Friday, 26 February 2021

Month in Review: February

Thank god it's March. I am so over winter and I am so happy that we are one month closer to spring. I'm tired of being cold! Anyways, here's what happened in February, along with some very good news! 

What I Read: 

Sanctuary by: Paola Mendoza and Abby Sheer: 4/5 stars 

Concrete Rose by: Angie Thomas: 5/5 stars 

One of the Good Ones by: Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite: 5/5 stars 

Juliet Takes a Breath by: Gabby Rivera: 4/5 stars 

Love and Olives by: Jenna Evans Welch: 3/5 stars 

He Said, She Said by: Gigi Gorgeous: 4/5 stars 

Stay Gold by: Tobly McSmith: 4/5 stars 

How it All Blew Up by: Arvin Ahmadi: 4/5 stars 

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by: Sandhya Menon: 4/5 stars 

A Tail of Camelot by: Julie Leung: 5/5 stars 

Favourite book: I have to give it to A Tail of Camelot. This book surprised me so much because it is a middle-grade novel retelling Arthurian legend but with mice instead of humans. You heard that right. I had to read it for my King Arthur in Young People's Literature course, but I LOVED it. It was adorable, such a feel-good novel. 

What I Blogged: 

My blogging life has been... meh recently. By this I mean that I am running out of ideas, people! I mostly just blogged book reviews in February, because there wasn't anything I mainly wanted to discuss. I'm in a bit of a writer's block right now. Do you have any tips? 

Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Despite my February writer's block, a lot of bloggers wrote fabulous posts this month! Here are some of my favourites: 

Cee explains what Depression Is 

Roberta shares a 2021 Update (Go give her some love, she has had it rough this year so far) 

Nicole asks: Unbiased Reviews: Is There Such a Thing? 

Sabrina recommends Books Based on Aesthetics 

Life Stuff: 

Now here is that good news I mentioned at the beginning: I GOT INTO MY MASTERS PROGRAM!! I am over the moon right now. I will be doing my MA in literature, focusing specifically on YA literature written by Indigenous authors. I just knew I had to focus on YA in my degree. I am really excited for this project and I am so happy that the biggest hurdle has been jumped. 

So, I had a good February. I had a week off of school, I got some great news, and I feel like even though this pandemic has taken a lot of opportunities away from me, my future is in a good spot. This pandemic has been tough on the people of my generation, so I hope that the future looks bright for all my fellow gen z'ers. We deserve a break! 

So that was my February. How was yours? Do you have any good news to share? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 18 February 2021

The Black Flamingo by: Dean Atta

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Poetry 

Published: August 8, 2019 by: Hodder Children's Books

Pages: 360 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: racism, homophobia 

Michael is a mixed-race teen who has always been told he is not enough. He's not Black enough. He's not Greek enough. Michael also knows that he is gay, and he is struggling with how to accept all of his unique qualities that make him special. But, soon he finds solace in The Black Flamingo. The Black Flamingo gives Michael the opportunity to be unique, to be unapologetically queer. This story is told in verse, and spans  from Michael's young childhood, to his journey into a confident drag artist. 

I am loving novels in verse. They are always so impactful, so easy to get through, and so beautifully written. "The Black Flamingo" was no exception. I have never read a YA book about drag before, so I was excited to see how this book would handle it. I just loved how Atta wrote of the deep symbolism of drag. It is about being bold and beautiful. But, it is also about forming an identity that helps the person out of drag as well. 

I loved Michael as a character. I appreciated that Atta wrote this story from Michael's childhood and then into his teen and young adult life. Through this extensive timespan, I was able to get a clear picture about Michael's identity and some of his confidence issues. I think this timespan really makes Michael's character progression all the more impactful. 

I loved the symbol of the flamingo. And more importantly, the Black Flamingo. Through this symbolism, Atta explains that Michael is a unique individual made up of a lot of moving parts. He is Black, he is Greek, he is queer. He is also bold, like a flamingo. I really loved that this was the name that Michael picked for his drag and I thought it really added to the discussion of race within the text. 

I will say, I do wish we got a bit more drag in this novel. I was expecting that this novel would go deeper into Michael's journey as a drag artist. But because the story also talks about his childhood, drag comes very late into the story. I did love hearing of Michael's childhood as well, but if anything, I think this story could have been made longer. I would have loved more detail on the drag part of Michael's life, and I would have had no problem reading more of Michael's story. I think overall, it did wrap up a little too quickly for me. 

That being said, this was a great addition to my novels in verse collection. I have yet to find a novel in verse that I didn't like, and I think the format is such a powerful way to tell stories of marginalized people. I am excited to see what Atta writes next. 

Have you read "The Black Flamingo?" What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 12 February 2021

Clap When You Land by: Elizabeth Acevedo

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Poetry, Contemporary 

Published: May 5, 2020 by: Hot Key Books 

Pages: 417 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: grief, loss of a parent, predatory behaviour, emotional manipulation 

Camino lives in the Dominican Republic, and every summer, her father returns home from working in the States to stay with her. However, one summer, when he is supposed to land, Camino finds out that his plane crashed, killing everyone on board. Camino is devastated, but things get even more shocking when she discovers that her father not only had a life in the Dominican Republic, but also in the States. 

When Yahaira finds out that her father has died in a plane crash, she is struck with grief. But soon, secrets of her father come out. Now she is being sent to the Dominican Republic to meet a sister she never knew existed. Together, both girls grapple with the grief of losing their father, but also with the lies that he fed them all these years. 

This was my first of Acevedo's verse novels. I absolutely loved "With the Fire on High," and I know most people rave about Acevedo's novels in verse as well. So, I knew I had to give this book a shot. This novel was heartbreaking, though beautifully written, and so emotionally gripping. The characters were extremely well-written, and this was definitely a story to remember. 

First off, I loved that I could still connect with these characters despite the novel being in verse. I was scared that this book wouldn't have too much description in it due to the poetic structure, and I would be left guessing how to imagine the characters. But, Acevedo still does a fantastic job at developing both Camino and Yahaira. If anything, I got to know their inner thoughts better through the verse. I really think that the poetic structure allowed for me to get an in-depth look into each of these character's minds. This novel felt really personal, and I loved that. 

I also loved that this book dealt with a number of unique topics. Yes, the girls are grieving the loss of a parent. But, they are also dealing with the fact that their father was lying to them all their lives. This struggle of wanting to grieve, but also wanting to be mad at their father was handled very well. I think Acevedo portrayed the duality between grief and anger really well. It is something that makes this book about grief very unique. 

I flew through this book. The verse style gave it a stream of consciousness feeling. I couldn't put it down, in fact I read it in one sitting. I loved how we got both perspectives of the girls throughout the text, so I could learn how each girl was dealing separately. I think this novel deals with many complex topics that are handled very well. Overall, this book gave me a love for novels in verse, and now I will pretty much read any novel in verse. Acevedo writes so well. 

Have you read Clap When You Land? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 5 February 2021

The Secret History by: Donna Tartt

 Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Dark Academia 

Published: April 13, 2004 by: Vintage 

Pages: 559 

Rating: 1/5 stars 

TW: Murder, Blood and Gore, Torture, Sexual Assault, Incest, Addiction, Suicide, Panic Attacks 

*As you can see, this book has its fair share of disturbing content, and for that reason, my review will contain a discussion of some of these topics that may be triggering to some readers. 

Richard Papen has made his way into the elite Hampden College in Vermont, in order to study Ancient Greek. He is soon intrigued by one of the Classics professors, Julian Marrow, who keeps his enrollment strictly to a small group of students: Twins Charles and Camilla, Francis Abernathy, Henry Winter, and Edmund "Bunny" Corcoran, who is an extremely wealthy bigot. Richard is able to make his way into this mysterious group, but soon begins to regret that decision after the group becomes entangled in a murder that they have all sworn to keep quiet about. 

*Warning: rant review ahead. If you are looking for a professionally written review that is free of hyperboles, then this review is not for you. Also, I just want to say that I know this book is super popular and a staple of the dark academia genre, and this post is not meant to hate on anyone who loved this book or who loves dark academia. We all have different book tastes, and that's ok. Everyone's opinion is valid. However, I do have issues with this genre that I have been pondering for a long time, and I want to discuss them.

It's been a long while since I've written a rant review, so *cracks knuckles,* here we go. This book incited a rage in me that I could not describe. This book began and ended my relationship with dark academia. This book ruined Greek Mythology for me. (Ok, that last part is an extreme stretch. Nothing can ruin my love for Greek Mythology. But, I'll stick to the Percy Jackson series). I did not like this book. It had no redeeming qualities. Let's talk about why. 

I do not think the dark academia genre is for me. And this is no hate towards people who like it, but I just do not think I would be able to tolerate reading another book about privileged white kids who commit heinous acts of violence without any repercussions. And I'm supposed to like these characters? Nope, no thank you. Richard was a naive idiot. Charles and Camilla were creepy. I had some sympathy for Camilla, but her actions were still unforgivable. Francis was complacent. And don't get me started on Bunny. I did not grieve once for that arrogant asshole. *spoiler hidden* This is such a character driven novel, so you'd think that to enjoy it, you'd have to enjoy reading about the characters. But these characters were the absolute worst, and I did not like them one bit. 

The plot is also a whole bunch of nothingness. This novel was so incredibly wordy, and for no reason whatsoever. Even though this book has two murders in it, it didn't feel like this novel had any concept of rising action, climax, and falling action. It was all over the place, disorganized, with most of the scenes just being comprised of a bunch of unhealthy behaviours. I couldn't see why these scenes would be appealing to read. 

This book was also way too triggering for me. It deals with some seriously dark things. But it does not deal with these subjects in a sensitive way. Characters receive no consequences for their actions, and extremely dark issues are left unresolved and brushed under the rug. Why did the author have to put in so many gruesome, disturbing moments, but not resolve them? Was this just to leave your readers disturbed? Well, it succeeded. 

I couldn't deal with how pretentious this book was. All of these characters seemed to speak down onto me. This book almost creates the idea that these elite students are better than everyone else, which is certainly not the case because they all suck. I just think if you're going to write dark academia, you have to address the ways in which the post-secondary system is inherently elitist, racist, and pretentious. You have to discuss how the post-secondary system fails marginalized students. This book did none of that, although it did certainly give us some elitist, racist and pretentious characters. 

I was excited for this book because I love Greek mythology novels. I will usually love anything that makes reference to mythology. But this book takes Greek mythology and turns it into this elite concept that is only accessible to the privileged few. And this upset me, because mythology is for everyone, and should be accessible to everyone! I just think this was not the mythology book I was looking for, and I will be sticking to what I know from now on. 

Yeah, so I hated this. It left me stressed out and angry. I totally get why it has received a lot of praise, and this is not hate towards anybody who loves dark academia and Tartt's novels. But, I hope that the few of you who don't like dark academia like me, don't feel afraid to share your unpopular opinions. Some books just aren't for everyone, and that's ok! 

Have you read The Secret History? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess