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

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Two Can Keep a Secret by: Karen M. McManus

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Published: January 8, 2019 by: Delacorte Press
Pages: 329
Rating: 4/5 stars
Content warnings: murder, kidnapping, predatory behaviour

When Ellery and her twin brother Ezra are forced to move into the sleepy town of Echo-Ridge, Ellery is less than enthused. However, she is a murder mystery enthusiast, and she takes this opportunity to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her aunt who lived in Echo Ridge years prior. Soon she befriends Malcolm, a shy kid whose brother has been suspected of the murder of one of the town's most beloved girls. As more girls start disappearing from the town and ominous messages are being painted on walls, Ellery and Malcolm seek to reveal some of the townspeople's shady secrets.

This book is a YA murder-mystery enthusiast's dream. It is creepy, complex, and there are so many different characters from varying backgrounds, that at some point you wonder if a murderer even exists. I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. However, I did have some issues with it.

First of all, I think this book would be perfect to read in the fall. It takes place in a very stereotypical creepy small town, where almost everyone has got secrets. Not to mention that the book starts off in the fall, so there are definitely a lot of Halloween vibes. If you're into spooky things to kick off the fall season, this book is definitely for you. I can always appreciate this setting, so this was definitely a plus for me as well.

I really enjoyed the characters of this book. Ellery was super strong and intelligent, and Malcolm was also quite lovable. He was definitely everything I look for in a male protagonist. Nerdy, shy, and also very respectful. I hate it when the main male protagonist is super condescending to the female protagonist. Malcolm really let Ellery do her own thing and take charge, and it was awesome to see.

I did find myself wanting a bit more from some of the characters. Ellery's brother Ezra was a super funny queer guy, and I would have loved for him to have been more centered in the story. Being a twin myself, I also quite enjoy reading twin dynamics in books, so I would have loved more of that from this book.

I did not suspect who the murderer was at all. So that was a big shock, and the whole story really was brought together neatly. That being said, the ending was one big content warning for me. Without spoiling, there is a lot of adult predatory behaviour at the end of the novel, stuff that made me super uncomfortable. I think this book could have done with a content warning at the beginning, so it wouldn't shock people too much. It definitely put a damper on the big reveal for me.

I think this book goes for the shock value. Did I enjoy it? Yes. I don't read many YA thrillers anymore, and I think this book did the genre justice. I will also say that the final lines of the book are super creepy and really well crafted, so that is definitely something to look forward to. I can see people who love this genre really loving this book. But, approach with caution please, especially if you are going through any kind of trauma. I'm in a stage where I really have to be careful with the media I consume, so this might have been a little tough to get through.

Have you read Two Can Keep a Secret? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess