Sunday, 2 October 2022

The Strangers by: Katherena Vermette

 Genre: Fiction 

Published: September 7, 2021 by: Penguin Random House Canada 

Pages: 337 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: inter-generational trauma, violence and racism against Indigenous women, addiction

The Strangers have fallen victim to a fractured system that seeks to tear Indigenous families apart. After moving from foster home to foster home, Cedar Stranger moves in with her estranged father and his new family. She struggles to fit into his life when all she wants is to be reunited with her sisters. Phoenix Stranger has just had a baby while being detained in a youth detention centre. She is worried that she will never know what freedom feels like, and she suffers mistreatment and abuse while being incarcerated. Elsie Stranger, the matriarch of the Stranger family, has lost two of her daughters, and turns to drugs and alcohol to cope through the trauma her family has gone through, while still trying to care for the youngest Stranger daughter, Sparrow. The Stranger women have been through too much in just a short amount of time, and they work towards being reunited, if the system will allow them to. 

The Strangers is a companion novel to Vermette's book The Break, which follows an accident that occurred in a small Indigenous community and how each resident witnessed the accident. However, you do not have to read that book first before going into The Strangers. Still, if you wish to revisit the characters in this book, The Break is also an extremely well-written text. The Strangers was a heart-wrenching book about familial ties and the resilience of Indigenous women even when the Canadian government has put in place systems to tear them down. I found myself going through a range of emotions within every page, and I kept wanting to turn the page and learn more about this family and if they would ever know peace. This book does deal with some heavy subject matter, so do please be careful, but overall, I found it to be a very valuable piece of work. 

Inter-generational trauma is a common topic explored in a lot of books by Indigenous authors, as sadly many Indigenous families in North America faced abuse at the hands of the government through things like residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. Vermette chooses to explore inter-generational trauma by using multiple perspectives from the same family. It is interesting to see Elsie's point of view, compared to that of her daughters. In particular, since not all of these family members live together, I got to explore how these women's environments impacted their social and physical wellbeing. Cedar being forced into the home of her father who she has never really known, and seeing that he has moved on in a way and developed a new family, was a really poignant moment, as I got to see how Cedar develops an understanding of family and what she can do to strengthen her's. 

Phoenix's point of view from the setting of a youth detention facility was a really integral part to the book. There has historically been an influx of the incarceration of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian detention centres. Phoenix is still a teenager, and yet she is forced to grow up too quickly by not only going to prison, but also having a baby while incarcerated. Vermette really explores how birth is already a traumatic experience, and is made even more traumatic by Phoenix not having autonomy over her body while she gives birth. While I don't know much about the correctional system in Canada, I could tell that this book was meticulously researched and taught me more about youth facilities and how Phoenix is both serving time for a very serious crime, but she is also the victim of crime herself. That connection between causing hurt but also being hurt yourself was made very clear in this book. 

Many Indigenous communities rely on matriarchies within their familial systems. The Stranger family is no exception. However, this emphasis on matriarchy is made complicated when Elsie is told that she is not fit to be a matriarch due to her struggles with addiction. But, these struggles did not turn up out of nowhere, rather they are a symptom of a continuous cycle of abuse that affected Elsie and the women before her. I really felt for Elsie. I wanted her to get better, but I also understood how difficult it would be for her to get to a place of healing. Still, she fights for her daughters, and in there lies her strength. I appreciated learning about Elsie's story, but I also understood that her story was not fictional, and is actually the reality for many Indigenous women in North America. 

Overall, I would encourage everyone to read The Strangers. While it is difficult to get through, if you are wanting to learn more about some of the issues faced by Indigenous women in Canada, then this book is a great start. Vermette is a powerful author and I am always privileged to read her work. 

Have you read The Strangers? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: Burning Out

 CW: this post will discuss panic attacks and anxiety 

Last week, I was burnt out. I worked eight days in a row, after having to pick up a few extra shifts due to other coworkers calling in sick and my manager needing the extra help. I didn't at all mind helping out my manager. She was in a tough position and the scheduling conflicts were outside of her control. However, in my inability to say "no" to anything, I ended up taking on a lot more then I could handle and paid the price for it. This is me pondering burn out culture, and the problems when you just can't say no in a workplace. 

If you noticed, I was very inconsistent with posting on the blog for the past two weeks. This is because I simply had no extra time to write. If I wasn't sleeping, I was at my workplace, which is supposed to be a part-time job but very quickly turned into full-time because of said unforeseen scheduling conflicts. I felt awful for my manager because I could tell that she very clearly didn't want to ask me to take on extra work, but with other coworkers heading back to school and other folks on vacation, she simply didn't have a choice. But, this is me saying that two things can exist at the same time. I can feel bad for my manager and appreciate that she didn't want to ask me to take on extra work, but I am also allowed to reflect on how real I burnt out and take actions to ensure that it does not happen again. 

Most folks with social anxiety, or any other anxiety may feel the need to people-please. They may think that they just can't say no to anyone asking for help, even if they're so stressed that their help may even just be a hinderance. I definitely fall into this category. Now don't get me wrong, if anyone needed my help with a serious, life-altering issue, I would put aside whatever I was doing and jump right in. However, with smaller things, like picking up extra shifts, sometimes I find the need to just say yes to everything, that I end up neglecting other important things in my life. That is exactly what happened this time. I couldn't say no to anything, so I ended up neglecting other obligations, like driving my sister to appointments she needed to go to, or failing to get the ball rolling on some applications and projects that I needed to get done. I was so focused on pleasing one aspect of my life, that being my work, that I forgot that life requires a balance, an equal weighting of all important things in life. 

By day eight, I almost sent myself into a panic attack. I was so tired, as my work involves a lot of physical and emotional energy. Working in customer service, you do need to be "on" all the time. You can never show any ounce of being tired, or like you don't want to be where you are. However, this can be extremely draining on a person. I didn't feel like myself after a while. Instead, I felt like a customer service robot, who went to sleep every night and woke up every morning ready to keep sales goals up and maintain a sugary-sweet voice. At night when I went home, I still felt like I had to be working. For reference, after every hour when I'm at work, we have to track where the store's sales for the day are currently at in a little chart. When I came home, after every hour, my brain would automatically go to: "I gotta put the information into the chart!" That doesn't seem like a very healthy way to live. 

In the future, I really need to work on being honest with the people around me and letting them know when things are just a bit too much. It was just as easy for me to say: "manager, I understand you really need my help, but I do have other appointments today, so would it be possible for me to do a four hour shift instead of an eight hour shift?" In any sort of environment, compromise is incredibly important, so that all parties are on the same page and so that nobody is taking on more than they can handle. I'm confident that my manager would have said yes, as she would have understood that I was taking on a lot more than in an average week. But, I didn't even ask, because I felt like I couldn't. I just had to say yes, and that is not the way to live. 

Some of you may know that I am looking for full-time positions at the moment. In my future jobs, and even in my job now, I'm going to make every effort to be a hard worker, without compromising my mental health. I'll be a team player, but I'll be honest with my team when things get too tough. I will ask for help when needed. I have learned a difficult lesson that being a hard worker and team player doesn't mean taking on everything by yourself. It's about working with the people around you to make sure that everyone is comfortable and has both the workplace and their own health as top priorities. Burning out is not something to be proud of, and I hope it never happens to me again. 

Have you ever been burnt out? Do you feel like you can't say no to people? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

The Fire Never Goes Out by: Nate Stevenson

 Genre: graphic novel, memoir 

Published: March 3, 2020 by: HarperTeen 

Pages: 198 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: gender dysphoria, anxiety, depression 

Told in a graphic novel format with Stevenson's signature illustrations, The Fire Never Goes Out tells the story of ND Stevenson's life, from entering college and beginning to write, to his success now being a bestselling author and tv writer. Along the way, Stevenson encounters the struggles with coming out as genderqueer, but ultimately, the novel is an uplifting story from a well-beloved illustrator and writer. 

I love Nate Stevenson's work! For those who don't know, Stevenson has been around the writer-sphere for a while using a deadname, and he just shared that his name is Nate during pride month! So, while copies of his books may not be updated yet, he does go by Nate or ND Stevenson. I read Nimona by Stevenson for a comics class last year, and I thought it was a super well-written story about a villainous chaotic shapeshifter. The illustrations were unique and top-notch. So, I knew I wanted to give Stevenson's memoir a try. Plus, a memoir told in graphic novel format seems even cooler! I can say that this book retains Stevenson's charming illustrations and compelling storytelling abilities. 

While not everything in Stevenson's life may have been all sunshine and rainbows, I do admire him for retaining an uplifting storyline while also still being able to get serious at moments. Stevenson's illustration style is incredibly whimsical, so it's hard to remember that some moments of his life were not perfect, but Stevenson perfectly weaves together his drawing style with whatever specific tone he's going for in the story he's telling. But, the book never feels overbearing or difficult to get through. While a lot of memoirs can get dark, I ultimately found this to be a fascinating look at an author's life whom I really admire, which left me motivated for whatever new work he puts out in the future. 

I especially appreciated how Stevenson provides a behind the scenes look at how some of his works were written, such as Nimona, but also his tv show She-Ra. I've never seen She-Ra before, but hearing about how Stevenson conceived of the tv show and learning about his passion behind the show motivated me to want to watch it even more! I love how Stevenson committed to making sure that the show had important representation. 

Stevenson is genderqueer, but like I said, he only recently provided a name and pronoun update this past June. While this book, which was published in 2020, isn't updated to where Stevenson currently is in terms of his gender identity, I could definitely see how Stevenson was beginning to work through complicated ideas surrounding gender and sexuality within his young adult life. I definitely think it is disheartening as a published writer to have people constantly misgender you or continuously use your deadname, but I applaud him for staying true to himself and for working with what makes him the most comfortable. 

Overall, I will continue to consume any of Stevenson's works that I can! I just love how he writes, draws, and presents himself in the writing world. I would encourage all of you to read from this wonderful talent! 

Have you read The Fire Never Goes Out? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Month in Review: August

I'm oddly excited for Fall. I'm really looking forward to watching spooky movies, going apple picking, and baking fall treats. September might even involve some exciting changes, if all goes well. Here's what happened in August: 

What I Read: 

You Made A Fool of Death With Your Beauty by: Akwaeke Emezi: 4/5 stars 

Queenie by: Candice Carty-Williams: 5/5 stars 

Four for the Road by: K.J. Reilly: 4/5 stars 

The Umbrella Academy Volumes 1 & 2 by: Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá: 4/5 stars 

TJ Powar has Something to Prove by: Jesmeen Kaur Deo: 3/5 stars 

Favourite Book of the Month: Queenie by: Candice Carty-Williams surprised me. I didn't really know what to expect going into the book, and while there were some funny moments, I really ultimately felt for Queenie and the struggle she goes through. This was a tough read to get through, but was a great look at the experiences of a young Jamaican woman in London. 

What I Blogged: 

I got the opportunity to receive an ARC from Simon and Schuster of Four for the Road by: K.J. Reilly. It was a great YA book that explores grief, and I'd love for y'all to check out the review. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Cee thinks Way Too Much About Poetic POV's 

Sofia shares 80 Book Recommendations for Latinx Book Bingo 

Marie shares 10 YA Books with a Summer Romance You'll Fall Far 

Life Stuff: 

August was really fun. I started off the month by heading to Pennsylvania for a family vacation, and then went to the Harry Styles concert in the middle of August, which was fab. He puts on a great show! 

At the end of the month, I splurged and bought myself a ticket to Fanexpo, the biggest fan convention in Toronto. I got to meet Joe Quinn from Stranger Things and Levar Burton, both of which I seriously fangirled over. I also got to see some cool cosplays and bought some Buffy merch. Overall, it was a tiring day, but so worth it! 

Now that I'm done school, I've been really committing myself to job searching. I'd love to get a writing or editing position to continue the work I do with my blog, so we'll see what happens. It only takes one person to show interest sometimes, and I'm hoping that will happen soon! 

So, August was full of exciting events, and September will be full of going back to a routine and preparing for the future. 

How was your August? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Monday, 22 August 2022

ARC Review: Four for the Road by: K.J. Reilly

 Genre: young adult fiction, contemporary 

Published: August 23, 2022 by: Atheneum Books 

Pages: 288 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: grief, drunk driving, death of a parent, death of a spouse, nightmares, alcoholism 

*Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review 

After his mother is killed by a drunk driver, Asher is seeking revenge on the man who killed her. He invites three members of his grief support group to accompany him on a road trip to Graceland, Tennessee, but he doesn't share with them that he is going to Tennessee with every intention to kill his mother's murderer. The three road-trippers include Sloane, a teen who lost her father to cancer, Will, who lost is brother, and Henry, the oldest member of the group at eighty years old, who is reeling from the loss of his wife. Together, this group of opposites embark on a physical and emotional journey that allows them to learn more about what connects them and how they can channel their grief into healing.

I wouldn't say that I read a lot of books about grief, so I didn't really know what to expect from reading this book. I have lost people before, but grief is such a complicated thing and everyone deals with it quite differently. I thought the author did something really unique by setting up the book around members of a grief support group, as I often forget that these types of groups exist and can be very helpful (but sometimes even hindering) for some people. I think that this book provided a great look at how different people decide to cope with their grief in either healing or self-destructive ways, and how healing is not about overcoming grief but rather learning to live with it. While some of the topics in this book are hard to get through, I ultimately thought that the author dealt with the subject matter in a sensitive way. 

The book is mostly told from the perspective of Asher, a teen who vows to avenge his mother's death. While at first glance, Asher may appear as an impulsive and destructive kid, I think readers should remember that he is still a teen and therefore is not always going to think before he acts, especially when dealing with the loss of a parent. Asher has shielded away some memories about the circumstances surrounding his mother's death, and the book slowly deals with him accepting those memories and moving forward. However, moving forward is an extremely difficult process for him. I really felt for Asher, especially considering how common it sadly is for children to lose their parents to drunk driving (or vice versa). I appreciated Asher's transformation throughout the book and enjoyed reading from his perspective. 

I liked how the author provided a range of age groups in the core four members of the road trip. For example, Henry's perspective on grief is entirely different from Asher's, especially considering his wife died through doctor-assisted suicide. I think Henry was a brilliantly complex character with a lot of wisdom to offer, and I loved reading about him and how he interacted with the other characters. Sloane and Will were also well-developed supporting characters, and each character overall provided something diverse to the book. 

I really do enjoy road trip narratives, so that detail of the book was great for me. I liked how the book didn't just deal with the characters in their support group, but rather set up the rising action with them in the group, and then provided enough road trip content to keep the journey interesting. This book is also not always sad, and has a good mixture of comic relief mixed with serious moments. 

The one thing I would say this book could have done better is enough context between the climax and falling action. The whole road trip revolves around Asher getting to the home of the man who killed his mother. But, once that happens, I found the book a bit rushed as it attempted to resolve all of the major issues. I didn't find myself particularly wowed by the climax and the events that followed, and I thought that more information to wrap things up towards the end of the book could have been useful. 

Overall, I liked this read! It provided me with some of the tropes I like, such as road trips, but also helped me to learn a bit more about how different people experience grief. I would recommend this book for those who want to learn the same. 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Lore Olympus: Volume One by: Rachel Smythe

 Genre: graphic novel, mythology 

Published: November 2nd, 2021 by: Del Rey 

Pages: 384 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: domestic abuse, sexual assault, drugging, alcoholism, addiction, misogyny 

This post will discuss sexual assault and incest 

Rachel Smythe retells the famed story of Hades and Persephone while using a modern backdrop and contemporary artwork. After dark, the Greek gods go to lavish parties to drink, hook up, and engage in the latest gossip. Currently, the centre of this gossip is Persephone, the bubbly daughter of Demeter, and Hades, the broody god of the Underworld. Hades and Persephone strike up a romance despite their differences.  But interference from other gods and battling their own demons will prove to be troubling to their relationship. 

I will always give a Greek mythology retelling a try. I was particularly intrigued by Lore Olympus because of its graphic novel format. I've gotten really into graphic novels and comics as of late, so I knew that this format could really work. I went into Lore Olympus not knowing much about the style of writing and the artwork, but I was extremely impressed by Smythe's ability to integrate modern themes within well-known stories of myth. 

You might've remembered my post from a while back where I discussed how I often forget to pay attention to the artwork of comics and graphic novels. Well, I think I may have finally found my exception. The artwork of this graphic novel is just so unique, that I found myself captivated by it. Smythe uses colour in such an interesting way, with each colour representing a god and their specific personality traits. Persephone's bubbly attitude is represented in pink, while Hades' emotional side is painted in blues and dark purples. The colours that Smythe uses accurately describe each character and portray them exactly how I would imagined their personality traits to be. Overall, the artwork was a huge selling point to the novel. 

Lore Olympus definitely deals with some heavy themes, that are both taken from the original myths and also applied to a modern audience. For example, sexual assault is so prevalent in myth, and Smythe uses this heavy topic to raise awareness on rape culture, drugging, and misogyny. These themes are definitely dealt with explicitly, so do be aware of content warnings. But, I think Smythe's attention to referencing the problematic handling of these topics within the original myths was a huge plus.

I loved the representation of Hades' and Persephone's relationship, but the book isn't only just about them. I was pleasantly surprised by how Smythe was able to handle sub-plots within the graphic novel, by giving us an inside look into the lives of other gods such as Aphrodite and Artemis. These sub-plots do not detract from the original story, rather they give readers the opportunity to learn more about the extensive cast of characters and how their personalities influence the couple at the centre of the story. 

Hades' and Persephone's story in the original myth is complicated. It is tainted with incest, sexual assault, and abduction. I was worried that Smythe would gloss over these issues and instead glamourize what is originally a problematic relationship. However, Smythe changes things around from the original myth to give us a pretty healthy relationship. Well, as healthy as can be given the setting. Smythe does not make the couple related to each other, and also changes Hades' character arc so that he is a lot less toxic than the original figure of Hades. The result is a pretty well-crafted sunshine and storm cloud relationship with enough drama from the supporting cast to still indicate how this relationship is affected by mythological themes of misogyny and jealousy. I applaud Smythe for paying attention to these problematic details from the original myth and taking action. 

Overall, I loved this graphic novel! I know the original story was released as a web-comic, and I'd love to explore it alongside the countless other volumes that Smythe has about this story. In the world of Greek mythology retellings, this was definitely a win. 

Have you read Lore Olympus? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Month in Review: July


CW: this post will discuss COVID 

July was spent mostly recovering from COVID. If you read my June month in review, I was still crossing my fingers that I would remain unscathed, but I did end up catching the virus and it did leave me with a pretty nasty cough. That being said, I am feeling MUCH better now, and am looking forward to August. Here's what I got up to July: 

What I Read: 

As the Wicked Watch by: Tamron Hall: 4/5 stars 

Indians on Vacation by: Thomas King: 4/5 stars 

The Bride Test and The Heart Principle by: Helen Hoang: 5/5 stars 

Wrong Side of the Court by: H.N. Khan: 3/5 stars 

Scarborough by: Catherine Hernandez: 5/5 stars 

Favourite book: I will be encouraging everyone to read Scarborough by: Catherine Hernandez until the day I die. For those unfamiliar, Scarborough is a district in Toronto known for having a diverse population, but also a lot of poverty. In this book, Catherine Hernandez offers a fictionalized depiction of the lives of Scarborough's residents. It was a fantastic book, whether you're familiar with the dynamics of area or not. 

What I Blogged: 

I really enjoyed my blog post discussing Reading Books with Bad Characters. It was definitely a complicated topic to get through, but I think it prompted a lot of great discussion. I especially learned a lot about the controversial book American Psycho! 

Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Cee says The Devil Wears Double Standards 

Claire shares her experiences living in Korea in My Life Has Changed 

Roberta asks: Movies or TV Shows? 

Life Stuff: 

I won't bore you with any more COVID news. Long story short: it was bad, but I'm better. Near the end of the month I was able to get my hair cut and I got a new tattoo! It's an outline of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the back of my arm, and I am in love with it. 

At the beginning of August, I'm going on a family vacation to Pennsylvania. This will be my first time leaving the country since the pandemic, and I'm really excited. I won't have a new post up next week because of this, but I'll be back in no time! I hope we all stay healthy and have a great time. We're planning on a day trip to NYC, which I'm really stoked for. 

So, that was my month! How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by: Malinda Lo

 Genre: young adult, historical fiction 

Published: January 19, 2021 by: Dutton Books for Young Readers 

Pages: 416 

Rating: 4.5/5 stars 

CW: anti-Asian racism, lesbophobia, misogyny 

It is 1954, and Chinese-American teenager Lily Hu lives in San Francisco with her family during the Red-Scare. Despite being a US citizen, her father faces threats of deportation due to the American government's fears towards communism and their anti-Asian sentiments. Lily tries to be a good daughter, while also trying to decide what kind of future she wants, and what kind of future she will get. One night, Lily meets Kathleen Miller, a charismatic teen who frequents the lesbian bar known as the Telegraph Club. As Lily and Kathleen grow closer, Lily realizes that their relationship is in grave danger, and she seeks to keep her and her new love safe while also keeping her family safe from their own threats. 

I don't usually love historical fiction novels, I can sometimes find them rather boring and information-heavy. That being said, I did not find those issues in Last Night at the Telegraph Club. This book was captivating, sad, and well-balanced, full of romantic moments between two teens but also historically accurate events to the time period. I could tell that the author had done extensive research when writing this book, and her author's note indicates that she was able to borrow from her own experiences as a queer Chinese-American woman, telling the story of the people who came before her. This was overall a well-crafted book that I'm glad I read. 

While historical fiction books seek to teach me something new about a time in history I'm not all too familiar with, I sometimes find that these books read more like a non-fiction textbook rather than a fiction book. However, Lo strikes a great balance between building up her fictional characters while also providing enough context towards the time period in which she is writing. I never once felt like I was in a long-drawn out history class, rather I was able to learn more about queer history during the 1950's and the history of communism fears in the United States, while also being able to fall in love with the characters and feel connected to their story. I could tell that Lo is passionate about queer history, and I think it is especially important that we remember the experiences of queer people of colour from times past. This book didn't seem fake or overly fictionalized, rather Lo brings these characters to life; their experiences could have been faced by real queer Asian women from the 1950's. 

I enjoyed how Lo built up the setting of The Telegraph Club. Seeing Lily really take to the club and finding her identity within the club was really interesting to see, and Lo also includes the harsh realities of running a queer club during the 1950's, when the threats of raids are always looming. Lo includes the representation of drag artists within the club, specifically drag kings, which I loved to see since drag kings are very much underrepresented in mainstream media compared to drag queens. Lily really strikes an interest in drag artistry which matches well with her finding her identity as a queer woman. 

Kathleen's and Lily's story is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring. Watching two girls fall in love during the 1950's is very nerve-wracking, as you just expect that these girls will not be safe. But you will root for them every step of the way. Overall, I enjoyed this book for its attention to historical accuracy and its strong characters and themes. I think people who are particularly wanting to know more about queer history will really need to add this book to their shelves. 

Have you read Last Night at the Telegraph Club? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess 

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: Reading Books With Bad Characters

Recently I was watching a Booktube video from Jesse @ Bowties and Books where they discussed all of the authors that they'd never read from again. One of the authors they mentioned was Donna Tartt, an author who I also very much dislike due to her problematic characters and extremely racist writing. I commented that I agreed with Jesse because Tartt tends to write really evil characters with no moral compasses, and another commenter asked me if I tend to stay away from any books with a lot of evil characters. The comment really got me thinking about how I approach books where most of the characters have little to no moral compasses, and I realized that my response would be better suited as a discussion post, haha! So, here is a longer response to what was a really thought-provoking comment that got me thinking about my own reading, as well as me echoing some great points that Jesse made in their video about Tartt. 

For context, here's what I replied to the commenter (who I'll clarify, was lovely and just asking a genuine question, there was no fighting in this comment section, lol): 

I have no problem reading books with morally grey/bad characters, but when the characters use racial slurs/commit absolutely horrible acts with no commentary whatsoever about why their actions advance some sort of message about the plot or develop their characters, then I have a problem with it, which is something I noticed in The Secret History. 

I'll also start off by saying that in the context of this post, when I refer to "evil" characters, I'm not talking about stereotypical villains in fantasy or action books, it's pretty clear in those books that there is a line between good and evil. I'm also not talking about villains who sometimes have a good side, for example someone like Loki. Instead, I'm talking about books in which all or most of the characters commit inexcusable, heinous acts, most of them being bigoted in nature, and especially characters who use hate speech. 

The Secret History is the book by Tartt that I referenced in relation to my comment on Jesse's video, though they mostly discussed all of the problems with The Goldfinch in their video. Still, most issues with The Goldfinch are linked with the issues in The Secret History. You might've read my rant review post about The Secret History, as well as the countless other posts I've made about my problems with dark academia, so I'm not necessarily going to restate those opinions again. What I will say, however, is that I have noticed that I have a serious problem with characters who are just horrible people for the sake of being horrible people, especially when it comes to matters such as race. 

A white author like Tartt needs to be very careful with how she portrays racist characters, so that she is highlighting that the racism is the problem here, and that this character is very much in the wrong. But the thing with Tartt, is that it almost reads like she gets joy out of writing characters who are just utterly racist. She throws around the n-word in her writing like she needs to meet a quota, and oftentimes the characters who use the n-word are doing so in a context which is supposed to be read as comical, but instead is just utterly wrong. Tartt writes these characters like we're just supposed to go: "oh that's just how so and so talks," "that's just a part of their character," "that's what makes them so funny, how socially unaware they are." But the truth is, this language doesn't advance any of the characters' arcs, it doesn't tell me anything new about the characters that is important for me to know. It just seems like Tartt wants to get a free pass at using the n-word so she uses it under the guise that the characters saying it are just naturally bad people. But there is nothing to gain by portraying such racism in a character. 

I saw a lot of these issues in Bunny, one of the main characters in The Secret History, who is probably one of the worst characters I've ever read. Not only is he racist, but he is also extremely homophobic, transphobic, and commits very heinous acts alongside the other main characters. While some reviewers have pointed out his bigotry, ultimately I have found a lot of his issues to be glossed over by positive reviews of the book, as people instead excuse his actions and the actions of the other characters because "it's dark academia, all of the characters are supposed to be bad." But the truth is, if characters are "supposed" to have questionable moral compasses, then shouldn't the reasoning behind why they have such horrible personalities be clear to me as a reader?

 In my opinion, there is never an excuse for a white author to use the n-word in their writing, or for a straight or cis-gendered author to use homophobic or transphobic language. Now I'll make it clear that as far as I know, Tartt has never stated her sexuality or gender identity, so I'm not assuming she is straight or cis-gendered, but the point remains: I have a problem with authors not part of a specific group using slurs against that specific group in their characters. This may not be everyone's opinion, but it personally makes me uncomfortable, and I think there are other ways to show that a character is a bad person without using hate speech, and I often find that Tartt goes down this route. 

I suppose I do find myself more critical of books where all of the main characters are bad, because I wonder why the author made those choices and especially I find it difficult to separate what the characters did and my unbiased opinions on the characters. In particular, I need to look at if the author handles bad characters with sensitivity, or if they are more going for shock value and excuses to use slurs. I do have a problem with authors being really gorey or triggering with their themes when there doesn't seem to be a need for such gore or triggers, and a lot of this stems from the actions of the characters as well. If a character needs to be evil, then by all means, make them evil. But I wish that more writers, particularly writers of privileged groups, would pay more attention to sensitivity when writing evil characters. If fans of their books are ignoring problematic characters and saying that they love such characters, then that may be an indication that the author hasn't done enough to show that the actions of said bad character are condemnable. 

All of this is to say, if I'm going to read a book with really evil main characters in it, then the reasoning for why the characters are the way that they are must be clear to me. I personally don't want to go through the process of reading a book with some really awful content just for the hell of it. I understand that this may not be everyone's preference, as everyone's got different reading opinions. But this is just where my head's at when it comes to reading about bad characters! I'd be curious to know how other people approach evil/bigoted characters in books. Do you tend to stay away, or are you able to separate your personal values from the characters? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by: Zarqa Nawaz

 Genre: memoir 

Published: June 24, 2014 by: Collins 

Pages: 256

Reviews: 5/5 stars 

CW: islamophobia, sexual harassment  

Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of the hit Canadian tv series "Little Mosque on the Prairie," which follows a tight-knit Muslim community in rural Saskatchewan. Such experiences are not far from Zarqa's own life, as she too experienced what it's like to be Muslim in Canada's west. This memoir follows Zarqa's life from being born in England to Pakistani-Muslim parents, and moving to Canada, where she grows up and eventually moves to Regina, Saskatchewan with her family. Along the way, Zarqa deals with islamophobia brought on by 9/11, having differing viewpoints compared to other people in her religion, and using the best tool she has to cope with it all: humour. 

From what I've learned about Zarqa Nawaz, I've concluded that her content can be very polarizing for both Muslim and non-Muslim individuals. She tends to use a lot of satire in her works which can be jarring for people, and sometimes Muslim reviewers point out how she tends to prioritize more liberal viewpoints of Islam as opposed to conservative viewpoints. There are a bunch of own voices reviews of this book on Goodreads which I really enjoyed reading, and I would encourage folks looking to read this book to do the same. It was beneficial for me to get a wide range of opinions on this book just to see what Muslim readers thought of it. I ultimately really enjoyed the book and its use of humour, but it's important to note that my opinion is that of a non-Muslim person, and reading own voices reviews can be a very important task. With all this being said, here is my review of the book: 

I was intrigued to read Nawaz's memoir because of her new fiction book that just came out: Jameela Green Ruins Everything. I wanted to learn more about Nawaz before picking up her book, as she seemed like such a cool, funny person and is a really important figure in the Canadian media scene. I much prefer funny memoirs to serious memoirs as they are easier for me to read, and Nawaz did a great job at talking about serious topics while integrating her signature wit, sarcasm, and a little bit of satire. I can see that Nawaz very much uses humour to cope with the things around her, and such humour really stood out in the memoir. 

Nawaz does a great job at educating the non-Muslim reader about Muslim traditions and religious observances, especially in relation to the Hajj. Her methods of explanation may be untraditional, as of course, almost every line is laced with humour, but I think I left the book with the overall feeling that I had learned more about Islam that I had known going in, which is a good thing. The book is well-organized and well-paced so that I was kept interested throughout. I really found myself turning each page wanting to know what happened next in Nawaz's life. I think she does a great job at turning herself and the people in her life into full-fledged characters, so it feels like I'm reading a well-developed story from beginning to end. 

Nawaz is very talented in her storytelling abilities. I can see why she had much success in her career, and I would even love to begin watching Little Mosque because if it's anything like the entertainment that she incorporates in her own writings, then I think I would really enjoy it. With the successes of Canadian tv shows as of late like Schitt's Creek, it's about time that more Canadian shows get the recognition they deserve. I think Nawaz brings something special to the Canadian writing scene because of her ability to not hold back when it comes to humour while still staying true to who she is as a Muslim woman. 

Overall, I loved this memoir! I thought it was a captivating story full of triumphs for a talented Canadian woman writer. Even though Nawaz's type of humour can be sometimes hard to get into, I think she ultimately teaches her audience about the Muslim faith while also showing them that life doesn't always have to be taken so seriously. It was a very entertaining read. 

Have you read Laughing All the Way to the Mosque? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 1 July 2022

Month in Review: June

CW: This post will discuss COVID 

Well, this month was a rollercoaster! What started out as a really fun month ended in COVID for the whole family. As I write this on June 30th I am still testing negative, but everyone else in my house has been out for the week. I feel like I'm starting to get it, but there's so many unknowns so we're all just living in one big isolation ward at this point! It's been a tiring week for all full of disinfecting, testing, and finding the right medications, but I'm confident we'll make it through. Besides that, here's what I got up to this month: 

What I Read: 

Delilah Green Doesn't Care by: Ashley Herring Blake: 4/5 stars 

Elektra by: Jennifer Saint: 5/5 stars 

Reckless Girls by: Rachel Hawkins: 2/5 stars 

Memphis by: Tara M. Stringfellow: 3/5 stars 

Daughter of the Deep by: Rick Riordan: 3/5 stars 

Interview with the Vampire by: Anne Rice: 2/5 stars 

Right Where I Left You by: Julian Winters: 4/5 stars 

Favourite book: Jennifer Saint continued to add to my love for feminist Greek mythology retellings with Elektra! I loved her work on Ariadne, and Elektra did not disappoint. Told from the perspectives of Cassandra, Clytemnestra, and Elektra during the Trojan War, I was very happy with how the story came together. 

What I Blogged: 

To celebrate Pride Month, I listed some of my favourite books with 2SLGBTQIAP+ representation! Check it out and let me know your recommendations for Pride Month. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Marie shares 10 YA Books Like The Summer I Turned Pretty To Read Next 

Greg discusses the topic of Cloning in Books 

Shayna shares Bookish No-No's 

Life Stuff: 

June was a fun month until the end! I got to go into Toronto for a few days, see a Toronto Blue Jay's game, and last week before COVID struck, my sister and I got to go to our first concert since the pandemic: The Arkells. Although, the concert may have left us with a parting gift in terms of sickness haha. I also got to celebrate Pride Month in our city and even got to meet one of my favourite drag queens, Brooke Lynn Hytes. Overall, I think the high's of the month outweigh the low's, though it is disappointing that July is off to such a rough start. Still, things could be a lot worse, and I'm looking forward to all the fun stuff this summer has to offer once the sickness is away! 

That was my June, how was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 24 June 2022

Five of My Favourite Books With 2SLGBTQIAP+ Representation

Happy Pride Month, all! I've been celebrating the month by supporting local queer and trans businesses, and of course, reading a bunch of books with some great representation! In honour of June, I've decided to compile a list of five of my all-time favourite 2SLGBTQIAP+ books. I've read some great books over the years, and as I add to my collection, I'm sure this list will grow. For now, here is, in no particular order, some of my favourite books in honour of pride month. 

1. Cemetery Boys by: Aiden Thomas 

Featuring a trans male protagonist and a queer romance, Cemetery Boys was an absolute delight to read. We follow Yadriel, a teen brujo who performs a ritual that accidentally releases the ghost of Julian Diaz back into the physical world. Julian and Yadriel end up growing closer as Yadriel tries to prove himself to his family and Julian attempts to set things right with his before he can rest in peace. Aiden Thomas seems like the loveliest person ever, and I will now read whatever they write. This book is perfect for the Fall months, in my opinion, and is Own Voices for queer, trans, and Latinx representation! 

2. Jonny Appleseed by: Joshua Whitehead 

Jonny Appleseed is a Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer young adult who works as a sex worker in the big city, while remembering the stories his kokum told him as a child. When his kokum dies, Jonny travels back to the reservation for her funeral, and recounts his childhood on the rez and all of the people who influenced his youth. I cannot recommend this book enough. Oji-Cree/nehiyaw two-spirit/Indigiqueer writer Whitehead makes Jonny come alive with each page. Whitehead has such a profound way of writing, and I would recommend this book to anyone looking to read more from Indigenous authors. 

3. Heartstopper by: Alice Oseman 

In this graphic novel series, Nick and Charlie navigate school, sports, and crushes as they go through high school developing a relationship with each other. Charlie is openly gay, but Nick is still coming out as bisexual, but the two have each other and an eccentric group of friends to help them through. Queer joy is so needed. This series is light-hearted, fun, with bisexual and gay representation. If you need a break from reading trauma, this series is for you. 

4. The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by: Maggie Tokuda-Hall 

I find this book to be so underrated. I need everyone to give it the hype it deserves. In this book, Flora/Florian is a genderfluid pirate who takes on the identity of a man on the ruthless pirate ship Dove, in order to earn the respect of the crew. While on the ship, Florian is tasked with looking after Evelyn, a wealthy young lady who is being shipped off to another district to be married. Evelyn grows close to Florian and teaches him how to read, and when she learns that Florian also goes by Flora, she becomes determined to help her escape their shared brutal situation on the ship. But, Evelyn and Flora will soon become caught up in a dangerous plot once a mermaid is caught on the ship and exploited for her blood. This book has it all: pirates, mermaids, a genderfluid main character, a strong queer relationship. Hall built this story up so well despite its many elements, and I thought the world was captivating. 

5. I Wish You All the Best by: Mason Deaver 

When Ben is thrown out of their house by their parents for coming out as nonbinary, their only option is to move in with their estranged older sister Hannah and her husband, Thomas. Ben struggles to adapt to their new life in a new neighbourhood, and begins therapy to help cope with their anxiety disorder. At their new school, a friendly boy named Nathan helps Ben find their way through senior year, and Ben begins to find hope in new beginnings. This book starts off tough with Ben going through major trauma with their parents. However, as the book continues, Ben is able to go onto a path of healing. This book has a great sibling relationship between Hannah and Ben, as she really educates herself on how to best help Ben. With Own Voices non-binary representation, this book really is a hit. 

Like I said, this list could go on forever. I hope you all have a lovely Pride Month, and if any of these books resonated with you, let me know! What are your favourite 2SLGBTQIAP+ books? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 9 June 2022

One True Loves by: Elise Bryant

 Genre: young adult fiction, contemporary 

Published: January 4, 2022 by: Balzer + Bray 

Pages: 314 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: racial microaggressions, struggles between teen and parent 

Lenore Bennett is a talented young artist who has freshly graduated from high school. She plans to go to NYU in the fall, but choosing an undeclared major has caused a riff between her and her parents, who wished Lenore would settle down and just pick something. To celebrate the summer, Lenore, her parents, and her two siblings embark on a Mediterranean cruise, for some much needed relaxation. However, while on the cruise, tension grows between Lenore and her parents, especially when they make friends with another family on the ship and their son, golden-boy Alex Lee. Lenore struggles to enjoy herself when all she can think of is how she can show her parents that she is making the right decision, but one thing Lenore did not consider is the possibility of a crush developing on the ship. 

Elise Bryant has done it again! I read the first book in this series, Happily Ever Afters, about a year ago, and I fell in love with these characters and the fluffy way that Bryant writes. In this book, we follow a side-character from Happily Ever Afters, Lenore, who loves her parents deeply, but struggles to connect with them because of their very different ideas about what she should be doing for university. All of this is mixed with a Mediterranean setting which makes the novel the perfect book for summer. I absolutely loved all the imagery and I just want to go on vacation now. Overall, this book is diverse, with some important themes packed in, alongside lovable characters. 

First off, I loved the Bennett family. Lenore is strong-willed and confident, her parents have such a great relationship mixed with the right amount of goofiness. Her brother Wally is a complicated character but I enjoyed getting to learn more about him as he developed, and her sister Etta is studious and sarcastic, she was such a joy to read about. Since I loved all the characters so much, getting through this book was breeze, because I really did just root for every character and tried to see something from their point of view. Overall, I think Bryant did a great job at portraying a perfectly imperfect family. 

An important part of this book is the idea of travel. Jesse @ Bowties and Books on Youtube put it very well that very rarely do we get Black travel narratives. Oftentimes it is white characters that are awarded the privilege to travel. To have a fluffy travel narrative with a Black main character where the plot doesn't rely on trauma, is very refreshing. Bryant touches on this idea of travel being a privilege often not accessible to Black folks, as she goes into how Lenore's parents had to work twice has hard as their white coworkers to get to a comfortable point in which they could take their family on a nice vacation. Lenore's parents are incredibly accomplished, but they also recognize how difficult it was for them to get there due to structural issues put in place. I think Bryant did a great job at depicting racial micro and macro aggressions that Black families go through, while still keeping the book quite easy to get through in terms of content. 

I mentioned before that the setting of this book was so great. I don't think I've ever read a book mostly set on a cruise ship before, but it was so fun to read about how Alex and Lenore keep bumping into each other despite the size of the ship. Similarly, Bryant also incorporates Mediterranean cities as the cruise makes its way to different stops, so there is some lovely food imagery and architectural imagery that just had me longing for hot weather and beaches. The settings were so fun to read about. 

Overall, this book was an absolute delight. I love reading books where families play a central role, it was great to learn more about Lenore's family and all of their quirks. I think this book integrates travel very well, and also has some great representation along the way. I would highly recommend this book for a perfect summer read! 

Have you read One True Loves? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess 

Friday, 3 June 2022

Month in Review: May

I survived May! After a very busy, nerve-wracking month, I am so happy to be into June and I am ready to kick-off the summer. Here's what happened in May: 

What I Read: 

Heartstopper: Volumes 1-3 by: Alice Oseman: 5/5 stars 

Bunny by: Mona Awad: 2/5 stars 

Life In The City of Dirty Water by: Clayton Thomas-Muller: 4/5 stars 

The Break by: Katherena Vermette: 3/5 stars 

Four Aunties and a Wedding by: Jesse Q. Sutanto: 4/5 stars 

Jameela Green Ruins Everything by: Zarqa Nawaz: 4/5 stars 

Embers by: Richard Wagamese: 4/5 stars 

Favourite book: The Heartstopper series ruled my May reading. In honour of the tv show premiere, I decided to read the graphic novels, and I am absolutely loving them. They are so cute and wholesome, and I can't wait to get to volume four. 

What I Blogged: 

My favourite blog post of this month was my discussion on Why I Am A Fan of Fan-Fiction. It is a revision of a post I put up in 2016, and I was so happy to share my updated thoughts on fan-fiction and reasons why the genre is so great. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Cee discusses Rich Vamps: Dracula and the Blood of the Poor 

Nicole asks: Does Your Right To Free Speech Extend To My Blog? 

Sabrina shares 10+ Booktubers I Love 

Life Stuff: 

This month, I attended my first academic conference in Montreal, which was scary, but I am proud of myself for how it went. I met so many lovely professors in my field, and the experience will definitely help me in the future. I rewarded myself with some fun shopping in the later parts of the month, and some much needed downtime before I begin writing my major research paper. 

Which now leads me to the heart of my MA degree: my major research paper. The paper needs to be completed by the end of August, and is roughly 40 pages. I'm procrastinating... a lot. I think I've fallen a bit off of the wagon in terms of schooling, so I definitely need to hop back on and stay focused. My blogging schedule should still stay the same, but I definitely need to manage my time better. 

So, that was my May! It's time to get down to business, wish me luck! 

How was your May? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Nimona by: ND Stevenson

 Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy 

Published: May 12, 2015 by: Harper Collins 

Pages: 272 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: abuse, experimentation, minor gore 

Shapeshifter Nimona is a spunky villain who vows to remain loyal to her partner, Lord Ballister Blackheart. Together, the duo vow to take down Blackheart's arch nemesis, Sir. Goldenloin, as well as all the supposed "heroes" of the Institute of Law Enforcement. Nimona and Blackheart are determined to set the record straight about the Institution, revealing them to be the true cause of evil in their community. However, as Blackheart begins to learn more about Nimona's past, he will soon realize that their quest for fighting evil with their own unique form of villainy will prove to be more complicated than he originally thought. It turns out, dealing with a shapeshifter is no easy feat. 

You'll see me reviewing a lot more comics and graphic novels as I work through reviewing all of the books I had to read in my superhero course. In this graphic novel, Nimona, we follow a spunky villain who can shapeshift into anything, though she mostly presents as a teenaged girl. Together with the unlikely partner of Ballister Blackheart, she seeks to reveal all of the evil that lurks in her medieval-style land. Nimona was an incredibly likable, bubbly character that I couldn't help but root for. Despite her being labelled as a villain, she represents more of a chaotic good side as she delights in taking down evil establishments that have grown a reputation for supposedly being good, though she knows otherwise. Blackheart's and Nimona's dynamics within the unique setting of the graphic novel was an absolute delight, making this a very quick and enjoyable read. 

First off, the setting that Stevenson was able to build was incredibly unique. The world in which Nimona lives in is this kind of fictional Medieval-esque world, though with a smattering of technological advancement used by the institution and scientific experimentation. The result is that the future and the past intertwine in this environment to create something I've never seen before. You have knights like Sir. Goldenloin working with scientific masterminds all in the shadow of a Medieval style castle. It was a really cool set-up and I think the lack of a specific time period and more of a drawing of inspiration from different aesthetics played very nicely with Nimona's shapeshifting abilities, as she was able adapt to different situations very well. 

I also think the artwork in the graphic novel was really well done. Stevenson plays with soft, light colours, a lot of pale reds, pinks, and yellows, but the graphic novel overall also has a very sketched out feel to it, almost like you can visibly see the sketches with pencil that went into the drawings of the characters. The pictures had a doodled vibe to it, which I loved, because I think it added to the personalization of the graphic novel to Stevenson's specific liking, and I could really see that they put a lot of effort into creating the characters and colour palettes to fit the overall vibes of the graphic, which is a bit spunky, but also whimsical and fun. 

I guess the one complaint I would have about the graphic novel was that the plot in my opinion, is a bit weak. It just didn't really captivate me like other comics and graphic novels have done in the past. It was an okay storyline, but definitely not my favourite. I think I took more of a liking to the characters, like seeing what animal of creature Nimona was going to turn into, rather than really focusing on the plot. That being said, it's a very easy graphic novel to get through, and has some very cute moments as well. 

Overall, this graphic novel has queer representation, Medieval castles, fun animals, and a spunky antihero at the centre of it all. I think it's a great addition to my graphic novel collection, and I definitely want to read more of what ND Stevenson puts out, particularly, I'm quite interested in watching their show, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Stevenson is also transmasculine and bigender, so a big plus is that you'll be reading from a diverse author if you pick this one up! 

Have you read Nimona? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 20 May 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: Why I AM A Fan of Fan-Fiction

 A long, long time ago, in 2016, teenaged Emily wrote a blog post talking about how she didn't like fan-fiction. I don't know who hurt her at the time, but she wrote about how she didn't like it when writers continued with stories that were already finished and created alternate endings. Now in 2022, adult Emily has realized the errors of her ways and has now decided to revisit this topic and explain to you all why she IS a fan of fan-fiction. Ok, now it's time to stop writing in the third person. 

I credit Cee Arr @ Dora Reads and her Friday Fics Fix posts for getting me into this genre of writing. Every Friday, Cee posts a fan-fiction recommendation from a variety of fandoms. I mostly like the ones from the MCU, as it is one of the main fandoms that I am a part of and I love it when the writers put unconventional characters together, like for example, Tony Stark and Loki, which I had no idea before reading Cee's posts were a fan-fiction couple but I wholeheartedly support it. There is so much creativity in the fan-fiction world, and in a universe like the MCU that often falls into conventional tropes and predictable couples, this creativity is so needed. 

The problem with my previous post is that I categorized all fan-fiction under fan-fiction written about real people, like One Direction fan-fiction. However, this type of fan-fiction tends to be a bit cheesier, and if I'm being honest, a bit creepy, because folks are attempting to create a fictional life based on real people with very public lives. I don't want to shame anyone for consuming or writing that kind of content, but it definitely is not for me. However, those same limits do not exist for fictional characters. Steve Rogers doesn't really care if we write him to be in a romantic relationship with Bucky, because he doesn't exist. So, fan-fiction writers who write about fictional characters are able to build upon the unique characters and settings from these fictional worlds and put their own spin on it. These kinds of stories are able to dive deeper into characters who may not have been fully developed in canonical content, or who may have not been treated right by their canonical texts. Fan-fiction writers have the ability to redeem characters, to give them the love stories or friendships that they deserve. And to be honest, I find that kind of beautiful. 

Fan-fiction has given me the ability to revisit new stories about beloved characters, even when their canonical texts have decided that their stories are finished. I may never get a Falcon and the Winter Soldier season two, but I can continue to consume new content about Bucky and Sam to keep that world alive, and that makes me so happy! I can also read fan-fiction to keep me busy in-between seasons of a show, such as What We Do In the Shadows and The Umbrella Academy. Fan-fiction keeps worlds alive when the canon has halted them. I find that so cool. 

Lastly, as a creative writer myself, I cannot deny the opportunities that fan-fiction gives aspiring writers. While it may be incredibly difficult to get published with a major publishing house right away, posting on fan-fiction sites allows writers to have an outlet to get their creativity out, communicate with fellow writers, and even workshop their works and receive feedback. Creative writing classes and workshops are not accessible to everyone, and yet, we can do it for free and from the comfort of our own homes through fan-fiction sites. Whether these stories get published or not, they help to build a community of writers, young and old, who all appreciate the same thing. 

Overall, sixteen year-old Emily didn't know what she was talking about. Then again, she was sixteen, so we can cut her a bit of slack, but she's glad that she changed her mind about fan-fiction. I am so happy to be a part of this vibrant, diverse and unique community. And you should be too. 

Do you read fan-fiction? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: The Beginning by: Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, and Natacha Bustos

 Genre: young adult, graphic novel

Published: February 19, 2019 by: Marvel 

Pages: 272 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: bullying, racism, sexism 

Lunella Lafayette is a kid genius who plans to change the world. However, she also lives in fear of her Inhuman gene, which she vows to fix. Her plans to rid herself of the gene go awry when instead of fixing herself, she releases a prehistoric beast known as Devil Dinosaur into the modern world. Lunella takes it upon herself to use her new friend for good, and she and Devil Dinosaur team up in an unlikely duo, bodyswapping along the way to help Lunella cope with the struggles of growing up, while also dealing with some new dangers in her home city. 

I thought this was such a unique superhero text! My mother got me this graphic novel for Christmas, along with one of the original Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur comics from the 70's. This graphic novel breathes new life into the story by depicting a young Black girl with a passion for science, who knows she will do great things, but is also dealing with growing up amidst unique changes that none of her peers can relate to. I thought Lunella as a character was incredibly likable, and Devil Dinosaur was a hilarious companion as well. Overall, this graphic novel captivated me as a new reader of the Devil Dinosaur character, but I think it may also delight people familiar with the original story arc. 

I really appreciated how the writers wrote Lunella to be a kid, and they didn't try to make her sound more mature than she needed to be. Lunella is so intelligent, that much is certain. But, she also doesn't have the same life experiences as the adults around her, and the writers didn't make her sound like a wise old man in the body of a preteen. Instead, she makes mistakes. She laughs, she cries. She has normal, kid emotions. I thought this characterization was super important to see because I think it allows kids to connect with her character, and it also reveals to adults how important it is to give kids the ability to let their voices be heard. 

I think this book played with different symbols very well. For example, Lunella is dealing with this unique gene that she wants to rid herself of, that none of her peers have. Such gene makes her feel isolated, and uncomfortable. The writers were able to play with the Inhuman gene in a way that ties it to Lunella's journey through young adulthood. She's experiences all of these new life changes, coming into her superhero powers, failing to be heard from the adults around her, and at her core, she just wants to be perceived as normal. However, the authors reveal that there really is no such thing as "normal," and that all of her abnormalities are actually what make her brilliant. 

The writers definitely took the original story of Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur and decided to bring it into the 21st century by putting a diverse teen girl at the front of the story so that more young kids can relate to Lunella's experiences and feel connected to her character. I definitely found the story layout to be entertaining, witty, with some great comic relief throughout. There are also some cameos made by other Marvel characters which I very much appreciated, and I think folks will really like how the writers introduced Lunella into the greater MCU. I can see Marvel do a lot with her character, and I think she has been a welcome addition into this universe. 

Have you read Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Fall On Your Knees by: Anne-Marie MacDonald

 Genre: Historical Fiction 

Published: October 29, 2002 by: Pocket Books 

Pages: 672 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: rape, incest, infant death, pedophilia, child abuse, misogyny, homophobia, racism, alcoholism 

On Cape Breton Island in the early 1900's, the Piper family lives in a small home, while rumours, secrets, and lies plague their family. James Piper, the father of sisters Kathleen, Mercedes, Frances, and Lily, is abusive to both his daughters and his wife, Materia, who left her traditional Lebanese family to marry a white man. While the novel follows the Pipers through various stages of the 20th century, including World War One and the Jazz-era of New York City, more information is revealed about the family as the girls grow up amidst political and social change, along with dealing with an incredibly harmful father and a mother who ultimately tries to protect her daughters from his abuse. 

I did not know how to feel about this book. As you can tell from the plethora of content warnings, this book gets dark very quickly. While some may argue that content warnings spoil the plot of books, I knew that it was incredibly important for folks to know going into this book all of the potentially triggering things that MacDonald discusses. So, if you need to stop reading the review here, I respect that. This book may not be for you, and that's fine. It is extremely difficult to get through. However, at the same time, I did not hate it. I had to learn to reconcile the disturbing content with the plot structure and overall themes of the book, which I actually think were conveyed quite well. Sometimes, books can leave you with a range of emotions, and I definitely felt that within this book. 

I had to read this book for an English course I was a teaching assistant for, but the professor made us aware of the content warnings and didn't force students to read the book should they find the information triggering. I really was worried going into the book as these subjects tend to trigger my OCD a lot, however I was personally able to get through it and ended up appreciating the book for its commentary on social themes during early 1900's Canada. Again, this is not to say that anyone should just push through the book even if they're disturbed by it, this was just my personal experience. I had never read a book based in Cape Breton before, and I rarely read books set in the early 1900's pre and post war period, as I tend to find them a little heavy and boring. However, I think MacDonald did a great job at capturing the landscape of the Canadian Maritimes, mixed with the impact that the British Empire had on the culture in the area during the time period. She was also able to touch on topics of shell shock after the war, grieving lives lost during the war, and the political climate after the war. I found such topics to be very informative and they taught me more about Canadian history that I hadn't really known of before. 

At the core of the novel is the Piper daughters, Kathleen being the eldest, and Lily being the youngest. All of the girls have extremely tough childhoods, with middle child Frances rebelling at an early age, and Kathleen moving to New York to attempt to escape such hardships. I think each girl got equal development and I could definitely care for each of their stories. Even though none of the girls are perfect, I think MacDonald provides an interesting commentary on trauma and how it affected each of the girls to make the choices that they did. Ultimately, this is a family caught in a cycle of abuse, and MacDonald did well to indicate how trauma can carry through various lines in a family tree. 

Speaking of family trees, an important symbol in the book is the idea of family trees and ancestry, which I found to be an incredibly visceral but also symbolic way of learning more about the Piper family's lineage. Mercedes, the second eldest daughter, is obsessed with creating a family tree, though she is limited in her information because her family is so secretive. However, towards the end of the book, grave details about the family are revealed and the family tree ultimately becomes a very complicated way of showing the family's dark history. Still, I had never read a book where a family tree played such an important symbol, and I think it was used in an affective way. 

This book left me confused as to whether or not I liked it, was disturbed by it, or whether or not I could really root for a lot of the characters. I think it was a little bit of everything. I definitely needed to read some lighter material after finishing this book, but I do think that MacDonald handled the subject matter in a way that was sensitive to the real issues that plagued women, queer women, and women of colour during this time period. Despite the book taking place during the early 1900's, MacDonald represents the marginalized folks of this time period by writing of forgotten histories that have long been swept under the rug. Yes, it was a complicated, difficult read. But I am glad to have read it, and I think it prompted a lot of discussion in my class, which was good. 

Have you read Fall On Your Knees? Have you ever been confused by a book? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Month in Review: April

My month in reviews have been on and off since I've taken a few hiatuses, but I'm finally in a good place to bring them back! April was so chaotic, so let's get into it: 

What I Read: 

A Lesson in Vengeance by: Victoria Lee: 4/5 stars 

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by: Zarqa Nawaz: 5/5 stars 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by: Malinda Lo: 4/5 stars 

Arsenic and Adobo by: Mia P. Manansala: 4/5 stars 

Lore Olympus by: Rachel Smythe: 5/5 stars 

Care Of by: Ivan Coyote: 5/5 stars 

Honey Girl by: Morgan Rogers: 4/5 stars 

The Fire Never Goes Out by: ND Stevenson: 5/5 stars 

Favourite book: It was overall a great month for reading! I'm going to have to give my favourite book prize to Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by: Zarqa Nawaz. Nawaz created the popular Canadian tv show Little Mosque on the Prairie, and she embodies everything I want to be as a writer: funny, but also incredibly concious of representation and social issues. 

What I Blogged: 

Like I said, blogging has been inconsistent over the past few months, but this month, I slowly started to get back into the swing of things. My favourite post of the month was when I discussed When You Stand Up For Something You Believe In, But It Doesn't Turn Out Right. That discussion was difficult to write, but also I think very needed in terms of my personal reflection on an uncomfortable situation. 

Favourite Blog Posts: 

Vera and Sabrina celebrate their blogiversary by Shouting Out Some of Their Favourite Bloggers 

Cee shares how to Write Your Obvious 

Morgan shares how they've Changed As A Reader 

Life Stuff: 

April was an extremely busy month. I finished up my coursework with final essays, and just this past Tuesday, I had to complete a big presentation of the work I'm doing for my MA. It was extremely daunting and I had some hiccups (for example, when I get nervous, I tend to ramble), however, for the most part, I am extremely proud of myself for overcoming some social anxiety. 

The day this post goes up, I will be going to my first family celebration since COVID started. There's been a lot of milestones since the pandemic, and now we all feel more comfortable in celebrating them. I'm excited to get back to dressing up fancily lol. 

Next month will probably be more busy. I will have to start writing my final paper for my MA, but also, I am attending a conference in Montreal in the middle of May. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, as meeting new people is not my strong suit, but it'll definitely push me outside of my comfort zone which I'm interpreting to be a good thing. 

So, that was my April! A lot of busyness, with some more busyness to come. How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess