I'm not sure if writing a post will contribute to my obsessive behaviour. That's what's tricky with OCD, you never know if spilling your feelings is a good thing, or if it's your attempt at obsessively seeking reassurance. Idk. But, I have switched medications and I had an awesome session with my therapist today. We push on! 

I started my poetry class and things have been better than I expected them to be. I may enjoy writing poetry??? Poetry gives me an outlet to express my feelings in a stream of consciousness way, which is exactly what I need right now. It's been oddly therapeutic. 

I did get up to some cool fall activities this month. I went apple picking, and I have been baking a ton. It's really comforting to be able to bake some sweet treats during these cold days. 

For October, I am looking forward to watching some Halloween-themed movies, having a quiet Thanksgiving, and watching The Mandalorian season two! It's nice to have things to look forward to. 

How has your month been? Are you doing anything fun for fall/Halloween? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 25 September 2020

My 500th Blog Post: What I've Learnt Along the Way

I am not usually one to get sappy. In fact, if I hadn't glanced upon it, I probably wouldn't have even noticed that this post is my 500th blog post that I've published. Can you believe?! But I have found that my blog has very much evolved over these past six years. I decided to take some time to reflect on what I've learnt over 500 posts. 

1. It's good to not take yourself too seriously. 

I used to write really stuffy, overly professional blog posts. But I quickly realized that this was not my thing. I don't talk like that in real life, so why would I want to write like that? I have learnt that it's ok to swear, it's ok to be sarcastic, it's ok to go on rant reviews sometimes. I enjoy looking back on my old posts and laughing a bit, because that person was so not me. I'm glad that I have a platform where I am able to be myself. 

2. It's ok to talk about harsh subjects. It's ok to get "political." 

There was a time where I was convinced that if I ever had to use my blog on a resume, that I had to be strictly un-biased and uninformed on political issues for fear that employers would disagree with me. Now I'm like: to hell with that! Us bloggers are privileged to have a position in which we can educate people on world issues. We can talk about racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and we should not fear over getting "political." I mean, human rights in my opinion is not even a political issue. If you're not using your platform to speak up, then why do you have it? 

3. Content warnings mean the world to an anxious reader. 

I used to be able to read anything, no matter how dark. It wasn't until I was diagnosed with OCD that I learnt the value in content warnings, and I wish I had utilized them in my reviews sooner. Content warnings show that you care about your reader. And they are certainly NOT spoilers. It took me way longer than it should have, but now I am proud that I put content warnings in all of my reviews. 

4. Sometimes, the design doesn't matter. 

I have never been a graphic designer. When I started my blog I was so stressed that I would have to be able to design all of these fancy headers and widgets. I have since learned that at least for me, all I care about are the words I'm writing. Yes my blog design is super simple. Yes my blog button looks like a children's book. But I have a pretty header that my cousin generously designed for me, and to me, that is all I want in terms of design. I write blog posts, I don't design websites. (But major props to those of you who have drop-dead gorgeous sites. I will forever look up to you). 

5. Your blog friends will be closer than any friends you made in high school. 

I have never been one to make a lot of friends. I barely had any friends in high school, I don't have any close friends in university. The closest people I have in my life are my blogging friends and my family. The truth is, y'all have helped me through some tough shit. Whether it's Cee who helped me through a panic attack, or the weekly Zoom chats I have with Joey, Tessi, Claire, Sofia, and Riv, these relationships matter to me. I am so grateful. 

So, this was my 500th blog post. Thank you so much to every one who has ever read or commented on one of my posts. Blogging is a huge part of my life. It keeps me sane, and I don't know what I would do without it. Here's to 500 more. 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 18 September 2020

How We Fight For Our Lives by: Saeed Jones

Genre: Memoir
Published: October 8, 2019 by: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 192
Rating: 5/5 stars
CW: racism, homophobia, predatory behaviour onto minors, grief

Saeed Jones is an esteemed poet who blends poetry and prose into a powerful memoir. Jones tells the story of his life as a boy in the deep South, dealing with a tumultuous but strong relationship with his family members, and his own identity as a queer Black man. How We Fight For Our Lives is a story of coming into ones identity, of losing people close to you, and of navigating a world that privileges some, and marginalizes others.

I love a good memoir. I especially love a memoir that intertwines different genres to get its message across. Saeed Jones is known by most to be a poet. In his memoir, he uses his gifts as a poet and a writer to craft a memoir that makes an impact. Not only does it make an impact, it makes a statement. Even though this book is chilling and at times very graphic, I still think if you can handle the subject matter, it is worth the read.

This memoir doesn't read like non-fiction. By this I mean that Jones doesn't simply regurgitate moments from his childhood without any substance. He is able to tap deep into his thoughts and feelings within each moment in his past that he talks about. The ways in which he writes is lyrical and enthralling. The book takes you on a stream of consciousness journey. I could not put it down once I started.

I read this book shortly after the murder of George Floyd. People were emphasizing the need to read more books by Black authors, and specifically Black queer authors. I saw someone recommend this book and decided to go into it without knowing much of who Jones was. But I emerged knowing so much about Jones and wanting to know even more. I am inspired by the way he writes. I love how he is able to incorporate intersections of race and queerness in his works. He shows how these two concepts are highly connected. I can see this book being studied in queer theory courses, because not only was it educational, but it is a critical look at race and queer relations in the United States.

*Side note, after I finished this memoir I wanted to research Jones' other works, and I came across this article he wrote for GQ regarding the Black Lives Matter protests. It was so incredible, I would encourage you all to read it:

Whose Grief? Our Grief

This book deals with some tough subject matter, so I would suggest going into it after knowing of the content warnings. However, if you are looking for a memoir to take your breath away, look no further. I think this is a memoir that everyone should read.

Have you read How We Fight For Our Lives? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 11 September 2020

Paperback's Pondering's: My Problems with The Selection series

If you've been around the book community for a while, then you probably know of The Selection series by: Kiera Cass. The Selection is about a girl named America Singer, who is entered into a competition to see if she can win the charismatic Prince Maxon's hand in marriage. The land in which America lives is divided by castes, and economic divisions between the castes, resulting in rebel fighting, are what drives the main conflict throughout the series. I used to LOVE this series. To be honest, it makes for a good reread too. But given what I now know about diversity in YA and the ways in which heroines are written, I feel like I need to get things off my chest.

America is your typical "I'm not like other girls" protagonist. She is described as plain to look at, and she hates dressing up and putting on a lot of makeup. In the palace, when the other girls get excited about makeovers, American typically chooses to scale back, rejecting big jewelry for her simple songbird necklace. Now look, America can do whatever the hell she wants. I can admire a girl who rejects typical roles of femininity and instead wears what she feels comfortable. My problem lies in  how much America silently judges the other girls who do like dressing up.

If we're going to write female protagonists who dress how they want, then the respect needs to go both ways. Yes we can admire America for following her own path. We may even relate to her. But so often, women are judged for being frivolous or too girly. I am sick and tired of girls in YA being shamed for liking to dress up and put on makeup. If you want to paint your face everyday, go for it! If you want to go bare-faced, go for it! But what I am so done with, are girls being shamed for the former. America does judge the other girls based on their looks, which is very shallow, especially considering she is supposed to be the heroine. If I have to read one more female antagonist who acts as a complete foil to the main character because she enjoys dressing up, I'm going to lose it.

Along the same topic, I wanted to address the main antagonist, Celeste Newsome. Celeste is, like I hinted at, a typical "girly girl." She wears a lot of makeup, she is also a professional model, and she is known for being catty towards the other girls and for trying to seduce Maxon. Now the seduction part is what I have the most trouble with. The fact that Celeste is portrayed as a pretty model whose only strength is her body, is really troubling to me. Celeste is overly sexualized, with America constantly talking about her plunging necklines and sultry voice. This borders on slut-shaming for me. While America is pure and naive, Celeste is is risque and scandalous. Quite frankly, I am sick and tired of the female antagonists having to be overly sexual. It makes it seem as if their sexuality is their negative trait. I read Celeste as a product of her environment. A girl who has constantly been told that she needs to be perfect, and she needs to stand out if she ever wants to succeed. Does she do shitty things? Yes! But I think villainizing her for simply being comfortable in her body and in her sexuality is a pretty crappy thing to be teaching young women. As long as you are being safe and responsible, nobody should be able to police how you carry yourself.

It would be remiss to not discuss the lack of diversity within this series. America is a red-haired, white-skinned girl who is often described as beautiful in her simplicity. Her best friend Marlee, who is praised for her kind and pure demeanor, is also white and blonde-haired. The only glimpse of a person of colour we see throughout the series is in Elise, who we can assume is East Asian through her family's ties to "New Asia."

My problem with Elise's portrayal, is that she never seems to be able to take up any space in the story. She is constantly described as quiet and reserved, and never a threat to any of the other girls. This is a problem, because people of colour, specifically women of colour, are often taught to blend in, keep quiet, and not occupy too much space. The fact that she is never seen as a threat to America, and is even admitted by Maxon to being kept around because she could help in the war with New Asia, perpetuates the idea that there's no way a WOC could have won The Selection. Elise simply is just there to advance the white character's needs. And this is so stupid to me.

I think Kiera Cass could have done a lot more with The Selection. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, The Selection gets a lot of its action through the inequalities within the caste system. The problem is, I don't think Cass did much research on how caste systems work when she was writing this series. She could have explored how capitalism and the patriarchy works to keep the caste system moving. She could have explored how people of colour are more likely to fall in lower castes due to marginalization from the all-white government. Instead, she barely scrapes the surface of these issues, and only portrays the lower castes as being ways for America to heighten her saviour storyline. But to be honest, I never bought America's bullshit. She is not the heroine I admire.

I think it is important to look critically at book series we used to love. I do reread The Selection from time to time because it is easy to get through and can provide some escapism when I need it. However, I do think it is time for publishers to look beyond series such as these as the pinnacle of YA literature. These series on the surface can seem to portray a strong female character who is "not like other girls." But if she's not like other girls, then why does she have to tear other girls down? Why does she have to shame female sexuality? Why does she have to be white? It's time to put these series to rest, and to focus on teaching girls that no matter how they present themselves, they are valid.

Have you read The Selection series? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 4 September 2020

Siege and Storm (Shadow and Bone #2) by: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Published: June 4, 2013 by: Henry Holt and Company
Pages: 435
Rating: 5/5 stars
Content Warnings: Violence and gore, predatory behaviour

Alina and Mal are in hiding, on the run from the dangerous Darkling who is in pursuit of Alina and her powers as the Sun Summoner. But when they learn that the Darkling is waging war against Ravka, Alina enlists the help of a mysterious privateer to bring them back to the country they abandoned. But the Darkling is not finished with his manipulation of Alina, and Alina begins to slip further into the Darkling's grasp. Suddenly Alina must choose between her love for Mal, her love for her country, and her newfound powers that could save, or kill, everyone.

I did NOT think I was going to love this book as much as I did. Now did I enjoy Shadow and Bone? Yes. But as always, I have a love/hate relationship with fantasy novels and I have been known to tear a series apart after the first book. But this book ended up being a new favourite for me. I definitely preferred it to even the first.

I think the characters got even stronger in Siege and Storm. Alina is dealing with this internal conflict where she is loyal to Mal, but she also cannot resist her powers and the hold that the Darkling has on her. Mal is one of those characters that you either love or hate. I appreciate that he has some duality there. And speaking of duality... the Darkling is one of the best written villains to ever exist. He is pure evil, but he also has hinted to have some softer sides. I can never side with the villain, but I have to admit, he is such an amazing character.

The plot kept me entertained the entire time. Like I said, I usually get bored in fantasy novels. But this book was so interesting in the ways in which Alina and Mal make their way back to Ravka, and their run-ins with the Darkling. I LOVED the character of the privateer. No spoilers, but the reveal of the privateer's identity blew me away! There were definitely a lot of shocks to this book, which made me feel all the feelings.

Overall, I'm really happy I continued with this series. Sometimes I just let fantasy series stay unfinished, but this series is on track to become a new favourite of mine. Now give me the tv show!

Have you read Siege and Storm? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 28 August 2020

Month in Review: August

I guess a normal August month in review would feature me being sad that summer is over. But to be honest, it hasn't felt much like summer at all! My sister and I are not going back to physical school due to covid, so I didn't really get much of those "post summer blues" this year. Although, I guess I will miss the warm weather. Anyways, here's what I got up to in August:

What I Read: 

As like last month, I read way too many books to count. So for the sake of this post, I will only be featuring some of my favourites.

After the Flood by: Kassandra Montag: 5/5 stars
Trixie and Katya's Guide to Modern Womanhood by: Trixie Mattel and Katya: 5/5 stars
Mythos by: Stephen Fry: 4/5 stars
Slay by: Brittney Morris: 4/5 stars
Parable of the Sower by: Octavia E. Butler: 4/5 stars
Every Last Word by: Tamara Ireland Stone: 4.5/5 stars

Favourite book: This is a tough one. I'd like to say Guide to Modern Womanhood was the book I most enjoyed this month, but I knew I was going to love it as soon as I went in because Katya is one of my favourite people to ever exist. But Every Last Word was also incredible with its OCD representation. And After the Flood had some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read. So I guess, those three are my favourites???

What I Blogged: 

I was really happy with one of my blog posts I put up this month, Book Bloggers vs. Book Tokers. This is a discussion post I had been working on for a while with my cousin, and it was nice to get another perspective from someone in the book community. I rarely ever do posts on book community drama, but this was one I felt passionate about.

Favourite Blog Posts I Read this Month: 

Dani shares an Anishinaabekwe's take on Canadian author Joseph Boyden 

Tessi asks: "How Broad is Own Voices?" 

Sofia shares 170 Book Recommendations for Latinx Book Bingo/Latinx Heritage Month 

Cee reviews "Can Everyone Please Calm Down?" by: Mae Martin 

Life Stuff: 

So like I mentioned before, my August wasn't exactly the same as ones I have had in the past. I mostly just went to work and tried to stay as healthy as possible. There were a couple of days that my family was able to go up to my grandmother's cottage, and it was really nice to get a change of scenery. Other than that, I've also taken up a bit more baking. I can blame by recent watching of The Great British Bake Off for that!

Looking into September, I'll be starting online school. I'm not very bothered by that because I have taken a ton of online classes before and tend to prefer them anyways. It will be nice to have something new to occupy my time with.

I will also be participating in a few reading challenges! I have actually rejoined bookstagram, and because of this, I’ll try my best to succeed in the #FallIntoBooksSept20 30-day photo challenge. Bookstagram is something that I quit years ago because I spent way too long trying to make my photos look "professional." But now, I am so much more open to just doing what I want and not caring about comparing myself to others.

In terms of readathons, I’m joining the Latinx Book Bingo for the very first time. This is very exciting for me because I don’t usually participate in a lot of readathons, and I also want to get to the mountain of Latinx books that are on my tbr. I can’t wait to see how it goes!

How was your August? What are your plans for the end of summer?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 21 August 2020

Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters by: Nikita Gill

Genre: Mythology, Poetry
Published: September 5, 2019 by: Ebury Press
Pages: 256
Rating: 5/5 stars
Content warnings: sexual assault, misogyny, violence related to war. I will also briefly discuss transphobia at the end of this review.

We've heard of the infamous stories of Greek female figures such as Medusa and Athena, but do we really know their perspectives? In this powerful poetry collection, Nikita Gill retells the myths of the most famous women in Greek mythology, but through a feminist perspective. Gill explores not only the traditional versions of the myths, but she also places these characters inside a more modern setting in order to display their struggles as if they were happening in real time.

I should start off by saying that I am by no means, a poetry person. I can't write it to save a life, I don't really read a lot of it, and sometimes the meanings of poems can just go way over my head. I can respect it, but a poetry book is definitely not my first choice for reading. That being said, I absolutely ADORED this collection.

I was willing to give this book a shot because of the Greek mythology premise. I am a complete mythology nerd and will pretty much give anything with the word "goddess" in the title, a shot. I also thought the cover was beautiful so I lowkey just wanted this book on my shelf. And I have to say, this was probably the best collection of poetry I have ever read.

I appreciated that Gill was accurate with the myths, while still retelling them in her own unique way. This book is ultimately a feminist retelling of myth, which is something that I can always get behind. But what made Gill's poems really stick with me, is that she not only retells the myths in the ancient setting, but she also places these characters in the real world. Suddenly Aphrodite is a badass entrepreneur having to deal with a misogynistic partner in Ares. Medusa is dealing with rape culture. Gill gives these characters a new breath of life by putting them into situations that a lot of women can relate to. It was something I have never seen done before in a mythology retelling.

Gill's writing captivated me. Like I said before, me and poetry don't always click. But Gill has a way of writing that just completely pulls you in like a magic spell. Her poems are easy to get through and easy to grasp, but not at all lacking in meaning. I think Gill is very talented at what she does. If I were to write poetry, this is how I would want to write it.

I think this book taught me that sometimes reading outside of your comfort zone can pay off. I was worried to go into a poetry book. But it ended up being a standout book of my summer. I think any woman, whether they are into mythology or not, can find something in this collection that resonates with them. I know I did.

A note:

Something I was thinking about a lot when reviewing this piece is that we should be critically examining the feminist works of media that we consume, to make sure that they are intersectional. This book was great considering it was written by a WOC who also vocally expresses support for the trans community, and there is also LGBT representation, as well as characters who do not conform to the gender binary. However, given the current rise in women who like to call themselves "feminists" but who actively exclude trans women and others in the LGBTQ+ community, I feel that it is important that we look into how the authors of the feminist works we read treat the trans community. And remember, if your feminism excludes trans women, then it is not feminism.

Have you read Great Goddesses? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 14 August 2020

Book Blogging vs. Booktoking Aka "Why Can't We All Just Get Along?"

If you're a regular on book twitter, you may have seen a bit of a fight between book bloggers and booktokers. Now for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the latter, booktok is a new branch of the popular video app Tik Tok. Users share short videos about anything book related. Since booktokers use the video format, there is often a great level of creativity that can be used, such as playing with different sounds and songs to put over the videos, different aesthetics, outfits, anything!

I've had to limit my use of Tik Tok lately because I was becoming a little too obsessed with it, but pretty much the only Tik Toks I watch are book-related ones. I mean, it makes sense, since reading is probably my biggest passion! So when I saw that book twitter and book bloggers were coming after booktokers, I was a little confused. After doing some digging and consulting a booktoker I know, I figured it was about time to discuss all the drama and see if we can find a happy medium.

The drama basically started with booktokers saying that book bloggers were old and that the medium of blogging is a dying art. Book bloggers retaliated by saying that booktokers do not work hard enough, and that their reading is unoriginal and not diverse. Now that last point, I have admittedly noticed on booktok. My cynical self really did look at someone recommending The Fault in Our Stars on booktok and I said: "what is this, 2012?" I do think that sometimes booktokers can be a bit behind on books that book bloggers have been talking about for years. But, if someone is enjoying a book for the very first time, no matter how old it is, is it really worth it to fault them for that?

I have personally been struggling to find some more diverse booktokers. A lot of white booktokers do recommend diverse books, but I do think there is a lack of POC on the site. Now this could be because booktok is still a very new and growing medium. They're not going to solve everything in a day. I can only hope that white booktokers create a greater platform for diversity.

In a way, I could get book bloggers' frustrations. Book bloggers work so hard to create attractive sites for people to follow. We work in a format that requires a lot of writing, and because we do not get that video aspect, we have to work twice as hard to make our work as visually appealing as possible. With all of these new social platforms that have been coming out such as bookstagram, booktube, and now booktok, book bloggers have been feeling a little underappreciated lately. It sucks that we don't get as much as the recognition as we used to. So, when a new platform such as book tok comes along, it makes sense that we would get a little territorial. It's almost like we want to say: "I've been in the book community for so long I deserve a senior's discount. Back of the line, sis!"

But, I wonder if there's any use in tearing a new platform down in order to make ourselves feel better. I feel like booktokers could learn a lot from us veterans, and similarly we could learn new innovative ways to grow our platform from them. Now the internet isn't perfect. With any online platform, there will be drama. But I don't think there's any point in automatically hating a new platform just because they're new. We could all learn something from each other. I hope we will.

And now to the interview portion of this post. My cousin Molly started book toking this year. I really wanted to get a booktoker's experience on the drama, and on the whole idea of booktok. So here are my questions, and her responses:

          1. What drew you to tik tok as opposed to another platform to talk about books? 

Honestly, I came across booktok by accident! I never had the intention to try and become a creator in the book community on any platform, tik tok was just something I was on for fun haha. One day I thought it might be fun to make a tik tok about my favourite books because I saw someone else do something similar. What attracted me to start filming tik toks in general and why I love book tik toks now is the format is so versatile and there is such a large community on the app, which is so fun. The visual aspect of having the book recommendations be in videos and posing yourself and the books in aesthetic little 30 second clips is also really new and different, and as an artsy person as well a great creative outlet! I also find booktoks more interesting for people to watch who maybe aren't as interested in reading, its a very accessible way to draw in new people.  

2. How would you describe the community on booktok? Speaking on behalf someone who is a part of the book blogging and book twitter community, things can sometimes get toxic. Do you see any of that kind of drama on booktok? 

To be completely transparent, not that I’ve seen! I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the demographic on tik tok is much younger than say twitter, and people really just want to have a good time. Booktok is also fairly new, as is the app, so that’s not to say the community is perfect and will never have problems grow in the future. But the overall atmosphere is very warm and inclusive. 

3. A lot of people argue that booktokers only read mainstream books and/or do not read diversely. Do you think this is a misconception? How do you challenge yourself to read diversely, and overall what are some of your favourite diverse books? 

I think that this again can be traced back to the age disparity between the demographic of tik tok and twitter, because to be fair yes, you do see a lot of the same recommendations pop up again and again on tik tok. But you have to start somewhere you know? I don’t think you can fault young readers for starting off with what is presented to them by the mainstream. Millennials got to have Harry Potter, give Gen Z their moment with Cassandra Clare haha! These people haven’t had the time to grow and branch out of their comfort zone yet. But I do also think booktok could do better in terms of diversity, I see mainly white authors presented in reviews and recs, and that is a fault of the community that needs to be changed, and that comes with growth and maturity from the community learning and being educated by others as well. We welcome constructive criticism, and need it to learn! Personally, to try and read more diversely I watch creators who are POC themselves or have wider, more diverse recs, I also just ask my followers for their favourites! That’s where I get most of my new reads from. I love love love Six of Crows personally because I see myself represented in Inej, I also loved The Hate U Give, and cause I love classics, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, all recommendations from my followers :)

4. What improvements would you like to see on booktok in terms of the general community or in terms of gaining a following? 

I’m not able to accurately pinpoint all the faults in the community as I am still fairly new to it, so my experiences are fairly fresh. From what I have seen, while sometimes naive and young, the community is very accepting and encourages help from whoever is willing to give advice on how to be better in terms of recommendations, inclusivity and videos. I think that as a community that no doubts has its faults, for example, not offering diverse selections, I have seen active attempts from the people I follow to rectify that and learn from their actions, so I am very hopeful that the community continues to accept and learn this way. In terms of breaking in and gaining a following, I will say that I would like to see booktok grow in terms of numbers because as it is fairly small in my opinion there are a few giant booktok accounts and everyone else kind of just struggles to get followers. Which is no fault to the big accounts, but it is my hope that as more people join, they will branch out and there will be room for smaller creators to join. As I think that’s also where progress and growth come from, by expanding your population.
5. How do you think bookworms of different platforms can move forward to work in harmony together instead of against each other? 

I think it’s most important for us to realize that books are such an amazing gift and as the art of reading and literature is being lost in the age of technology, we need to stick together as opposed to ganging up on each other. I think by recognizing no matter how we express our love through books, whether that be twitter, a blog or tik tok, we all have the same goal: to find a community where we can enjoy talking about and learning about books, have good discussion, and find broader horizons. 

6. What have you overall gained from being a part of the booktok community? 

Alot! I’ve been exposed to so many new reads that have really expanded my personal library, and my ‘to be read’ pile has never been bigger. I really think that having a community to discuss different books and issues with has helped me become a more critical reader, in terms of not just taking a book at face value. How inclusive is the book, is there good representation, or is this a book that has a good message? Not to say that we should rip apart every book we read, but being more aware of how marginalized POC authors and LGBTQ+ authors are in the literary community, as well as the importance of readers (young readers especially) to see themselves represented is something that I have been more exposed to and informs my choices when I’m buying and recommending books now.

7. What directions do you see booktok going from here? Do you think it has the potential to become one of the leading platforms to talk about books?

I am very optimistic about the future of booktok! I think that while it’s small now, the creators are consistent about trying to grow their community and are here to stick around, I know I am haha. The creativity and plethora of things you can do with the video format and the fact that tik tok is one of the biggest apps of this generation and is really shaping gen z, I think that booktok has really nowhere to go but up from here. I am very excited to see what the future of booktok is and what it will look like in the years from now!

Thank you very much to Molly for answering my questions. For any of you guys that use tik tok, Molly has a great account that incorporates both booktok and her love of Criminal Minds. You can follow her: here

My Thoughts on the Interview: 

I could really understand Molly's point of view here. I'm actually technically a member of Gen Z, and I have seen how tik tok has inspired my generation to be more creative with their passions. Yes Gen Z can sometimes be immature, but we are also the generation that can help to reverse the mistakes of the people who came before us. We have seen a lot in our short lives, so any platform that we can use to spread some positivity and be ourselves, I can appreciate. 

What's Next? 

So, where do we go from here? I think that as book bloggers we need to accept that booktok is not going anywhere. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but I think the best we can do is encourage the new generation of book community members to be their authentic selves, and to try to forge as peaceful of a community as possible. Unfortunately, book bloggers are still under appreciated. So it is important for us bloggers to support each other, highlight new bloggers, and to never give up on our platform. We are, in a lot of ways, the original members of the book community. It is important for us to never forget our worth, and to not compare ourselves to others. So I say, if you are a booktweeter, bookstagrammer, booktuber, booktoker, or book blogger, you are valid. 

How do you feel about booktok? How can the book community work together to champion diversity and mutuality? Let's talk! 

Emily @ Paperback Princess