Friday, 29 January 2021

Month in Review: January

The first month of 2021 is in the books! And honestly... it was ok. I am enjoying my online courses right now and it's nice that I'm being kept busy. I'm also all done with my master's applications, so now it's just a matter of waiting to see if I get in or not. It's an exciting time for sure. A lot of changes are happening. But I think change is good especially in our current time period. Here's what went down in January!

What I Read: 

The Answer Is by: Alex Trebek: 5/5 stars 

A Song Below Water by: Bethany C. Morrow: 3/5 stars 

Even if We Break by: Marieke Nijkamp: 3/5 stars 

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by: Maggie Tokuda-Hall: 4/5 stars 

Cherry Crush by: Cathy Cassidy: 5/5 stars 

One of Us is Next by: Karen M. McManus: 4/5 stars 

Hood Feminism by: Mikki Kendall: 4.5/5 stars 

The Ship of the Dead by: Rick Riordan: 5/5 stars 

These Violent Delights by: Chloe Gong: 5/5 stars 

Moonrise by: Sarah Crossan: 5/5 stars 

The Extraordinaries by: T.J. Klune: 4/5 stars 

It was a great month for reading!! My favourite book I read this month was Ship of the Dead by: Rick Riordan. It's the last book in the Magnus Chase trilogy and I am so sad to see this series go. I am slowly working through the last of Riordan's books that I have to read, and idk how I'm going to be able to handle it. But, this was a fabulous conclusion. 

What I Blogged: 

I am so behind on reviews. I read a lot more often than I review, so I tried to get out a bit more reviews this month, but I am still never going to catch up. Oh well! Anyways, my favourite blog post of the month was my discussion on What Makes A Good Non-Fiction Book. It was nice to hear everybody's thoughts on non-fiction, especially since I run a predominately fiction-based blog. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Cee asks What's Behind the COVID Arts and Crafts Boom? 

Veronika discusses Comfort Characters

Nyx shares why she Doesn't Do the Goodreads Challenge 

Roberta asks about what Your Dream Bookish Job Would Be 

Life Stuff: 

Like I said, January wasn't terrible! I didn't have too many panic attacks, and there are now vaccines circling around the world, woohoo! Let's hope that 2021 continues to look up. 

I am taking a bunch of courses that I am really interested in this semester. I was able to fit into my schedule two ancient history courses, one of which focuses mainly on Greek mythology, which of course I am loving so far! Even my writing courses have been really fun so far. I'm hoping that my last term of undergrad continues to look up. 

I'm also attending a virtual concert this Sunday! My favourite broadway actor, Jeremy Jordan, is hosting a virtual concert this weekend and I am super excited about it. It's definitely going to be different than being there in person, but supporting artists during this pandemic is important nonetheless. This will be my first concert of his I will be attending, and even though it'll be over a screen, I cannot wait. 

So, that was my January! How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Saturday, 23 January 2021

"My Favourite Non-Fiction Reads Like Fiction:" What Makes a Non-Fiction Novel Good?

 Recently, I have really gotten into reading non-fiction books. Whether it's a celebrity autobiography, a humourous self-help book, or a poignant memoir, I just eat them up. I only really got into reading non-fiction novels last year, when I read Sissy by Jacob Tobia, a memoir that I absolutely loved. However, I have found that when I write positive reviews of non-fiction books, more often than not, the main positive trait that I put onto these books is that "they read like a fiction book." And I've come to wonder why this is. 

What do I mean when I say that a non-fiction book reads like fiction? To be honest, I had to ponder this myself. I think what I mean is, that the book uses poetic language, heavy with metaphor, making use of tone, to pull me into the story. There is not too much focus on statistics, or analytical writing. It doesn't feel like I'm reading a research paper, instead more like a creative writing piece. I guess these books have a stream of consciousness feel to them, so that I feel like I need to keep reading. However, I wonder why most of my non-fiction has to feel like fiction in order for me to receive it positively. Why can't it just be good non-fiction, without being compared to another genre? 

I bring this conversation up because I just finished an excellent non-fiction book, Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. This book is about the history of white feminism and its erasure of issues that affect marginalized people. I really enjoyed it. However, I would argue that it didn't read like a fiction novel. There were a lot of statistics and studies that were cited throughout the book. Kendall did share personal stories throughout the book, but overall it was less about her own life and more about a historical issue that she has meticulously researched and discusses at great length. This non-fiction book was great without being compared to fiction. And I think I need to break my reviewing habit of comparing non-fiction to fiction. 

I do tend to read more fiction that I do non-fiction. It is mostly because of personal preference, and because the main genre that I read is YA. However, this doesn't mean that I have to compare every other genre to fiction. Non-fiction is unique from fiction because it displays fact. It gives the opportunity for the author to include research and evidence that fiction novels do not always concern themselves with. Non-fiction authors do establish a unique voice, but they do so by how they choose to display and write about their facts. Non-fiction writers, like fiction writers, are educating the masses on a wide variety of issues. And they should be highlighted without the need to be compared to fiction. 

I think I need to change the way I review non-fiction. Yes, it is an important part of the reviewing process to highlight how the author writes. If they make use of great diction and metaphor that fiction writers commonly use, then that's awesome! But I don't think that the main positive point for non-fiction reviews (at least for me personally), should be that "it didn't feel like I was reading non-fiction." Because what's wrong with reading non-fiction? What's wrong with reading stats and facts? Certainly it's not everyone's personal taste, but that doesn't mean it's always a negative asset. I just think that when we compare non-fiction writers to fiction writers, we ignore the non-fiction writers who write very differently to fiction writers. And their work is still valid. 

Overall, I want to make a conscious decision to change the way I review non-fiction. Instead of just saying that a non-fiction book "read like fiction," I want to say that it was an extremely well-written, well-researched non-fiction book. And that is valid enough. 

Do you read non-fiction books? How do you review them? Do you agree/disagree with what I said? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 15 January 2021

Felix Ever After by: Kacen Callender

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary 

Published: May 5, 2020 by: Balzer + Bray 

Pages: 354 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: transphobia, homophobia, deadnaming, catfishing 

Felix Love has always struggled with falling in love. He has some very supportive friends, but Felix is beginning to question how he would like to identify. He is Black, queer and transgender, but he also still has a lot of growing to do in terms of discovering himself. But, these internal questions become even more complicated when an anonymous student begins posting photos of Felix before he transitioned, and his deadname is posted publicly. Felix seeks revenge through catfishing. However one problem leads to another, and soon Felix lands himself in a quasi love-triangle, and a support group, all while grappling his relationship with himself. 

This was definitely one of my favourite books that I read in 2020. I just love books where the characters are so well developed and so beautifully flawed. But what I loved most about Felix Ever After was that I could relate to it. This book touches on issues of self-discovery, identity, allyship, and so much more. I guarantee, something will resonate with you when reading this book. 

First off, I loved how every character grew in this book. You've got Felix, a transgender teen who seeks revenge after anonymous transphobic attacks are posted against him, and he turns to catfishing. Now, this may seem like fighting fire with fire, however Felix really comes into his own through this book. He makes mistakes, which is understandable because he is a teen. What's important is that he recognizes these mistakes, and these mistakes only make him stronger. Felix is beautifully flawed, just like we all are. I commend Callender's ability to make a flawed character just so damn likable. 

This book touches on so many topics facing Black teens, transgender teens, queer teens, even allies (and fake allies). Issues such as labelling, toxic masculinity, the affects of social media, and the attending of pride events were brought up. I loved how Callender was able to show multiple sides of arguments through these issues. For example, some characters in this novel loved going to pride events, and some found them to be overwhelming. Callender even explains in this novel how straight people often corrupt pride events, which I really found to be important. In the explanation of these topics, Callender demonstrates that there is no one size fits all queer person. All the characters in this novel are diverse not only in identity, but also in their thought process. And I can appreciate that. 

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this novel, you will be able to take something away from this novel. I learnt so much about allyship and identity from this book. I learnt so much about myself from this book, so much so that I almost wrote an essay for an English course on it. You will root for Felix, and you will be satisfied with where the story ends. I cannot say enough positive things about this book. All I can say is that you have to read it. 

Have you read Felix Ever After? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 8 January 2021

Cinderella is Dead by: Kalynn Bayron

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy 

Published: July 7, 2020 by: Bloomsbury 

Pages: 400 

Rating: 3.5/5 stars 

CW: sexual assault, forced marriage, murder, homophobia, misogyny, predatory behaviour 

Sophia lives in a kingdom that draws its history from the story of Cinderella. But, the story has been greatly altered by the kingdom's ruthless king. Now, teen girls a forced to attend a ball where they are chosen to be wives by the kingdom's men. They have no choice but to accept the men who choose them. If the girls are not chosen, then the consequences could be deadly. Sophia is trying everything to find a way out of the ball, and her way out comes in the form of Constance, a mysterious girl who claims to be the last known descendant of the original Cinderella. Constance encourages Sophia to join her revolt against the king and reveal the true Cinderella story. But their journey will not be easy. 

I was excited for this book. I don't usually love fairytale retellings, but this one seemed so unique that I knew I had to give it a shot. The idea of the story of Cinderella being intertwined with a society full of misogyny is something that I would have never considered could be done before. While I did love some aspects of the story, I do think it could have been executed better. 

First off, I loved the themes brought forth in this novel. Sophia is a girl who is going through hell. This story goes into some dark themes that you would never consider to be linked to the Disney version of Cinderella. But I think the novel better aligns itself with the Grimm versions of fairytales. I think a main theme of the book is that girls are conditioned to believe one side of a story. This side could be steeped in misogynistic practices. But there are always two sides to every story, and this book seeks to reveal them. I appreciated how this novel tackles storytelling, and the way fairytales are constructed. 

I loved Sophia and Constance as main characters. I think they are both pretty badass, and I loved reading about Sophia's commitment to finding a way out of her situation. She chooses not to be subservient, and she chooses to be a voice for the voiceless. I loved that about her. Both girls are also queer, and as you can tell by the book cover, Sophia is also Black. I think the book does a good job at showing how Sophia's identity as a Black queer woman also affects how she is treated. 

My main gripe with this novel is the pacing. It starts off slow, building up the tension and sharing some backstory about how the kingdom views the Cinderella story. But the final chapters move far too quickly to be seen as a satisfying ending. To be honest, I assumed that this novel would be a series because I didn't think that everything would be wrapped up in a sufficient amount of time. But the resolution happens so fast and so conveniently, that you almost miss it. The consequence of this is, that I didn't feel like some of the secondary characters got enough page time, and I wanted to know more about where they ended up. The ending didn't seem believable to me. It just happened so fast. And I think that when a story has such a powerful revolt at its core, it needs to have an elaborate resolution. 

Overall, this book has some good characters and a really interesting theme, but I think the ending is a bit disappointing. That being said, I do think this novel is worth a read. It deals with some tough subject matter for sure, but it also has some lovable characters and a solid theme at its core. 

Have you read Cinderella is Dead? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 1 January 2021

2020 Year in Review


CW: this post will briefly mention the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as anxiety and OCD

2020 was a rough year. And honestly, I don't really want to waste much time going into why. I think you can pretty much guess why most people are saying that 2020 sucked. For me it was a culmination of health anxiety, and being newly diagnosed with OCD amidst a pandemic. But, I'm personally done with discussing why 2020 was a bad year. We can't change anything, we can only look forward to the future. And this is not to bash anyone who is venting about 2020. If you need to let out your frustrations, by all means, let it out. But I personally want to discuss more of the positive aspects of 2020. I feel like I need that. Because, this year did have some good aspects, especially reading-wise. So, here is my 2020 wrap-up. It wasn't all bad. 

What I Read: 

I read 157 books this year! That is the most books I have ever read in a year, and I am very proud of myself. I started off my Goodreads challenge at 50 books, but I raised it to 150 once I realized that I was reading a lot. Overall, I feel very accomplished, and I think the extra time staying indoors played a massive role in this feat. 

Some Overall Reading Stats: 

I read 48, 905 pages this year. The longest book I read was The Iliad, at 1248 pages. The shortest book I read was The One: Epilogue by: Kiera Cass, at 11 pages. My average length for books was 315 pages. 

I think I read from a good variety of genres this year. My genre stats are as follows: 

22 Classics 

41 Contemporary/Romance 

63 Fantasy/Mythology 

11 Nonfiction/Poetry/Plays

5 Historical Fiction 

5 Children's Books 

10 Thriller/Mystery 

I think these genre stats do represent my general interests. I did a huge reread of Rick Riordan books this year, so that accounts for the high number of fantasy books. I think overall in 2021, I would like to work on reading more historical fiction. It's a genre I typically shy away from, but I am interested in history, so I don't see why I shouldn't read more historical fiction. I am also looking forward to reading more nonfiction in 2021, as the nonfiction books I did read were fantastic. 

My Favourite Books of the Year: 

This was a hard decision, as I read so many amazing books this year. But, I have narrowed down my books. Since I reread a lot this year, I am also offering a reward for favourite reread. 

Favourite Reread: 

The Last Olympian by: Rick Riordan 

I was so happy to get a Percy Jackson reread in this year. This reread offered me the serotonin boost I needed, and it reignited my love for all that Rick Riordan creates. This book is triumphant and holds a special place in my heart. It's just fabulous. 

Favourite Overall Book: 

Drum roll please..... 

My favourite overall book is: 

The House in the Cerulean Sea by: T.J. Klune 

This book man.... ugh this book. It was special, heartwarming, adorable, diverse, and every other positive adjective I can think of. This book has such a warm message to it, and intertwined is an adorable story about a man who finds peace in a house in the cerulean sea. You have to read this book. I am a better person by reading it. I found hope in this book. If you had a bad year, this book will give you some happiness. I promise you. 

I do have to say, an honourable mention has to go to Cemetery Boys by: Aiden Thomas. This was by-far the best YA book I read this year, and even though I borrowed it from the library, I am willing to purchase the book on my own because I can see myself rereading it for years to come. It's a beautiful Latinx story, and the author seems like such a lovely person. 

How Diversely Did I Read This Year? 

I am happy that most of my diverse reads this year came from Own Voices authors. I think it is super important to read Own Voices, because then authentic stories can be told. I loved the Own Voices novel Felix Ever After by: Kacen Callender. It was a contemporary novel about a trans teenager named Felix who is struggling with how to label himself. It was fabulous. 

I think I did well in reading novels with Black and South Asian representation this year. South Asian representation is really important to me, as I am half-Pakistani and I want to see some stories that I can relate to in novels. I found that in novels such as An Ember in the Ashes by: Sabaa Tahir, which is a fabulous fantasy that I was happy to reread this year. This series ended this year, and it was bittersweet to leave it behind. But Sabaa created and concluded a fabulous story. 

I would like to work on reading more Own Voices Indigenous novels in 2021. I hope to do so because I plan on doing a master's project on Indigenous young adult literature. I am looking forward to exploring the wonderful world of Canadian Indigenous literature, and I hope to find some great inspiration there. 

What I Blogged: 

I was really happy with the content I put out this year. I think I pushed myself to talk about topics more unique in the bookish and non-bookish world. However, there was one post that was my most special of the year. That would be my post on My Experiences with Pure-OCD. I finally shared my disorder with the world, and this was not easy to do. But, I got so many lovely messages from blogging friends and family members, showing their support. I felt amazing after posting it, and I feel free from hiding now. 

I also surpassed 500 blog posts this year! This was a fabulous feat for me that I was so proud of. I hope to keep blogging for even 500 more posts, as this hobby is truly my passion. 

2020 Shoutouts: 

This year I connected with old blogging friends who put out some really unique content. But, I also met new friends as well. Here are shoutouts to some of my favourite book content creators of 2020: 

Cee @ Dora Reads for her informative and inspiring posts

Veronika and Sabrina @ Wordy and Whimsical for their fun discussions and great recommendations 

Erin @ The Book Archive for sharing my love for Achilles and Patroclus 

Joey, Riv, Claire, Tess and Sofia for being the best book club buddies ever

Roberta @ Offbeat YA for her constant support 

Olivia and Jesse for being awesome booktubers 

2020 was a great year for bookish content! I discovered booktube, booktok, and bookstagram. But of course, I also loved reading blog posts as well. Please check out these creators and the great work that they do. 

2021 Goals: 

Now comes the time to look forward. Reading-wise, I don't want to put pressure on myself to surpass 157 books in 2021, because who knows what the future will hold. I will set my Goodreads challenge to 50 books, and see where that takes me. 

Like I mentioned before, I would like to expand my genre reading by reading more historical fiction, and I would love to read more Indigenous Canadian literature this year. I also hope to tackle more "scary" reads for me, which would be classics. I am determined to find a classic that I can speak passionately about. I don't want to be scared of the genre. 

I am also looking forward to posting more on my bookstagram page! You can follow me at paperbackp Bookstagram is a bit of a different world than blogging, because it's enjoyable nonetheless. I hope to get better at my picture-taking abilities, and just have fun with it. 

I also would like to tweet more. This sounds silly, but I don't think I tweet enough bookish-related things, and I love the positive sides of book twitter a lot. I would love to fangirl more with book twitter, and share bookish opinions with others. Twitter can be intimidating, but it can also be a fun way to meet new friends. 

Life-wise, I would like to stop seeking reassurance from people. My OCD thrives off of reassurance. I constantly need to be reassured that I am not a bad person, or that I don't need to wash my hands, or that I won't get COVID. But I need to tackle this. I need to be sure of myself before I seek reassurance from other people. I hope to keep OCD in the backseat of the car, as opposed to the front seat, like my therapist says. 

Overall, I would like to find some more positivity in 2021. The world is a hard place, this I know. But there is also good, I am sure of it. I want to find that good more often. I hope other's will be able to do the same. 

So, this was my year. If you made it this far, I hope you have a Happy New Year and a fabulous 2021. We will all get through these hardships together. I hope you find some hope and peace in this upcoming year. You got this. 

Emily @ Paperback Princess