Thursday, 30 December 2021

Vampires, Hearts and Other Dead Things by: Margie Fuston

 CW: terminal illness of a parent/death of a parent, blood/body gore 

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy 

Published: August 24, 2021 by Margaret K. McElderry Books 

Pages: 320 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

Victoria and her father have always loved vampires, and they long for the day when they can find one together. However, her father has terminal cancer, and Victoria knows that if she wants her father to meet a vampire, she needs to find one herself who can make her a vampire so that she can save her dad. With her best friend, Victoria travels to New Orleans where she meets a mysterious man named Nicholas, who vows to deliver on Victoria's wish. However, Victoria must complete a series of tasks before Nicholas is willing to make her live forever, and these tasks will test what Victoria thought she knew about her and her father's greatest interest. 

I love vampire tropes. Whether it's a cheesy supernatural romance, a dramatic tv show, or an old novel, I absolutely cannot get enough of vampire mythology. So, this premise caught my eye. I thought that the idea of combining vampire mythology with the real-life conflict of illness and losing a parent could be fascinating. This book did not disappoint, and it delivered on some interesting themes and characterization. 

First off, I was hoping that this novel would give me some references to vampire moments in pop culture that I love, and it definitely did so. I wanted to hear Victoria and her father's opinions on Buffy, Twilight, Anne Rice, and of course, Dracula. I thought that Fuston did a great job at integrating these famous tropes while also showing Victoria's own unique perceptions of vampire mythology. There are so many different variations of the vampire out there, so it was great that Fuston singled in on what Victoria and her father believed to be true. It made their interest appear all the more real. 

I thought this novel developed Victoria's character well. I was concerned at first that a teenage girl who truly believes in vampires would annoy me, as her character may appear naïve. However, Victoria has so much knowledge in vampires that her interest was very believable. Also, I could understand how her love for her father drove her decisions. Even if it could have gotten her into danger, she was willing to do anything to help her father, and I could respect that. 

I didn't really love the character of Nicholas. I thought he wasn't as developed as Victoria, and he was extremely unlikable to the point where I wondered if he was more of a villain, even though he isn't written to be. I think people who write vampire stories could do better to make the vampire characters, particularly male vampire characters, more likable. Often, they come across as patriarchal, which isn't a good look. I need more soft and sweet vampires in the vampire world. 

Overall, I did enjoy this! I thought the ending was satisfying and the themes were well executed. It was a good addition to my vampire collection, though I would like to see more variety in terms of writing vampire characters. 

Have you read Vampires, Hearts and Other Dead Things? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Sunday, 26 December 2021

I'm Back! Updates and Plans for 2022

Hello blogging world! I think it's been no secret that I pretty much dropped off the face of the blogging earth these past few months. In September I planned on going on a short hiatus to sort out how to find a blog/life balance, as school has kept me very busy. But then, school pretty much only got worse in terms of busyness and I just knew that I would have no time at any point soon to return. However, now that I am on winter break and the main hustle and bustle of the holiday's are over, I have finally had the chance to open up the old blogging app, blow off the dust, and update you all. So here it is! 

What I Read: 

Over the past few months, I have been able to read some great books. Luckily, a lot of the books that I have to read for school are novels, and so even though I was technically doing school readings, I was still able to add to my Goodreads tally for the year. I am finishing out the year by reading about 175 books, which is a huge accomplishment, and the most books I've ever read in a year! I am very proud of myself and I credit a lot of that reading to the huge lockdown that Ontario was in for most of the winter and spring. While it's been very hard to pick some favourite books of the year, I will say that I was happy to read and enjoy some books outside of my comfort zone, including classics and non-fiction books. A few of these include Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, No Friend But The Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, and Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich. I hope to continue to push myself to read outside of my comfort zone in the new year. 

What I've Been Watching: 

Despite not being able to blog, I made it a point to set aside some time in the evening to unwind from school and watch some new shows. I finally got to The Umbrella Academy, and omg I absolutely loved it! Both seasons are on Netflix and the themes are so well-written, the action is so entertaining, and the banter is hilarious. If you love superhero tv and dark comedy, this show is the one for you! If you're curious, my favourite Hargreeves sibling is Diego :) 

I'm currently rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its spin-off, Angel. I do think both of these tv shows have some fascinating themes, and I can't get enough of vampire tropes. So, these shows have very much kept me company these past few months. 

I do still have to get to Hawkeye, and I need to watch the new Spiderman movie. I've caught up with all of the Marvel movies that I've missed over the years, except for No Way Home. Judging by all of the positive reviews, I'm very much looking forward to watching it. 

Life Stuff: 

Obviously, school has been all-consuming since September. But I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't having a good time. I've made a lot of friends in my masters cohort. We're a small group so we look out for each other, which is great. My courses for the fall term were a little bit more general, but next term I have a superhero course to look forward to! I've been able to receive a lot of cool comics that I need to get to, which will for sure prepare me for that course. I'm super excited. 

Overall, my grades were good for the fall term, and the fun thing is, I've also been able to grade first-years as a teaching assistant! I'm really enjoying my position and learning first-hand what it's like to instruct university students. It's been pretty cool to learn. 

I've also been able to apply to a few creative writing competitions, and it's been fun to get back into writing. I also might have the opportunity to travel to Montreal in May for an academic conference, which is nerve-wracking, but would be pretty cool. Fingers-crossed it works out. 

Health-wise, I've been pretty much the same. Obviously I still deal with OCD and panic attacks, however for Christmas I got some cool self-care tools that I'm hoping to implement and see if they help in any way. School has also been a great distraction from worries and it helps to talk to friends as well. So, we're getting through it! 

Over the next few days, I'll be using some of the gift cards I received to buy some new books to read in 2022. I'm appealing to all of you guys to please send me your recommendations! Anything you've got, such as comics, non-fiction, poetry, and of course, YA, I'm willing to try. I'm looking forward to building up my bookshelf for the new year. 

I've been giving some thought into how to best return to blogging, and I think what makes the most sense is to start writing my posts in the evening time while I watch my shows. I think I can manage one post on Fridays, as I did before, and I just need to time manage a bit better. Of course, things might change, and I'm not going to pressure myself to stick to a routine, but this seems like a plan that will work. 

Overall, I want to apologize for not being as active on the commenting front. I'm hoping to get better at it, and hopefully this new plan will help. I'm really looking forward to seeing all that the book blogging community accomplishes in the new year, and I wish you all a happy and healthy 2022! 

Now it's time for you to please share with me what you've been up to these past few months! How was your holidays? Did you receive anything cool? What are your new year's resolutions? Talk to me! I've missed you guys :) 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 17 September 2021

A Short Hiatus- Trying to Find a Blog/School Balance

 Hey y'all! This is just a short message to say that I'll be going on a short hiatus while I try to find a blog/school balance. With grad school just starting, I'm finding it hard to find the right time for blogging and the right time for school, so please bear with me while I find the routine that works best for me. Fear not! I'm not leaving forever, and I'll still be around to read and comment on other blog posts. I just don't have the time right now to write my own. 

Hope to see you all soon! 


Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: My Conflicted Opinions on It Ends With Us by: Colleen Hoover

 CW: this post will discuss domestic violence

*Spoilers ahead for It Ends With Us by: Colleen Hoover* 

I decided to format my review of It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover into more of a discussion post, rather than a strict review. This is because I had a lot of opinions on this book, many of which are probably going to become very rambly, and I thought that I could turn this review into a conversation about the representation of domestic abuse in novels and how we can perceive them. That being said, because this post will go into lengthy discussion about a book that depicts domestic abuse, I would ask that you proceed with caution. For resources, visit (Find a Canadian women's shelter near you if you're in danger). (National Action Plan on Gendered Violence in Canada).  (US-based Domestic Violence Helpline).

It Ends With Us was recommended to me by my close cousin, though she warned that it is a difficult read. I don't know much about Colleen Hoover, however I do know that she has had some problematic controversy in the passed, especially pertaining to her lack of trigger warnings in her books that deal with abuse. I felt comfortable reading this book as it was borrowed and therefore I wasn't giving any extra money to Hoover, but I would overall say to not support this author by purchasing her books directly, as I do think she could do greater work to protect her readers through trigger warnings. If you are interested in this book, consider buying second-hand or borrowing. 

It Ends With Us is about a woman named Lily who moves to Boston for a fresh start. She opens up a flower shop and aims to make a life for herself after the death of her father, who physically abused her mother. Soon after moving to Boston, Lily meets Ryle, a stoic and stubborn brain surgeon who is taken with Lily and aims to start a relationship. However, this relationship quickly turns abusive, and Lily is suddenly faced with the realization that she is exactly where her mother was. 

It is apparent to the reader from the very beginning that Ryle will become physically and emotionally abusive towards Lily. Even in the first moments he meets her, he is patronizing, creepy and obsessive. However, Lily feels comfortable to enter a relationship and she does begin to excuse his behaviour under his false promises that "it'll never happen again." Lily's situation is unfortunately all too common for many people in abusive relationships. Their partners appear charismatic, and their obsession with their victims disguised by romantic gestures and empty promises. When I first began the book, I felt frustrated with Lily because I thought she was naïve that she couldn't see what I saw. The signs were all there, and yet she excused them. However, I quickly realized that my negative opinions towards Lily were because I've never, thankfully been in an abusive relationship before, and so I felt I would have reacted differently. However, I've never been in that situation before, and we can never tell victims how they should've acted, as they were in extremely hard situations that they never considered they would be in. What's in the past is done, and all we can do is support victims in the present. 

Lily states on multiple occasions that she never thought she would be in the same situation as her mother, and that even she judged victims of domestic abuse. She says that she wonders how they could stay with their abusers, and she is shocked that she ends up the same way. However, she comes to the realization that she has fallen in love with her abuser, because of the good times that they had together. When Lily stated that she had fallen in love with Ryle, I at first was a bit shocked, but then I realized where she was coming from. Ryle was the first person she met when she was in Boston, and he came into her life at a very difficult time. I cannot possibly judge her for the love she has for him, because she fell in love while she was extremely vulnerable. 

There is a scene in the book in which Alyssa, Ryle's sister, tells Lily that as Ryle's sister, she wants Lily to give him another chance at redemption, but as Lily's best friend, she needs Lily to get out of that relationship as soon as possible, or Alyssa will never speak to Lily again. I found this scene to be very powerful, as it shows how hard it is for Alyssa to process that her brother is an abuser. She wants to still love her brother, but she loves Lily's safety even more. I found this scene to be an interesting exploration on how family members of abusers process their feelings, and I wondered how I'd react in the same situation. 


Lily and Ryle eventually get married, and Lily discovers she is pregnant. She first considers never telling Ryle of her pregnancy, but she eventually decides to let him be a part of the baby's life, with a firm warning that if he lays a hand on their child, Lily will leave. Ryle is surprisingly a caring father, and is even in the delivery room with Lily when she gives birth. I found this sequence of events to be the most conflicting for me. At first I was hoping and rooting for Lily to run away and never let Ryle know of his daughter. But, her decision comes after she considers that her child needs two parents and that Ryle actually wants to be a father. They do split up and share custody of their daughter, and Lily whispers to her daughter that the cycle of abuse "ends with us." I thought that the book ended on both a bleak and hopeful note. I just wished that Ryle got what he deserved, that he never knew happiness again. But, Lily chooses a different path. She doesn't forgive Ryle for what he did to her, but she gives him the chance to be there for her daughter. I thought this was a very strong and difficult decision for her, but it was ultimately one that I respected, as Lily looks towards restorative justice and for Ryle to see how to properly raise a child. 

I say my opinions on this book were conflicted because at points I was so frustrated with the characters. I was so angry with Ryle for continuing to abuse his power and breaking his promises, and even times I was frustrated with Lily for giving him second chances and even for telling him of the pregnancy. However, the author's note at the end of the novel helped me to reconcile some of these opinions. Hoover notes that her father was abusive to her mother, however he was always kind to her and he saw the errors of his ways right up until his death. She even thanks her father at the end of the novel for recognizing the harm that he caused. I realized that this book was an accurate representation, but not the only representation of what domestic abuse can look like. Some may choose a different path, but Lily chose a path similar to that of Hoover's own family, and she does still end up free and safe. I learned by the end of this book that healing from an abusive family looks different for everyone, and because of this, nobody can judge the choices made by the victims. Overall, I am thankful to this book for teaching me about one of the ways in which domestic abuse manifests itself, and one of the ways in which victims can heal from it. I only hope that this cycle doesn't continue. 

Have you read It Ends With Us? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Pet by: Akwaeke Emezi

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy 

Published: September 10, 2019 by: Make Me A World 

Pages: 208 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: discussions of racism and transphobia, familial abuse, body gore


Jam and the other children of the town of Lucille, live in harmony knowing that monsters no longer exist. Jam is able to live in a world where she can be unapologetically herself, and she and her best friend Redemption are looking forward to growing up in a world that respects them. That is, until a creature called Pet comes to life. Pet tells Jam that there is a monster hidden in Redemption's house, and its job is to hunt them down. Pet is suddenly faced with the realization that some monsters may have been left behind, and Pet will stop at nothing until the monster is conquered. 

This was a book unlike anything I have experienced before. With a unique premise and beautiful, lyric writing that Akwaeke Emezi does so well, Pet was a riveting novel from beginning to end. While I did have some minor issues with some of the themes, I think this book is perfect for young adults and adults alike who want to be immersed in a diverse world of characters who just want to keep the peace. 

Jam is a vibrant teenage girl, who is also transgender. However, her identity as a transgender girl is not something that is filled with trauma and hardship. Her parents are fully accepting of her, and accepted her as a girl the moment she realized she was one at such a young age. I found the detail that Jam knew she was a girl at just three years old so important, as trans kids are often told by transphobic adults that they can't possibly know their identity so young. But Jam does, and she lives a full life. 

I also loved Jam's friend, Redemption, and his close family. Redemption's parents are in a queer, polyamorous relationship, and this kind of familial bond was so amazing to see. Rarely ever do we see authors write of polyamorous relationships, and especially in young adult novels. I commend Emezi for writing a book that was filled to the brim with representation. Emezi never writes what colonialism has taught us is the "normal," and I appreciate that. 

This book is placed in a utopian setting, in which all of the monsters of the world have been destroyed. Homophobia, transphobia, and racism don't exist anymore, and Jam never even thinks that she will face these monsters. However, Pet throws Jam for a loop with the reveal that there is a monster still left. The idea of a utopian setting is not something that I usually read about, as I am more used to dystopia. But putting Jam into a world of utopia was so important, so that she can grow up without trauma or fear. Jam is also selectively mute, and her family and friends respect this. She is such a layered character and was a joy to read about. 

The one and only problem I had with this book, is that some of the action towards the end of the book was a bit jarring. I was very much caught up in the idea that this was a utopian setting, so the reveal of a monster and the inevitable climax did disturb me a bit. However, this is completely a reflection of my personal opinion and where my head was at during the time of reading. I was in a place where I really just wanted to read something cheerful, and while this book is full of joy, it does also contain some darkness. I think I didn't necessarily read this book at a time that was right for me, however I'd be totally willing to give it a re-read. 

Overall, you need to read Pet. Akwaeke Emezi is one of the best writers of their generation, and they bring such a treasured tradition of Nigerian culture and oral storytelling to their works. I'd be curious to read Emezi's next young adult books, as their work is such an important part of literature. 

Have you read Pet? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 27 August 2021

Month in Review: August

Summer is over, and I'm getting ready to go back to school. I have to admit, I'm a little bit nervous, as pursuing a graduate degree is a whole different environment and I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed with information. However, everyone has been super nice so far so I am confident that things will go smoothly. Before I leave summer behind, let's recap how August went: 

What I Read: 

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto: 5/5 stars 

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi: 5/5 stars 

Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali: 4/5 stars 

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano: 4/5 stars 

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett: 5/5 stars 

Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua: 4/5 stars 

The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon: 4/5 stars 

Moccasin Square Gardens by Richard Van Camp: 4/5 stars 

Favourite Book: Dial A For Aunties was by far my favourite book of the month. It was funny, charming, full of family dynamics and also reminded me a bit of Crazy Rich Asians, which was a huge plus. I got really into funny thriller books this month, and this book topped them all. 

What I Blogged: 

My favourite post this month was My Five Problems with Dark Academia. Honestly, this post was a long time coming. I've kept my issues with the genre inside for so long, and it was good to finally rant. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Cee explains why The World is On Fire 

Shayna shares a delightful story in Can You Help Me, Shayna? 

Veronika recommends Books Based On Her Favourite Musicals 

Sofia announces that Latinx Book Bingo is Back!

Life Stuff: 

As a whole, my summer was... ok. COVID put an obvious damper on things, as did the weather. It was rainy for most of the summer, and usually I love being able to sit outside. However, August wasn't all bad. I got a new tattoo, a trident on the back of my arm, for my love of Greek mythology and the Percy Jackson series. It makes me feel so confident and I love looking at it in the mirror. 

I also got to do some more comic book shopping, and hang out with work friends. I think I got some of my pre-COVID confidence back, so I was able to socialize a bit more, within reason of course. 

As I said before, now I am preparing for school and stressing out just a little bit. I am a mixture of being excited for new opportunities, including being able to be a teaching assistant, but also a little bit nervous. But I think nerves are a normal part of any new environment. Overall, I do think there are good things to come. 

That was my August! How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 20 August 2021

Cherry Crush (The Chocolate Box Girls #1) by: Cathy Cassidy

 Genre: Middle grade, contemporary 

Published: September 2, 2010 by: Puffin 

Pages: 272 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: bullying, divorce 

Cherry and her father, who happens to be a chocolate maker, are moving to Somerset to live with her father's girlfriend and her tight-knit daughters. Adapting from being an only child to having sisters proves to be troublesome for Cherry, especially since the eldest sister, Honey, is less than thrilled by Cherry's presence. Cherry strikes up a friendship with Honey's boyfriend Shay, but Honey is determined to break up the duo. Along her journey in a new town, Cherry deals with secrets from her past and the reality that her whole family life is about to change. 

I never knew this book existed until a lovely booktuber Olivia @ Olivia's Catastrophe recommended it. I'm Canadian, so I'm not always too familiar with British middle-grade books, however I am a sucker for any books that take place in England. I just love the setting that's created and the books tend to be really light and fluffy. This book was no exception. It was adorable, with lovable characters, a unique premise, and such a joyous setting. I am so happy I picked this up and I am determined to find the rest of the books in the series. 

Cherry's father is a chocolate maker. When Cherry moves to Somerset, her father combines forces with Cherry's new stepmum who runs a Bed and Breakfast. The result is a lot of delightful imagery of sweet treats and a running theme throughout the series that ties each of the sisters as "The Chocolate Box Girls." I love food imagery in books, especially anything to do with baking or sweets. This book almost gave me the same comfort that watching The Great British Bake Off does, in the sense that the dessert imagery was just so comforting and sweet. (Pun intended!) I loved the running concept of the chocolate. 

This book has some incredibly likable characters. Cherry is so determined and imaginative. She even has a pet goldfish who she talks to! I also loved getting to know her new sisters, Skye, Summer, Coco and even Honey. Although Honey is very intense as she gets to know Cherry, I could totally see why she acts the way that she does, and her development was awesome to see. There's a lot of sisterly love in this book, which is another trope that gives me so much joy. 

I loved that this book is able to stay comforting and light-hearted, while still dealing with difficult topics. Cherry is bi-racial and dealing with the fact that she doesn't really know her mother's side. Honey is dealing with the divorce of her parents and a difficult romantic relationship. All of the girls are dealing with a new blended family. Cassidy dealt with these topics in a way that kids will understand and relate to, as well as in a way that is relatable to older readers as well. 

Middle-grade isn't my main genre, however I do love picking up middle-grade books from time to time, especially when I need a pick-me-up. This book gave me all of the comfort that I needed at the time that I read it, and I just know that I will love the other books. The only problem is, as this is a British series, I cannot find these books anywhere in Canada, not even on Amazon. However, I'm not going to let that stop me, and one day I will find the rest of the series. Canadian readers deserve all of the joy from this series too!

Have you read Cherry Crush? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 13 August 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: My Five Problems with Dark Academia

 CW: this post will discuss themes that may be triggering, such as sexual assault, torture and murder 

I've hinted before that I do not like the genre of dark academia, and a post detailing my top five problems with its spark in popularity has been long overdue. But before I go into full-on rant mode, I think it's important to break down the definition of dark academia. To be honest, I'm not sure anybody truly knows what dark academia means. From what I gather, dark academia is a sub-genre of books and other media that involves sinister happenings and overall darker themes while in the setting of an academic institution. The setting can either be a high school, college or university, and usually there is some sort of murder or crime committed within the walls of the institution that the main character is tied up in. However, this definition is not clear-cut, as dark academia can also be used to describe the general aesthetic of old libraries, sweater vests, and even themes of Greek mythology. The point is, dark academia has been taking the book world by storm. People like to feel thrilled by the mystery of a crime committed in an educational setting. My problem with the genre lies in its handling of readers who are easily triggered, as well as many other problematic elements that are consistent across a lot of the books. So without further adieu, let me detail why I cannot stand this genre: 

1. The books tend to be very elitist and classist.  

I find that dark academia lends itself to themes of higher education and an interest in things like Greek mythology and old English literature. Now as someone who loves Greek mythology and is pursuing a literature degree myself, these themes are not what irk me. What bothers me about dark academia books is that they tend to push the narrative of very wealthy characters who have a "holier than thou" approach because they are attending prestigious institutions. These characters come from the utmost privilege, and they never seem relatable to me, the average person reading the book who struggles in school and doesn't always win favour of a high-profile professor. Dark academia can sometimes push the narrative that attending a super-expensive post secondary institution is glamorous and desirable, while ignoring the fact that sometimes people cannot afford these institutions, or simply don't want to attend them. I find that the aesthetic ignores the harm that these institutions can do to people financially, in favor of a mysterious aesthetic. 

2. The genre is so incredibly white and heteronormative 

There is a long way to go to make dark academia a diverse genre. Books like The Secret History by Donna Tartt (see rant review here), feature some of the most racist, homophobic and downright offensive characters I have ever seen. But, instead of shining a spotlight onto why these characters are bad and what can be done to give justice to the people affected, these characters are lifted up to be "troubled," "mysterious," figures who we're still supposed to root for. Some dark academia books such as The Ancient Nine by Ian K. Smith have started to feature people of colour in leading roles, but these books still have their problems. The Ancient Nine fails to take into account the racist history of academic institutions, and has many transphobic elements. See Jesse's review here for more information. I long for the day when dark academia will be diverse without capitalizing off of the trauma of marginalized people, and without giving me problematic characters that I'm supposed to root for. 

3. Dark academia can be so incredibly triggering. 

Most dark academia books deal with some incredibly harsh topics, such as assaults, torture, usually murder, and the list goes on. I'm not saying that authors shouldn't write about harsh topics because it may be triggering to readers. People have the right to read and write whatever they want. However, so often, dark academia just seems to be a trauma dump in which more and more disturbing content is forced onto the reader, to the point where I at least have to skim through parts, or just dnf the book all together. I think it's important to talk about dark themes in books, at the very least to raise awareness. But when such heaviness is put into a book that it almost seems like the author is just doing it for the dark aesthetic, well then that's when I have a problem. I want authors who write dark academia to be respectful of their audience and the different limits that they may have. Books should have a healthy balance between conflict and resolution. With dark academia, it seems to always just be running on conflict. 

4. The tone of the books are often pretentious and boring 

This is more of a style critique than a theme problem. Dark academia books have to push this idea that the characters have a high interest in education and studying. But because of this, the tone of the books often end up feeling like I'm being lectured at by a highly pretentious English professor who just thinks that they're better than me. I get that authors need to get across how into education these characters are. But when it gets to the point where the book is not at all easy to read, then I just wonder why I'm putting myself through all of this trouble. I have found every dark academia book I've read to feel like a chore, as the books are usually super long and extremely boring, almost like reading a university textbook. I don't know if the authors feel the need to flaunt how much education they have by info-dumping, but it just needs to stop. 

5. The characters end up adopting extremely unhealthy behaviours that's overlooked. 

Along with committing crimes and being just generally shitty people, a lot of the characters in dark academia tend to engage in seriously harmful behaviours such as drinking and driving, alcoholism, drug use, and more. In addition to this, mental illness is usually an issue that authors try to tackle, but it ends up being done in an extremely insensitive way in which characters are either criminalized because of their mental illness, or the author unloads a whole lot of trauma onto the character that is then projected onto the reader who may be struggling with mental illness as well. I feel like characters never actually work through their trauma or see the errors of their ways, instead the books end on these angsty and dark notes in which nothing seems to be resolved, and I just feel like I've wasted my time. 

These are the main reasons why I don't think I will ever make it through another dark academia book. However, I also understand that a lot of people love this genre and this aesthetic, and I will never project my opinions onto someone else. I don't hate or think bad about anyone who reads or writes dark academia, I just personally can't get past these issues whenever I read it. I believe that if you don't like something, simply don't read it but don't shame others who do. So, that's what I'm going to do with dark academia. But, I also would love to see if these issues are brought up as the genre continues its popularity, and maybe, if we could get to some sort of solution. Maybe there is a perfect dark academia book out there, that I just haven't found yet. 

Do you like or dislike dark academia? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 6 August 2021

When No One is Watching by: Alyssa Cole

 Genre: Fiction, Thriller

Published: September 1, 2020 by: William Morrow Paperbacks 

Pages: 352 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: anti-Black racism; including physical violence against Black people and body gore 

Sydney lives in Brooklyn, NY, in a tight-knit neighbourhood that is slowly beginning to disappear before her eyes. When gentrification takes hold and new expensive condos are being put up, Sydney attempts to learn more about the city she thought she knew by taking part in a walking tour. On the tour she meets Theo, who has just moved in to the neighbourhood with his pretentious and racist girlfriend. When Sydney's neighbours start disappearing under mysterious circumstances, her and Theo team up to get to the bottom of what's really happening to this once vibrant street. However, what they uncover will be more terrifying than they ever imagined. 

I'm not an avid reader of thrillers, however when I do read them, I'm usually blown away. I saw this book being hyped up and I knew I had to give it a go. What I got was a shocking, terrifying and sadly accurate exploration of the horrors of gentrification and anti-Black racism. I've seen this book being compared to the likes of the movie "Get Out," but it truly stands on its own as a fantastic work of fiction that mirrors what life is like for many people of colour who live in cities. 

I've read some reviews that critiqued the pacing of this book, but I personally thought that the pacing was spot-on. I loved how fast-moving the story was, because it kept me engaged throughout the entire book. I finished this book rather quickly because I always wanted to know what happened next, and what Sydney would uncover. Every chapter was like a new, haunting discovery for Sydney, and I desperately wanted to know if she could make things right. This made for a very quick read. 

I loved the dynamics that each of the characters brought to the story. Sydney was strong, confident and fiercely loyal to her community, which was fabulous to see. When faced with danger, she does not cower, she takes the perpetuator head-on. She is a constant reminder of the resilience of POC who will never back down when faced with white supremacy. 

Theo was also a fascinating character, as we see throughout the book how he tries to work through his own privilege as a white man and attempt to keep his girlfriend in check. Theo is critical of his girlfriend throughout the entire book, and it's quickly made apparent that their relationship is extremely flawed. While Theo's girlfriend drifts more apart from him, Theo grows closer to Sydney and it was great to see how his determination to make things right in his new community flourished as well. 

This book brings the genre of a mystery/thriller into the real world. There are no supernatural elements, nothing that you could debate whether or not it could be real. The villains in this story are villains that we hear about in the news, and sadly, the victims are as well. There is no denying that this book is a work of horror because the events are scary, but they also shine a light on what we can do in the real world to ensure that these horrors can be stopped. Cole was able to blend fact and fiction in a way that was unique, and important. I can only hope that more of these thriller novels that take on real-life issues are able to inspire people to take on the horrors of the modern world we live in. 

Overall, it's apparent that I loved this book. I thought it was a fresh take on the thriller genre, full of diverse characters and a main character who wants justice for her community. I will definitely be on the lookout for more by this author and more thrillers by POC. 

Have you read When No One is Watching? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 30 July 2021

Month in Review: July

This summer has not been very... summery. It started off pretty hot, but July has been comprised of a lot of dreary days and just uncomfortable humidity. Hopefully August will bring more of the sunshine! Anyways, here's what happened in the busy month of July: 

What I Read: 

Parable of the Sower by: Octavia E. Butler: 4/5 stars 

One Story, One Song by: Richard Wagamese: 4/5 stars 

Girls of Paper and Fire books 1 and 2 by: Natasha Ngan: 4/5 stars 

The Marvelous Mirza Girls by: Sheba Karim: 4/5 stars 

Jonny Appleseed by: Joshua Whitehead: 4/5 stars 

Favourite book of the month: It was a consistently good reading month. As you can see, all of the books got the exact same rating! I'm going to have to give the favourite book title to Girls of Paper and Fire by: Natasha Ngan. I'm very picky with fantasy books, but this premise and the diverse cast of characters really affected me. Also, the author has detailed content warnings at the beginning. Make this a trend, authors! 

What I Blogged: 

I really liked my discussion post of How I Choose What Book To Read Next. Any time when I get to chat with fellow bookworms and learn about different methods of reading is a good thing! 

Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Sabrina shares 16 DNF's She Wished She Loved

Marie discusses 7 Ways Her Blogging Has Changed In 7 Years 

I'm sure this wasn't necessarily a fun post to write, but Roberta @ Offbeat YA has a New Twitter Account. Read her post for more details and give her a follow after her stressful tech issue. 

Life Stuff: 

July was an extremely busy month. At the beginning of the month I had a procedure done to determine why my stomach is revolting against me, and long story short... they don't know. It's probably related to my mental illness, but I'm now on a very restricted diet to find out if it's food related. So, I've spent a lot of time over July baking gluten free treats and finding new ways to cook, which has actually been pretty fun and rewarding. I've got some great recipes under my belt now. 

I've also been busy working at my retail job. We've been swamped as we're right in the heart of a tourist destination, and a lot of people have been wanting to get out of the house. I don't mind being busy as long as people are respectful and follow protocols, which isn't always the case. But I guess that's life. 

I've gotten really into comic books this month. I found a comic book store in a nearby city, and since the comics are very affordable, I've had a lot of fun reading different ones. My favourites so far have been the Winter Solider: Second Chances series by: Kyle Higgins. It's great to see Bucky in this big brother type role for other victims of manipulation. 

In August I'm getting my third tattoo, which should be exciting! I'm also going to start preparing for school in September, and I'm curious to see how returning back to in-person learning will affect me. There's been a lot of changes, for sure, but I'm looking forward to seeing how things turn out. 

That was my July. How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: How I Choose What Book To Read Next

Hello everyone! Today's post is going to be a discussion that I feel like there are a lot of mixed opinions on: how I choose what book to read next. I think that everyone's got a different method as to deciding what books they're going to read and in what order. My method may be a bit odd to some. But, I'm mainly writing this post because I find my method a little bit boring, and I'm looking for ways to shake up how I read. I would love to hear your opinions as to how I can make choosing my next read as enjoyable as reading is. 

I'll start off by saying that I don't exactly relate to the idea that I have tons of unread books on my shelf and I can't choose which one to read next. Books can get pretty expensive in Canada, and so if I buy a book, I'm buying it because I absolutely want to read it. Books that I buy physically will most likely get read first, because it's rare that I have brand-new physical copies in my possession. I make the most use out of my online library when I'm not buying my books, which now leads me to my method of deciding what book I want to borrow online. 

My method mainly is... that there is no method. However, this is why I say that I need to make things more interesting. I have a few favourite book genres that I've bookmarked on my online library, mainly pertaining to YA. Most often I will go through the YA romance and YA social themes categories, and I will just scroll until I hit a book that I've seen buzz for online, or that catches my eye either through the cover or who the author is. The problem with this method is that I don't necessarily go for lesser-known books or indie authors, as I tend to let my focus on buzz and well-known authors win the battle for what books get chosen. This is partly my fault, and I do think that I should broaden my horizons as to what books I go for. However, my library also doesn't do the best to highlight lesser-known books, so I would like some ways to get around this issue. 

Another thing that does sway what book I will borrow is diversity. At least for myself, if a book doesn't have at least one element of diversity in it, then I won't pick it up. I prefer to go for books that are OwnVoices, however I understand that the OwnVoices discourse is very complicated nowadays and I also don't like to assume somebody's identity or go digging for something that may be private. That being said, sometimes I will do research on an author whose book catches my eye, to make sure that they seem like they're respectful and conscious of the subject matter that they're writing about. 

So diversity and book buzz aside, I would like to find a way that will make choosing a book at the library a little more fun. This is because my reading tends to stay a bit more in my comfort-zone, as I choose books that I know are hyped, or that only pertain to my favourite genres. I do watch booktube and get some recommendations from there, but as a whole, a big chunk of my reading just comes from sticking to what I already know. I would love to experiment more with unique tropes, different genres, and different types of characters. I think I need to refine my technique (or lack thereof) to make this possible. 

One of my favourite booktubers, Jesse @ Bowties and Books, sells TBR cards in which you can pick your next read based on a fun category that the cards bring up. This is one way for me to make reading a bit more fun. However, I'm also open to other options, and I'm genuinely curious as to what you guys do to make your tbr fun. Or, are you like me, stuck in an endless cycle of scrolling through a library app? 

Please share your thoughts with me. I'm looking for ways that are library friendly, cost effective, and most importantly, fun. If you know me in real life, you know that I love games, so any way I can turn reading into a game is perfect with me. 

How do you choose what books to read next? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

I Wish You All The Best by: Mason Deaver

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: May 14, 2019 by: Push 

Pages: 329 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: homophobia, transphobia, mis-gendering, parental neglect, anxiety and panic attacks 

When Ben comes out as non-binary to their parents, their parents immediately react with hatred and kick Ben out of the house. With nowhere to go, Ben reconnects with their estranged sister and her husband, and the couple take Ben in and begin to reconcile the past. Ben is forced to attend a new school and meet with a therapist to cope with their anxiety disorder. While at their new school, they befriend Nathan, a charming and energetic student who shows Ben that there is hope even in the darkest of times. Nathan's and Ben's friendship begins to blossom into something more, and Ben soon learns that family does exist where you least expect it. 

This book was a whirlwind of emotions. There were moments of anger, frustration, sadness, but also times of joy and renewal. While this book deals with some very emotional subject matter, it is ultimately a tale of triumph in a young non-binary teen's life. I think that this book is a great example of a coming of age story for non-binary teens who need to know that they do belong. 

Ben is an incredibly well-rounded character. They go through a variety of stages throughout the book, as they start at their lowest point, and eventually come into their own. Ben at the beginning of the book is completely different to Ben at the end of the book, and this development was so wonderful to see. While this book does start off very hard for this young character, you will end up rooting for Ben through every of their milestones. 

I loved the character of Nathan and the sunshine that he brought to the book. While Ben goes through very low points for obvious reasons, Nathan was always there to lift them up and to offer some support and sometimes humour in tough situations. I haven't read a book in a while with such a strong sunshine character, and Nathan certainly fulfilled this role. He was a great addition to the cast of supporting characters. 

I also really loved Ben's sister and brother in-law. Things start off very awkward when Ben arrives to their sister's house, as they haven't talked in forever. While having a non-binary sibling is new and unexpected for Ben's sister, she grows, apologizes when she makes mistakes, and commits herself to getting pronouns right and making life a little easier for her sibling. This was great to see. 

I also loved the therapy representation in this book. Ben is dealing with some serious mental health issues, which all becomes amplified due to parental neglect. Their therapist is understanding and patient, as well as incredibly open to the unique needs that Ben has given that they are non-binary. I enjoyed all of the scenes between Ben and their therapist and how therapy has a positive impact in Ben's life. 

Overall, I loved this book. You will get angry at Ben's parents for the pain that they put their child through, but I also think it's important that readers know that there is hope at the end of this novel. While tough issues that face non-binary teens need to be talked about, non-binary joy should also be shared, and this book does just that. 

Have you read I Wish You All The Best? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 9 July 2021

A Discovery of Witches by: Deborah Harkness *Spoiler Review*

 Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance 

Published: February 2011 by: Viking Penguin 

Pages: 579 

Rating: 1.5/5 stars 

CW: gore, torture, violence, death of a parent 

*this review will contain spoilers because I can't contain my frustration*

Diana Bishop is a descendent of witches, however after being orphaned at a young age, she has tried to distance herself from her magical powers. Instead, Diana turns to scholarship, and she becomes an accomplished professor at Oxford University. When calling up a manuscript as part of her research, Diana learns that the manuscript is bewitched, and there are many magical creatures, including vampires, who want to take the manuscript from her grasp. Diana soon finds herself in the company of Matthew, a charming vampire who is willing to help her protect the manuscript and herself. However, Diana soon realizes that in order to protect herself, she will have to start using her powers again. 

I like to describe this book as Twilight for adults. Now, I am not one for book shaming. Twilight is very much a comfort series for me. While the books have obvious problematic elements, I can appreciate them for what they are: entertainment. However, A Discovery of Witches pissed me off more than Twilight ever has. I think it's because it tried to do something intelligent with the paranormal romance genre, and instead it came across as condescending and just plain cringy. 

Let's start with the main character, Diana. Now I could very much appreciate that she was a scholar and gained her own independence once her parents died. The problem is, that this all gets thrown out the window once Matthew arrives. When Diana grows closer to Matthew, she seems to lose all sense of street smarts and instead opts to trust Matthew's misogynistic and creepy ways because his eyes are dreamy. She is also an incredibly predictable character, who magically becomes this figure of "The Chosen One," even though she's been out of the practice for so long. How convenient that Diana is suddenly uplifted to be this all-magical being in all of two minutes despite her distaste towards magic? I know we were supposed to root for her, but she contained all of these basic white woman tropes and I was just generally annoyed that her scholarship was watered down once the man came into the picture. 

Matthew is Edward Cullen. He is sexist, believes that he needs to control every aspect of a woman's life, and he whispers sweet nothings into Diana's ear, except the sweet nothings are always in French, to make it fancy. He is also rich but blissfully unaware of his own 1000 years of privilege. Side note, but why do vampires always have to be rich? He marries Diana without her consent, and he rarely asks for her opinions on things because he's a super-smart vampire and he can just make all the decisions himself. Am I supposed to like this guy? 

Harkness wastes a lot of time describing things that just seem unimportant and a little bit condescending to the average person reading the book. Diana and Matthew drink wine, but it's an expensive wine because they're both super rich and can afford it. Diana and Matthew go to yoga class, because they like to stay in shape and because they're super rich and can afford it. Diana and Matthew go to stay in Matthew's castle, because Matthew is super rich and can afford it. These characters did not seem relatable to me at all and I'm over having to like characters that just have it all. 

Now, I still rated this book 1.5 stars, because believe it or not, there was one thing about this book that I liked! Diana is a history professor who is especially intrigued by alchemy. So, the book does go a bit into the history of alchemy which I found to be interesting, and it did send me into a rabbit hole of googling to learn more, which was a good thing. However, this did not fully redeem the book for me, obviously. 

Overall, I would not recommend this book. I think if you want to read a comforting paranormal romance, then read more diverse novels that explore more complex themes than what wine Diana and Matthew are going to drink with dinner in a castle. 

Have you read A Discovery of Witches? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 2 July 2021

Month in Review: June

It's very hot up here in Canada right now. Not that I'm complaining. I love the warm weather and everything about summer. However I also understand that this weather is not for everyone, so I hope you all stay cool if you're in a hot climate right now as well! This is what my June looked like: 

What I Read: 

Love After The End edited by Joshua Whitehead: 4/5 stars 

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah: 4/5 stars 

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga: 5/5 stars 

Kate In Waiting by Becky Albertalli: 5/5 stars 

People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry: 4/5 stars 

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: 4.5/5 stars 

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee: 4/5 stars 

Jay's Gay Agenda by Jason June: 4/5 stars 

Favourite Book: Seven Fallen Feathers was an emotional but important non-fiction novel about the epidemic of Indigenous children and teens going missing in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The book has elements of a crime book while still being extremely sensitive to the victims and their families. The author is also Indigenous, so this book truly comes from a place of respect. While it's a very hard read, it's also extremely necessary especially considering the things coming up in Canadian news as of recent. 

What I Blogged: 

I really enjoyed my post about The Fetishization Of M/M Romance And Representation That I Need To Read More Of. I am really passionate about that subject matter so it was good to get some frustrations off my chest, and receive some great tips from fellow readers! 

Favourite Blog Posts Of The Month: 

Simone says: "Please Don't Assume That I Need Healing" 

Nicole talks about The Joys Of Verse Novels 

Cee discusses the film Jojo Rabbit: The Bittersweet Tale of Captain K

Life Stuff: 

This month was very busy! I continued to freelance write, which got me through the beginning and middle of the month, but by the end of the month, my manager called me back to work at my in-person job. Ontario has been in lockdown since December, but vaccine rollout has gotten better, so the government decided it was okay for retail stores to open up again. Now I'm doing freelance stuff on the side, while also working a couple times a week in-person. While seeing strangers again is always worrying, I'm glad to get back into a normal routine. 

In other great news, I am now fully vaccinated! I am so happy that me and my entire family have put the vaccination stress behind us. It's a huge weight off of our shoulders. If you can, please go get the shot! 

I watched Loki this month, and I am absolutely loving it. It's such a complex, unique show and I never knew how much I loved Loki until watching it. Now I look forward to every Wednesday when it comes out. I can't believe season one will be over soon :( 

This July, I will continue to work, and also try to do my part to raise more awareness on issues that Indigenous populations face. As July 1st marks Canada Day, I am thinking a lot more critically on the problems with this country and why it's crucial that the world doesn't write Canada off as being "better than the US." I also hope that people will think about how capitalism exploits issues like this, so that we can decide how to ethically support marginalized communities. For more information on the capitalization of Indigenous issues, visit this link 

So, that was my June. Very busy, but also very hopeful for a better future. How was your June? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: The Fetishization of M/M Romance And Representation That I Need To Read More Of


CW: this post will discuss fetishization of m/m romance, lesphobia, homophobia and transphobia 

If you're on book twitter, then you might have seen the horrid post that someone put on booktok, explaining that they loved author Casey McQuiston's book "Red White and Royal Blue" because they were "attracted" to the two male protagonists and their romance, however they hated McQuiston's new f/f novel "One Last Stop" SIMPLY because the protagonists were two women in a relationship. This post rightly pissed me and a lot of people off. For more info on this matter, you can view this twitter thread. 

The fetishization of m/m romance by straight women has been going on since forever. These novels typically get a lot of publicity and become staples on people's bookshelves. I cannot tell you the amount of times that I've seen someone recommend "The Song of Achilles" on booktok. However, the same cannot be said for sapphic romances. Books with f/f romances are usually not as popular amongst the booktok (and in other book communities) crowd. It's saddening to me that people aren't recognizing McQuiston's talent as a writer with their new novel just because it's f/f. Straight women tend to fetishize m/m romances because their homophobia continues to see gay men as only existing for their entertainment, and they only see gay men as hypersexualized people. This could also be tied to the "gay best friend" trope, in which straight girls in movies in tv tend to have a flamboyant gay male best friend, which leads to many straight girls in real life wanting this for themselves. 

Similarly, there's the fact that drag queens are usually more popular amongst straight girls than drag kings, and trans performers don't get nearly the same publicity as cis-gendered performers. This fetishization will only continue the more us straight readers only read from one group. Now don't get me wrong, there are amazing m/m romances out there, and it is CRUCIAL that we continue to read these, especially from queer BIPOC authors and trans authors specifically. However, we cannot only read m/m romances and call ourselves well-read. We need to give f/f romances the same attention. This discussion has only prompted me to think about the representation that I could read more of, and I want you to think about this as well. 

I have found that for myself, my bookshelf is severely lacking in books featuring trans women protagonists. I have a plethora of amazing books with trans men in the leading roles, such as "Cemetery Boys" by Aiden Thomas, "Felix Ever After" by Kacen Callender, and "Stay Gold" by Tobly McSmith. However, to this date, I can only think of author I've read from who features trans girls in leading roles, and that would be Akwaeke Emezi. Now this is nobody's fault but mine. There are trans and non-binary authors out there who are writing books with trans girl protagonists, however I have pushed myself to read the books that are more in the spotlight, which are typically books with trans men. This goes back to the fetishization discussion, as these books often feature m/m romances. 

I came to the realization that I needed to expand my reading of trans women protagonists a while ago. However, when I googled recommendations, the results that came up pointed me to a few trans women authors such as Meredith Russo, however the books still recommended to me were mostly along the lines of Cemetery Boys, Felix Ever After, and more books with trans men. I LOVED these books, but they're not what I'm looking for currently, and its frustrating when I google specifically to find more books with trans women characters, and the results point me to a general post about books with trans characters, that always offer me the popular m/m books I've already read. I'll also mention that most of the trans women authors that come up in results are white. Seriously, one of the authors recommended to me on google was Caitlyn Jenner. Not exactly what I'm going for. 

I did do some digging, which is of course my responsibility, and nobody else's. We cannot expect trans and queer people to do the work for us. I am looking forward to reading from Meredith Russo, April Daniels, and anything Casey McQuiston puts out next. However, I know that these authors are white, and I need to expand my reading far beyond reading just from white trans women and white non-binary people. Akwaeke Emezi is a fiercely talented non-binary Black author, but their works are quite heavy for me and I prefer books in the contemporary realm. So, I'll keep looking, but I also would like for publishing agencies and people in the book community to understand that m/m romances and trans men are not the only LGBTQ+ books out there. Straight people cannot call themselves allies when they only look out for one group. 

This was a bit of a rambling post. Basically what I'm trying to get at is that fetishization of queer men needs to stop, Casey McQuiston and other authors writing sapphic novels deserve the world, and there is always room for improvement in how we read. I am looking forward to reading some great sapphic novels in the future, especially featuring trans women as the protagonists. If you have any recommendations, please share them in the comments. I would be eternally grateful. 

What do you think about the fetishization of m/m romance? What representation could you read more of? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 18 June 2021

More Than Just A Pretty Face by: Syed M. Masood

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: August 4, 2020 by: Little, Brown Books 

Pages: 352 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: discussion of genocide against South-East Asian people, cyber-bulling/revenge porn 

Danyal Jilani is a charismatic Pakistani-American teen from a traditional Muslim family. He dreams of becoming a chef, though his father wishes something more stable for him, and his crush Kaval's family does not see Danyal as a good fit for their daughter. When Danyal is entered into a contest to write a speech, he seeks the opportunity to show the world how capable he is, and he enlists the help of studious and shy Bisma along the way. However, the more Danyal researches the subject of his speech, the more he finds himself conflicted with doing what is expected from him, and doing what is right. 

I received this book from the lovely Tess @ Book Rapt. I was excited to read a cute, Pakistani rom-com and I was hoping for something similar to the vibes that Sandhya Menon's books have. This book did not disappoint on witty banter and some great character development, however there are some issues to address. 

First off, I was really happy to read a YA Pakistani rom-com from a boy's perspective. Most of the YA contemporaries I read come from a girl's POV, and I really wanted to change up how I read. I loved reading from Danyal's point of view because I could definitely see how he is in conflict with the traditions his father wants for him, and his actual aspirations. I think choosing to portray Danyal as an aspiring chef was a great move on the author's part, because we got some great food descriptions and I loved seeing how passionate Danyal was about food. 

One of the book's major topics is a discussion on Winston Churchill. Churchill is the subject of Danyal's speech, and the more Danyal researches about him, the more he finds out about the atrocities that Churchill put onto South-East Asians during English colonialism. Danyal is expected to write a speech that praises Churchill, but he begins to question if this is the right move. Danyal starts off as a character that everyone underestimates, however he really takes up an interest in this subject and I loved how he developed to become more active in the issues that his community faces. 

I also thought Bisma was a great backing character. She was super smart and strong, and her commitment to helping Danyal succeed despite her initial distaste towards him was really great to see. Bisma also has to deal with issues such as revenge porn and misogyny in the novel, and I liked how the author handled these issues. 

The issues I have about this book are ones that I'm not necessarily equipped to handle. I'm Pakistani but not Muslim, and I know some Muslim reviewers have had issues with how relationships were portrayed in the novel. Some stated that rules were not followed through, and I did think myself that I wasn't sure if the Muslim representation was all that great. The author is Muslim, and it's important to see all sides of the argument, however I do think these reviews need to be taken into account. Here's a link to the Goodreads page for the book to see some own voices reviews. 

I guess another thing that just kind of irks me a bit about books featuring South-East Asian characters is that most of the time, the families are super strict, mean, and sometimes just downright misogynistic. Now while it's true that a lot of brown families are very traditional, I think sometimes books tend to mistake traditional for being a negative home environment, and I just want to say that not all brown families are traditional in the first place. Yes, many Indian/Pakistani families have high standards for their kids, but this doesn't mean that respect isn't in place. Overall, I think I would like to read some more books with brown families that are just fully supportive of their children. I think we need more of that family dynamic in South-East Asian YA lit. 

That's it for my review. Overall, More Than Just A Pretty Face was a fun novel to add to my Pakistani YA lit collection. However, I do think us Pakistanis could improve in our writings to encompass a greater scope of families and characters. 

Have you read More Than Just A Pretty Face? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 11 June 2021

Highlighting Books by Indigenous Authors

 CW: this post will discuss trauma against Indigenous people through residential schools 

The whole world has been paying attention to the devastating discovery of a mass grave site at a residential school in Kamloops, BC, in which the bodies of 215 children were found. For those of you who don't know, the residential school system took Indigenous children across Turtle Island away from their homes and into an abusive system which attempted to force the Indigenous culture out of the children. The number of children who died in the system is much larger than what was reported by the Government of Canada, and the schools were run by both the Catholic and Anglican Churches. To this day, Pope Francis has yet to apologize. 

For those of you who want to learn more, you can access the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. The TRC was implemented in 2008 in order to call attention to the abuses suffered by Indigenous peoples in Canada and what the Government and all settlers can do to reconcile with Indigenous peoples. 

You can also access the Indian Residential School Survivors Society which offers counselling and support to survivors, and in which you can also donate to. 

As a settler, it is crucial that I listen to survivors and turn my anger into action for all Indigenous people. As this is a book blog, one of the most powerful things we can do is read from Indigenous authors, listen to their stories, and uplift them as much as we do white authors. I have had the privilege to read many fabulous books by Indigenous authors across Turtle Island, which I will share with you all. Similarly, if you have any further recommendations, please add them to the comments. We can all turn our love of reading into action. 

1. The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline 

Cherie Dimaline is a writer from the Georgian Bay Métis Nation who writes mostly young adult and adult fiction. Her novel The Marrow Thieves is a YA science fiction book about Indigenous families who are on the run from settlers who want to steal their bone marrow in order to gain the power to dream. I have now read this book twice, and I absolutely love it. The book alludes to residential schools through its sci-fi setting, and also contains a tight-knit family who will stick together no matter what. It is a staple in my opinion. 

2. Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson 

Catherine Knutsson is a member of the Métis Nation, and her novel, Shadows Cast by Stars, is a dystopian tale set on a fictional version of Vancouver Island. In this novel, a plague which only affects settlers has taken over, and so Indigenous people seek haven before settlers come hunting them down for their blood, which may contain the cure. This book has a number of sci-fi elements, and also offers a look into Indigenous spirituality. Knutsson has a magical way with words. 

3. Love After The End edited by Joshua Whitehead 

This book is a speculative fiction anthology edited by Joshua Whitehead and featuring two-spirit and queer Indigenous authors. I loved the exploration of gender and sexuality that was present in each and every story, as well as general themes of utopia and hope. If you are a fan of spec-fic and also want to learn more about what it means to be two-spirit, give this anthology a read. 

4. Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith 

Cynthia Leitich Smith is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, and she writes mostly YA contemporaries centering around Native-American characters. Her novel Hearts Unbroken is a contemporary book about a Native-American teen named Louise whose brother Hughie is cast in the school play, The Wizard of Oz. However, Hughie's casting stirs up racism in the town as people question his worth in the play, and Louise also struggles with L. Frank Baum's racist past. This book was a fabulous contemporary and I would love to read more by Smith. 

5. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese 

Richard Wagamese was an Ojibwe author, whose novel Indian Horse became a bestseller and was even adapted into a movie. In this novel, an Ojibwe child named Saul is forced into the residential school system where he takes up an interest in hockey. However, the trauma he endures in the school carries with him, even when he enters bigger hockey leagues and endures racism from the other players. Richard Wagamese was a fiercely talented writer who everyone should read from. This book deals with some extremely heavy themes, so please be careful. However, I would encourage those looking to learn more about residential schools to read this. 

6. A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas King 

This is a picture book by bestselling Cherokee and Greek author Thomas King. This book retells Christopher Columbus' invasion of North America through the eyes of Coyote, the trickster animal. The illustrations in this book were so vibrant and well done, and this book is great for children to learn more about Indigenous traditions. 

7. Dreaming in Indian edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale

This book is a non-fiction anthology of short stories, poems, and other art by Indigenous creators. The editors did a fantastic job at including a wide range of Indigenous artists from across Turtle Island, and overall this book is intended to inspire Indigenous youth to take up activism in whatever their art form may be. 

These are my recommendations for anyone who would like to expand their reading of Indigenous authors. However, I recognize that this list is not complete. Please include any more authors who you love and I will add them to the list along with who recommended them. I want this post to continue to shed light on Indigenous creators and the value that their work brings during a time which is often filled with so much sadness. 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Such a Fun Age by: Kiley Reid

*I found it really hard to make this review spoiler free, so I'm just going to say proceed with caution* 

 Genre: Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: December 31, 2019 by: G.P. Putnam's Sons 

Pages: 310 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: anti-Black racism on both the micro and macro level, including racial profiling and racial slurs. 

Emira is a twenty-five year old Black woman, who is a babysitter for a wealthy white family. She is struggling to make ends meet and also with what she wants to do with her life. One night, she is profiled at a grocery store while with the little girl she cares for, Briar. The cops are called, and Emira is accused of kidnapping. Alix Chamberlin, Briar's mother, is devastated by the situation and vows to make things right. However, Emira is weary of Alix's overbearing will to help, and things get even more complicated when someone appears in Emira's life who got the whole incident on tape. 

The fact that this is a debut novel is such a testament to Kiley Reid's talent. She has such an incredible way with words that builds up an immersive world, provides specific detail to capture topics and themes, and makes you not want to put the book down. I flew through this book, and it easily became one of my favourite books of 2020. 

The characters were so well thought out. Emira was strong-willed and also had an amazing relationship with Briar that was well-developed throughout the novel. I got a great sense of how Emira really cared for Briar despite her weary feelings towards Alix, and how Emira tried to protect this relationship no matter what. It was interesting to see this relationship develop over time as things begin to escalate. 

Alix was a fascinating character. She immediately takes up defense for Emira after the incident, however we quickly see that her motives do not seem genuine, and her development was something that I both suspected, but also was shocked by. I think Reid did a fantastic job at foreshadowing some events to come, but also shocking the reader so that we are still kept engaged. 

This book touches on a number of topics, including being a white saviour, what makes up a family, and what it means to let go. The topic of being a white saviour was something that I found particularly important, especially considering most popular stories about racism from times past, such as "The Help," are now rightfully being critiqued for how they portray Black women vs. white women. I think this book alludes to "The Help," and brings a spotlight to these white saviour novels and why they are problematic. 

The topic of family was also something that resonated with me. It was interesting to see Alix's relationship with her family change over time, as well as Emira's relationship with Alix, and with Briar. Alix kept saying to Emira that she was a part of their family, but it didn't always seem that way. Eventually, Emira has to make a number of important choices that determine where she will end up and who she wants to accept as her family. These choices add to the overall importance of the message. 

The ending was one of the best endings to a novel that I have ever read. Again, it was something that both shocked me, but that I was also not surprised by. I think the book ends on a semi-bleak note, which I appreciated, because it shows that dismantling racism is a continuing struggle. I think the ending fit the story so well and I couldn't have imagined it any other way. 

Overall, you have to read this book, especially if you have found yourself taken by novels such as "The Help" in the past. I think books like these should be the ones we turn to in order to really get a sense of what it means to be Black in America, and how this experience can often show history repeating itself. 

Have you read Such a Fun Age? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Month in Review: May


It's finally hot again! I love summer. I love being able to sit outside, I love going on walks, and I love summer fashion. So, I am thrilled that summer weather is back. It definitely brightens up my mood. Anyways, here's what happened in May: 

What I Read: 

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline: 5/5 stars 

24 Hours in Ancient Rome by Phillip Matyszak: 3/5 stars 

Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson: 4/5 stars 

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas: 4/5 stars 

Will My Cat Eat by Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty: 4/5 stars 

The Voyage to Avalon by Julie Leung: 4/5 stars 

All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson: 4/5 stars 

You Say It First by Katie Cotugno: 2/5 stars 

Favourite Book: I re-read The Marrow Thieves to prepare for my masters degree and I loved it even more the second time around. It is a hard read, but it is full of some amazing characters and a powerful storyline. Please give it a read. 

What I Blogged: 

I didn't post too much in May, but I did combine my love for Marvel with my love for books by Fancasting Book Characters with Marvel Characters. It was a fun crossover for sure :) 

Favourite Posts of the Month: 

Shayna shares some information about working in a library in Library Life: Holds Slips 

Cee explains that she Got Her Covid Vaccine Appointment, But She Hates Needles

Nyx asks: Why Are YA Books Always Set in Summer? 

Life Stuff:

At the beginning of May I got my wisdom teeth taken out. It was pretty quick and mostly painless, and I'm just happy to have gotten it over with. One thing that really bummed me out was not being able to eat all the foods I love for a good week. I would watch my sister eat candy and it really put my mood off haha! But, I'm all good now :) 

I also got my first dose of Covid vaccine! I am so happy, because Canada's vaccine rollout has been terrible. While I did get some side effects, they were so worth it. If you are eligible, go get vaxxed! 

The end of the month has been pretty busy. I am attending some conferences on Indigenous literature to prepare myself for September, and I also have to prepare for virtual graduation in June. I am a pretty shy person so a virtual graduation was a welcome thing for me, but of course I would much rather have an in-person graduation then be in a global pandemic. I guess it's just one of the sacrifices we have to make. 

Other than that, I've been doing as much work as I can outside in the beautiful weather. I said this already, but I just love summer so much. I am looking forward to many more sunny days ahead. 

That was my May. How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Fancasting Book Characters with Characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe

 **** This post will contain spoilers from Avengers: Endgame, Wandavision, and the novel Station Eleven  

Hello guys! So recently, I have gotten really into Marvel. For years I was a casual watcher of Marvel movies, mostly I was just into the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. However, my sister and I decided about a month ago to tackle the wider universe, and thus, my big interest in Marvel was born. I know now a lot more about the characters, and I have had so much fun watching all of the amazing content Disney Plus has been putting out. So, I thought it would be fun to put my love of books with my love of Marvel together, and fancast book characters as characters from the MCU! Basically, I would like to analyze which heroes/villains/in-betweens would be the best to portray these book characters in a movie or tv show. It's getting really fangirly up in here today, you've been warned. 

P.S. I read a lot of YA, so if I fancast an older Marvel character as a teenager, I am talking about a young version of the Marvel character playing that character. I can imagine that a lot of the energy these MCU characters have, started in youth. So, we're just going with hypotheticals here :) 

1. Percy Jackson (from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan)  played by: Peter Parker 

I just think Peter would be an awesome (teenaged Percy). Peter has got this amazing, youthful energy, and he also has a bit of the Percy Jackson look with the brunette hair. I can imagine Peter playing Percy really well when Percy is older in the Heroes of Olympus series, because while he still does have some wisdom, he is also very much chaotic and trying to figure life out. 

2. Circe (from Circe by Madeline Miller) played by: Wanda Maximoff 

Let's start with the obvious here in that they're both witches. I just think Wanda would have such fun playing Circe. I can imagine her really tapping into Circe imprisoning Odysseus's crew... for obvious reasons. They are both such powerful witches and have troubled pasts. Give me this collaboration. 

3. Achilles and Patroclus (from The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller) played by: Young Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes 

Stucky can relate to people erasing their chemistry, just as it happened with Achilles and Patroclus. I can see so many parallels between these two stories, that I think the young versions of these characters would play Achilles and Patroclus so well. Stucky would understand the complexity of fighting a war while also having such a close relationship, as well as the fact that Steve in particular is kind of like an Achilles character, an extremely powerful man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

4. The Darkling (from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo) played by: Loki 

A younger version of Loki could totally portray the Darkling. They are both extremely complex villains, who are incredibly cunning as well. Loki would definitely play up the Darkling's cleverness. I also think both have a similar aesthetic, which could really work. 

5. Kiera Johnson (from Slay by Brittney Morris ) played by: Shuri 

Shuri would be an amazing Kiera! They are both super smart and talented women with a knack for inventing and technology. Shuri would be able to play up Kiera's gaming smarts so well. This would be an awesome adaption. 

6. Miranda (from Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel) played by: Natasha Romanoff 

Miranda is this fiercely independent character, who has some extremely rough times and eventually carves out a path for herself. I see a lot of her in Natasha. Natasha, like most heroes, didn't have an easy go of it, but she is strong and capable of taking care of herself. Both Miranda and Natasha do end up with tragic endings, and both of them deserved better. Natasha would just understand Miranda. 

7. Thor (from the Magnus Chase series by Rick Riordan) played by: Thor 

This one is just for fun. Thor in The Magnus Chase series is kind of an idiot, he's all buff with no brains. While Thor from the MCU is definitely a different portrayal of the character, I'd like to think he would have fun playing this different version of himself. I mean, he does go through a rough patch in Avengers: Endgame after all. 

So that's my fancast! Do you agree/disagree with my picks? Which MCU character would you fancast in a book? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess