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