Friday 30 December 2022

Month in Review: December

Happy New Year everyone! My year in review will be out in a few weeks, but for now, let's recap December: 

What I Read: 

Under the Whispering Door by: T.J. Klune: 4/5 stars 

A Minor Chorus by: Billy-Ray Belcourt: 4/5 stars 

Moon of the Crusted Snow by: Waubgeshig Rice: 4/5 stars 

mitêwâcimowina: Indigenous Science Fiction and Speculative Storytelling edited by: Neal McLeod: 4/5 stars 

Favourite book: This month, every book had the same rating! So, how did I choose a favourite? I went with Moon of the Crusted Snow, because that book could have easily been a five star read if not for the ending. A review will be soon to come. It was a great apocalyptic book by an Indigenous author, but ugh, I just wish the ending had some finishing touches. 

What I Blogged: 

I posted a list of Books I Have My Eye On To Buy in the New Year. This was a fun list to write as it includes some picks that have been on my wishlist for a while, and some new releases I am excited about. 

Favourite Posts of the Month: 

Sofia reads Other People's Favourite Books 

Roberta Returns to Blogging 

I noticed that my blogging reading list has become a little thin since people are taking hiatuses, and some have left the blogging world. So, this is an appeal. If you have a bookish blog recommendation, please send them my way! 

Life Stuff: 

Christmas was good, albeit the weather was kinda stressful. We got slammed with a snowstorm on December 23rd, and we weren't sure if we were going to be able to make it back home to spend time with family at all. Luckily the roads cleared just enough for us to make it home by Christmas Eve, and we had a lovely time. 

I was really happy seeing my family open up the presents I gave them, and overall everyone (including myself) were very grateful for the gifts received. Now I am preparing for the New Year, in which I return to being a teaching assistant for my university. I'm excited for the new position, which will be a welcome distraction from working on PhD applications. New Year, New Changes! That's for certain. 

So, that was my December! How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Monday 26 December 2022

Books I Have My Eye On To Buy in the New Year!

Every Christmas I usually get a few Chapters gift cards that I use to do a book buying spree. (By spree I mean two or three books, which is a lot for me since I don't typically buy books). Anyways, my criteria for books I buy depends on the cover is nice or if the author is one I like to support. Sometimes, I will prioritize new, hyped releases as well. I thought it might be fun to list some books I've been thinking of buying during my annual shop, to see if other folks deem these books worthy of purchasing. 

1. Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by: R.F. Kuang 

I've seen this book hyped on pretty much every social media platform. I know of Kuang through her Poppy War series, which to be honest, I haven't read only because I am very picky with fantasies. However, I do think this book with its commentary on racism and colonization sounds super interesting, and so many people have been raving about it. I'm not opposed to picking it up, but a book of this length is definitely outside of my comfort zone. 

Goodreads Link

2. The Sunbearer Trials by: Aiden Thomas 

This is a book I am fairly confident I'll love. It's the first book in a Hunger Games-inspired series by well-loved author Aiden Thomas, an author who is an auto-buy writer for me. I am definitely leaning towards picking this book up in the near future. 

Goodreads Link 

3. Icebreaker by: Hannah Grace 

This is a hockey/figure skating romance that comes out in February. I am a big fan of sports romances, especially hockey, but only when the relationships are not toxic or problematic. This book sounds so sweet and the fact that the MC is a figure skater makes it even more fun! I love figure skating as a sport too so this book seems like a perfect match. 

Goodreads Link 

4. Porcupines and China Dolls by: Robert Arthur Alexie 

I read a lot of Indigenous literature thanks to my degree, but I have yet to get to this book that I know has received very positive reviews. It involves two Indigenous men coming to terms with adulthood while also dealing with the traumatic aftermath of being in the residential school system. I haven't been able to find this book at the library and I am always up for supporting an Indigenous author. 

Goodreads Link 

5. The Midnight Library by: Matt Haig 

Another fantasy book that will be a gamble if I buy, but that I am still intrigued by. I read The Comfort Book by Matt Haig about a month ago and thought it was such a sweet, wholesome read. I know Haig is very open about mental illness and something about that makes me want to support him. I have heard positive reviews about this book and the cover looks lovely, but I'm just iffy if it will be for me. 

Goodreads Link 

6. I'm Glad My Mom Died by: Jennette McCurdy 

The title of this book is jarring, but I think you really need to read it to understand why it is. I know little about McCurdy's life but she was an integral part of my childhood, and I am a big fan of memoirs. I'm very interested in this book and think it would definitely be a quick read. 

Goodreads Link 

This is a very small list of some books on my radar to buy once 2023 rolls around, but I am definitely open to more suggestions! Have you read any of these books, and are they worth the physical copies? Are there any other books worth buying? Let me know! 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday 14 December 2022

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by: Jesmeen Kaur Deo

Genre: Young adult fiction, contemporary 

Published: June 7, 2022 by Viking Books 

Pages: 368 

Rating: 3/5 stars 

CW: bullying 

TJ Powar has it all: a cute boyfriend, good grades, and a spot on her school's award-winning debate team. However, her life changes when her cousin becomes the subject of a cyber bullying rampage targeting her body hair. TJ decides that she needs to make a point. So, she ditches her razors and cancels her waxing appointments and works to show her school that girls can have body hair and still be beautiful. As TJ begins her campaign, her confidence flourishes even when people she thought were her friends turn away. But, she also learns along the way not to push against those who truly do find her beautiful no matter what she looks like. 

As a girl with naturally a lot of dark body hair, I was intrigued by this book. I wax and shave regularly, but I do always admire people who relay the message that body hair is normal, especially for women. I loved the cover of this book, because I think its really powerful to show a girl with visible facial hair on a mainstream book cover. Not to mention that the book is also Own Voices for Sikh/South Asian representation. While I did have some issues with the presentation of some themes, I do think that this is a solid story. 

What sparks TJ to take a stand for body hair is when her cousin who doesn't shave is bullied on social media for the way that she looks. While the hate doesn't really bother TJ's cousin, who more brushes it off, TJ finds the need to defend her family and the whole situation encourages her to take a look at all of the effort she puts into making sure that she is hairless for her boyfriend and her friends. I really liked how TJ is inspired to stand by her cousin and how this was a major driving point for the action, because I could really see where TJ's loyalties lied and how she was willing to compromise friends and romantic relationships for her cousin. At its core, the strongest relationships in this book were the family ties and this was great to see. 

I also loved the debating element to the book. TJ is on the debate team and even takes it upon herself to inspire debate topics surrounding body hair. I could definitely see how Kaur Deo characterized TJ as a debate team member, as she is strong-willed, confident, and incredibly intelligent. She takes on the body hair as an experiment at first, to see how people would react. But it slowly turns into a movement and she works with her talent of debating to show others the problems with beauty standards for women. 

In the book, Kaur Deo takes great care to also show how body hair influences the wider South Asian community. Despite TJ being Sikh, which is a religion that often encourages not shaving and embracing body hair; the women in her family, including her mother, are very concerned when TJ stops shaving and they try to get her to schedule waxing appointments and take up hair removal again. I think Kaur Deo did a great job at showing how Euro-centric beauty standards influence even the older generations of marginalized groups, to the point where older women often are more concerned about beauty standards than younger women. It seemed that TJ's family really were negatively influenced by unhealthy ideas of beauty that they projected such things onto her, which was sad to see, but also a real reality for a lot of South Asian families. TJ eventually does show them that embracing her body hair is what makes her feel the most confident, and this transformation in her family was great to see. 

The main issue that I had with this book that made it just an okay read for me, was that I wished the book took a greater look at how completely quitting hair removal cold-turkey is incredibly hard for a lot of people. TJ was able to just drop her razors like that, and quickly realized she didn't want to turn back. However, struggling with insecurities about body hair isn't always this simple. For example, I mentioned before that I still remove my body hair, and I don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I feel comfortable going out in public with unshaved legs or a dark upper lip. I think the book could've taken a greater care at looking at the systemic issues at play here, such as the equation with body hair being seen as unhygienic, and how body hair is portrayed in the media and commercials. Similarly, I wished that TJ was able to talk to girls who still remove their body hair, to see why they still chose to do it and how standards affected them. I just think I couldn't entirely relate to TJ's journey being so easy, and I wanted there to be a greater focus on the difficulties of this switch. 

Overall, I think this is an important read that can help a lot of girls see the beauty in body hair. While I think I needed some more representation on the difficult reality of moving towards a more natural self, I do think that this book is definitely important. 

Have you read TJ Powar Has Something to Prove? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday 9 December 2022

Month in Review: November

I'm back from vacation, I'm ready for Christmas, and 2023 is just around the corner! Here's what I got up to in November: 

What I Read: 

The Comfort Book by: Matt Haig: 5/5 stars 

Adult Onset by: Ann-Marie MacDonald: 3/5 stars 

When The Reckoning Comes by: LaTanya McQueen: 5/5 stars 

The Weight of Blood by: Tiffany D. Jackson: 4/5 stars 

The Love Hypothesis by: Ali Hazelwood: 4/5 stars 

Five Little Indians by: Michelle Good: 3/5 stars 

Favourite book: The Comfort Book by: Matt Haig was exactly what I needed this month. This book lives up to its title. It's a comforting book about how to handle stressors and practice good mental health. It was also my first Matt Haig book and didn't disappoint. I know Haig suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and I think he just gets it right when it comes to how to practice healthy coping mechanisms. 

What I Blogged: 

I took a teensie break from blogging while I was away, but still managed to post a mixture of discussions and reviews. My favourite post of the month was my review on Scarborough by: Catherine Hernandez. I've been wanting to review this fabulous book for a while, and getting to talk a little bit more about a neighbourhood close to my family was quite enjoyable. I found this review very easy to write. 

Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Cee asks: Why Do You Hate Me? 

Marie shares 8 Unforgettable Books I've Read in 8 Years of Blogging 

Greg features Post-Apocalyptic Covers 

Life Stuff: 

November was busy, semi-stressful, and full of fun. Near the beginning of the month my sister moved to Ottawa, which has been an adjustment as I get used to just being alone with my parents for the first time ever. But, we reunited near the end of the month to go to Italy for a week with my dad. The Italy trip was very fun, but very not so fun on my anxiety. This was my first time travelling since having panic disorder and really bad OCD, and my intrusive thoughts and panic ramped up from the time we landed until about halfway through the trip. But, I was able to find the fun in a lot of moments throughout the week, and I am proud of myself for not completing freaking out and sending myself home. I will definitely have to work on what went wrong in therapy, so hopefully trips in the future can go a bit more smoothly. 

In December, I hope to ward off the plethora of illnesses that have been going around (hello flu season!) and hopefully have a fun Christmas. I have a few parties to go to and gatherings that I'm excited for, so it will surely be an eventful month as well. 

That was my November. How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday 25 November 2022

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Genre: Historical Fiction 

Published: January 1, 2003 

Pages: 848 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: child sexual assault, graphic depictions of murder 

In the middle of the Cold War, eight-year old Madeleine and her family move to a military base by the Canadian/American border. She starts at a new school and meets new people, and life at the base seems quiet for a moment. That is, until a shocking murder frightens the town, and leaves residents pointing fingers and gossiping as to who could be responsible. Soon, the connections to the murder come close to Madeleine's family, and she struggles to recount what she knows about the events that happened on the night of the murder, and what life has really been like for her since she moved to the base. 

This book, like most of MacDonald's books, is long, graphic, and disturbing. You may remember my previous review of Fall On Your Knees by this author. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad book. MacDonald is a prolific Canadian author known for writing from the perspective of children, and she often likes to depict children from either marginalized or out casted groups. In this book, Madeleine is a young girl filled with curiosity about her new surroundings and the new people she will now call her friends. However, this curiosity soon shields itself in repression as she struggles to piece together what happened the night one of her friends died. Her father is also holding secrets, and pretty much most of the adults in this book are genuinely awful people, as are most of the adults in MacDonald's books. However, what I think MacDonald does particularly well, is build an atmosphere. She truly does historical fiction so well, and this book is filled to the brim with 1960's nostalgia and pop culture references. You really do feel like you entered a time capsule through this book, which is an important element to historical fiction.

I did find the characters well-rounded throughout the text. Most of the book is from the perspective of Madeleine, who goes for most of the book knowing more than the adults around her give her credit for. However, seeing that she is a kid, she also isn't always aware of the dangers around her, which puts her and her classmates at great risk. I won't go into too much detail surrounding what kinds of threats exist for Madeleine and her classmates, but I will say to pay attention to content warnings and tread lightly. Ann-Marie MacDonald often writes about child sexual assault in her texts, and while I do think this topic is handled sensitively and not glazed over, it also can be pretty difficult to get through. Still, you can tell that a book that deals with such heavy-handed topics such as these is well-researched, to the point where I wondered if MacDonald had consulted with child psychologists before writing the book. I think that she perfectly captures how an eight year old might react when put into certain situations, so I can definitely tell that she gives care to the subjects and subject matter of her texts. 

The book is loosely based off of the trial of Stephen Truscott, who is a man who was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of his classmate Lynne Harper in 1959. If you know anything about the case, then you can definitely see hints of the events within the story. This case stayed with the residents at the base for a long time, and Truscott was only acquitted after being on death row in 2007. This case and the depiction of it in the text is yet another example of MacDonald paying attention to detail and calling back to historical elements within her text. I have to say that I really appreciate an author who depicts Canadian historical fiction, as oftentimes I am pulled to read historical fiction from the US or England. But, I often find that reading MacDonald's books helps me to learn something new about the history of the country I live in. I had no idea about the Truscott case until reading this book, but it did help me in learning more about the Canadian justice system and its failings during times passed. 

Like I mentioned before, this book is long. At almost 848 pages, you'll need a minute to read it. And what I will say about MacDonald's books, is that I often don't find that they need to be as long as they are. MacDonald does not write short books, and sometimes I just want to desperately take a pen and edit some scenes down. I just tend to gravitate more towards short books than long books, and I really do often think that books do not have to be as long as they sometimes are. This was my only real issue with the text, but is a significant one because I find the longer the text I read, the more likely I am to get bored or just simply wanting it to be finished already. So, if you're like me, definitely keep that in mind. 

Overall, this book was good. I found it for free at a rummage sale in the city last summer, and I'm glad that I picked it up. It's interesting to read up on what Canada was up to during the Cold War, as well as to educate myself on important trials of the 1960's. However, definitely do practice self-care when reading such a text, and don't feel like you have to push through if it's too uncomfortable. MacDonald tends to not hold back, and this text was no exception.

Have you read The Way the Crow Flies? What did you think? 

(I'm going on vacation for a week, so I'll see you guys at the beginning of December!) 

Emily @ Paperback Princess 

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: Finding "Perfect" Romances

Romance is one of my favourite genres. I used to love YA contemporaries, and that love as I got older quickly evolved into liking new adult and adult romances. I love romances that are fluffy, light-hearted, but also with a relationship that seems realistic, one that I can root for. 

My favourite romances to date have all been written by Helen Hoang, and that is her Kiss Quotient series. The three books in that trilogy have the perfect amount of light-hearted humour, some seriousness in the stakes of the relationship, and a healthy, slow-burn romance that develops over time. They also have sex-positivity, which is a major important element in my opinion as a lot of romances can portray toxic sexual relationships and therefore reinforce an unhealthy representation of sex. My problem now is, that I have yet to find a romance that matches Helen Hoang's writing. All romance recommendations that I see on Booktok currently have been really spicy erotica, which isn't personally my thing, or Colleen Hoover books. I don't want to turn this post into my problems with Colleen Hoover, but I'll just say that her writing is not my thing, and I don't think she portrays relationships in the healthiest of ways. I will scan through blogs, book twitter, and bookstagram as well for romance recommendations, but those books haven't necessarily given me what I'm looking for either. Which leads me to wonder: am I being too picky with my romances? Will anything ever top The Kiss Quotient? Is Helen Hoang's writing just an anomaly? I now write this post to plead for someone to give me the romance recommendations I need. 

The Kiss Quotient and its accompaniments were so special because they weren't just romances, but they were also big on representation of a number of marginalized groups. All of the books have East Asian representation, as well as very accurate autism representation. Helen Hoang is very vocal about her autism, and so she seeks to portray various characters on the autism spectrum throughout her books. So, what we get in her books are really unique representations of autistic characters who navigate sex and relationships in ways that don't overstimulate them or make them meltdown. These are characters that I don't think I would ever get to read about in any other romance book, and that's what makes her books stand in categories all on their own. 

In my quest to find books like the Kiss Quotient, I often look for romances that have representation of some kind, especially representation of non-white characters. And these books are okay, albeit not my favourites. I have enjoyed in the past the Chloe Brown series by Talia Hibbert, but I don't necessarily find myself as engrossed in these books as I was with Hoang's books, for reasons I still am unsure of. There's just something about Hoang's books that are the perfect melting pot of what makes a good romance: the right balance of spice, fluffiness, serious elements, realistic characters, awkwardness, and diversity. I think the trouble I'm running into is that while I have uplifted Hoang's books as the pinnacle of romance, I keep comparing every romance I read afterwards to them. Perhaps, I am not letting these books exist on their own as I keep searching for that "perfect" romance book. 

I went to twitter a few days ago to say that I don't think any romance book will ever top Hoang's books for me. While I don't necessarily want to proven wrong, I need new romance recommendations that have the same vibe as The Kiss Quotient and won't make me want to throw the book against a wall. Or maybe, they can make me throw the book against a wall in a good way? Anyways, if you've read The Kiss Quotient and books like it, please send me all the recommendations you have. I am trying to find "perfect" romances here, or at least, what's perfect in my eyes, and it's proving to be a difficult task. 

Do you have books you consider to be "perfect?" Do you like Helen Hoang's books? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Scarborough by: Catherine Hernandez

Genre: Fiction

Published: May 2, 2017 by: Arsenal Pulp Press 

Pages: 272 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: white supremacy, Islamophobia, graphic depictions of poverty, parental neglect 

Scarborough follows the often intertwining lives of some of the fourth-largest city in North America's diverse residents. Hina is a Muslim school worker who runs breakfast programs for lower income students, however she faces a lack of support from the school board and racism from some of her student's parents. Alongside Hina, we follow Winsum, a West Indian restaurant worker struggling to keep his business afloat, and Victor, a Black street artist who faces harassment from police. These characters and more feel proud to be from their city, but social stigma and gentrification threatens both their lives and the lives of some of the city's youngest residents. 

This book has been an anticipated read of mine for a long time, and it did not disappoint. For those of you not from Ontario or Canada, Scarborough is a neighbourhood in Toronto known for being culturally diverse, but also impacted by crime and gentrification. The neighbourhood has grown a reputation for being unsafe, despite having a vibrant art and food scene. My mother and most of her family grew up in Scarborough, and I would say that most residents feel protective of the neighbourhood and wish for it to thrive despite gentrification and stigma trying to force its way in. I know the neighbourhood mostly for its delicious Indian/Pakistani restaurants, but I have to admit that since I never grew up in the Scarborough myself, I have been able to remain ignorant to the struggles that some of the residents face. In this book, Catherine Hernandez depicts Scarborough during the early 2000's, when many people were immigrating to the neighbourhood and trying to adjust while lacking support from the city and the wider province.  

I really loved how Hernandez chooses to follow multiple perspectives within this text, as opposed to just one character. She really captures how diverse Scarborough is by displaying characters from all walks of life. I would say that the character who resonated with me the most was Hina, who really tried to connect with her students and their parents despite not always receiving respect in return. In particular, one of her students is Laura, a little girl who faced neglect from her mother and now lives with her father Cory who is a white supremist and also an alcoholic. Cory never shows Hina any respect, and says the most horrific things behind her back and to her face. However, despite all of this, Hina holds onto hope, and she always helps Laura and provides resources to Cory on how best to care for her. What is even more unique, is that despite Cory holding such horrible prejudices, we get little glimpses of him genuinely caring for Laura's wellbeing and trying to keep it all together despite lacking any resources himself to help his daughter have a good life. Is Cory a good dad? The answer is an easy no. However, Hernandez makes it clear that he too faces the affects of poverty in the neighbourhood, and he tries (though often fails) to keep Laura at the very least cared for. Capturing this duality between characters such as Cory was a very unique choice on Hernandez's part, that ultimately made the book all the more impactful. 

Hernandez also chooses to follow Bing, a young Filipino boy who is coming to terms with his sexuality, and Sylvie, an Indigenous girl who moves from shelter to shelter with her mother and disabled brother. Hernandez adds another layer to the story by choosing to explore the affects of growing up queer in a poverty-stricken city, alongside Sylvie who faces anti-Indigenous sentiments and perhaps even the affects of inter-generational trauma. These are children, and yet they are forced to grow up too fast and fail to get the childhoods they deserve because of the systems that have failed them. While the book also portrays adult characters such as Victor and Winsum, I found myself most interested in the perspectives of the young characters as they begin to learn how the world around them views them and how they need to act and look a certain way in order to be accepted into their flawed society. Hernandez knows that these kids are aware of the prejudices they receive, and she gives them such developed personalities despite them being so young. 

The ending of this book is shocking, sad, but also somewhat hopeful. I don't want to spoil anything at all, but I will say that I did not see the ending coming and was very upset with the result. However, I understood why the ending occurred, and how it reinforces the book's overall commentary on the social stigma within Scarborough. However, we also do see glimmers of hope within the end of the text, to show that despite it all, this neighbourhood will continue to thrive and its residents are integral to its survival. I would encourage folks from Toronto, folks from Canada, and folks from beyond to experience this well-crafted book for yourself. 

Have you read Scarborough? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Month in Review: October

It's November, which means Christmas will be fast approaching and before we know it, it'll be 2023! Wow, time flies when you're having fun, or maybe just trying to get by. Either way, here's what happened in October. 

What I Read: 

Heat Wave by: TJ Klune: 3.5/5 stars 

How To Be Perfect by: Michael Schur: 4/5 stars 

Nick and Charlie by: Alice Oseman: 4/5 stars 

The Maid by: Nita Prose: 2/5 stars 

Dating Dr. Dil by: Nisha Sharma: 3/5 stars 

Solitaire by: Alice Oseman: 3/5 stars 

Favourite book: It was an okay reading month, but a rare month with no five star reads! I guess you can't win them all, but no book really blew me away in October. I suppose if we're going from ratings, How To Be Perfect was my favourite. It's a humourous non-fiction about morals and ethics by the tv writer Michael Schur, and it was fun! 

What I Blogged: 

My favourite post that I wrote this month was my discussion on how Changing Your Mind is Ok. It was great to get some things off my chest and share with you all some life updates! All of the comments left by y'all were so wise and useful as well. 

Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

It was Cee's 8th Blogiversary! 

Konna shares a Book Playlist for the Midnight Library 

Lais shares her All-Time Favourite FanFics

Life Stuff: 

October had me discovering what I want to do with my life. For more information, see my favourite blog post! But other than that, it was a fun month full of spooky happenings and being hard at work preparing school applications. I'm very excited for November, because not only do I feel ready to begin Christmas festivities, but I will also be going to Italy at the end of the month with my family! I'm so excited as I haven't travelled since before the pandemic and I am thrilled to be going back to Italy. My dad still has family in Italy, so I'm sure there will be some emotional reunions. 

Other than that, stay tuned for festive posts in the coming months and maybe even more life updates! Who knows at this point. 

That was my October? How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday 28 October 2022

As The Wicked Watch by: Tamron Hall

Genre: Mystery/Crime 

Published: October 26, 2021 by: William Morrow 

Pages: 384 

Rating: 3.5/5 stars 

Jordan Manning is a star reporter in Chicago, and she continues to be a voice for the voiceless. After she covers a string of murders of young Black girls, Jordan becomes frustrated with how soon these girls are forgotten. When Masey James, a 15-year old girl is murdered, Jordan knows that she can turn her anger into action, and she seeks to use her reporting skills to solve the case. She quickly gains contacts within Masey's inner circles. But, solving a crime will prove dangerous, especially when the killer may be closer then she believes. 

I've never really watched Tamron Hall on tv, as she's not as popular in Canada as she is in the States. However, the name recognition definitely did make me intrigued to pick up this book, as a reporter writing about a reporter interested me. I knew that Hall would definitely use her skills to produce a factually accurate piece, especially one that provides the reader with an inside look at how newsrooms work. This book didn't disappoint, though there were some issues with it that I couldn't shake. So, let's get into it: 

First things first, I really appreciated Hall's sensitivity when writing a crime novel. As true crime becomes such an oversaturated market, full of insensitive portrayals of serial killers and disrespecting victims, I am always weary of reading crime books. Despite this book being fictional, I knew it would play off of the tropes of true crime. However, Hall handles the story with as much respect as possible, as these victims mirror the lives of real-life victims. Hall does well to show Manning's anger with the current justice system and how she seeks to correct it. I also appreciated how Manning slowly begins to learn how to deal with victim's families, and she seeks to teach others, especially the younger interns in her newsroom, how they too can be respectful towards grieving families. At no point did I feel like this book was just profiting off of people's interest in crime content, and I think Hall's expertise in the subject of news reporting really came through in that aspect. 

I also think that each character in this book was well-written. Of course, we hear everything from Jordan's point of view, but I actually liked learning about Masey's family the most. Her mother, in particular, is a frightened, obviously very shaken individual, who walks a fine line between wanting to fight for justice for her daughter but also wanting to be at peace. Jordan's interactions with Masey's mother were the most interesting to me, as I think Hall accurately portrayed a grieving mother who has to make some tough decisions, and whose opinions change based on new information she is given. Hall did a good job at showing how victim's families go through a range of emotions and opinions during an investigation, and that their grief is not a one and done process. 

I think Jordan was a strong character, and I didn't mind at all reading from her point of view. The problem I had with her, however, is not necessarily a reflection on her character, but how Hall writes about the investigative system as a whole. Manning is given free-reign to interview suspects, investigate neighbours, and head into crime scenes with not so much backlash at all. In real life, I can't imagine that a reporter would be allowed to be as involved in an active investigation as she was, as she was not a detective and yet knew more than the detectives did. It just didn't strike me as realistic that Jordan had as much freedom as she did and didn't experience any repercussions for clearly crossing boundaries in an investigation. In real life, I would imagine that detectives and police would be quite secretive towards reporters, and it seemed in this text that everything was an open book. 

I also found the ending to be slightly underwhelming. As I discussed, I really loved Masey's mother's character in this book. However, by the end of the book, once the crime is solved, we do not get to see her reaction to the events that unfolded. She just kinda fades into the background as an unanswered question, while Jordan experiences relief that the crime is solved. For someone who played such a big part in the ongoing build up in the book, to have her not be at the end to see the crime be solved really confused me. I wanted to know her reaction, and I was left guessing. 

Overall, this book left me conflicted. It wasn't awful, and had some strong points. But, I didn't leave it feeling fully fulfilled by the ending, and some things just struck me as unrealistic despite Hall being a reporter. I wouldn't not recommend it to people, but I also think that the mixed reviews are valid. 

Have you read As the Wicked Watch? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday 21 October 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: Changing Your Mind Is Ok

If you've read my past few month in review posts you'll know that I've been job searching with little to no success. I decided very early on into my masters degree that I didn't want to pursue a PhD like some of my peers. I firmly stated that I was done with school, that stepping foot into a university again would not be for me, and that I wanted to go right into the job market. I knew finding a job would be difficult, but I stayed determined and found contacts despite nothing really going through. 

Then, I was having a conversation with a few colleagues and some old professors, who were casually mentioning how great it is to be an academic, as you get to keep learning. I began pondering how I had so many unanswered questions from my major research paper for my MA, questions that had to be reduced to footnotes because they just simply couldn't be answered in a paper of forty pages. I began to consider how I had left my paper hanging, that I wouldn't get the chance to revisit it again should I choose to head into the job market so soon. It felt silly to let that learning side of me fall away so quickly. So, I changed my mind. I want to get a PhD. 

I told some friends at first who are currently doing their PhD's and they were extremely supportive. They gave me resources and helped me narrow things down to a few schools that would suit my project best. I met with professors at schools I was interested in and established contacts. Everyone at the schools I'm applying to have been so nice and supportive, and while I didn't really feel confident that I would be able to get a position in the job market, I feel confident that I can do a PhD. And that feels great. 

When I went to talk with an old colleague about my recent future shift, they sarcastically stated how indecisive I am. I was a bit offended, as I had gone to them for help and they immediately started judging my character based on the fact that it takes me a little bit longer to firmly decide what I want to do. I was like this when choosing to do a masters degree as well. I didn't think I wanted to pursue a masters, but after some suggestions by a few professors I jumped into the opportunity, perhaps a little bit later than some of my other friends who knew off the bat that they wanted to continue learning, and I ended up being very successful in the MA program. While it may take me a little bit longer to decide things, I can firmly say that I have never regretted a decision I made on my future after it was finally made. 

I think people forget that indecisiveness and changing your mind is often a symptom of mental illnesses. With my OCD and intrusive thoughts, I tend to overthink every decision before it is set in stone, worrying about every possible outcome and every pro and con. Something that I am constantly working on in therapy is the idea of accepting uncertainty, that I may not be certain about the outcome of every decision I make, but accepting that uncertainty will help me make decisions faster and focus less on the worrying. The point is, I don't need people besides my therapist pointing out how indecisive I am. I know this, and I'm working on it. I need them to know that even if I don't have a decision made before I've even finished what I was previously doing, that doesn't make me any less of a smart person, any less of a successful person, or a person undeserving of new opportunities. It just means that I need a little bit of extra time to come to those conclusions, and I am aware of this extra time I need and will adjust myself accordingly. 

I haven't yet submitted my PhD applications as they are due in the new year, but I know that whatever the outcomes of the applications will be, I want to continue to apply to PhD programs until I get in. I feel happy to stick with this decision. I'm here to tell y'all that changing your mind on anything in your future is ok. It is not worth sticking with a decision that makes you unhappy simply because you are embarrassed of how you'll be perceived if you decide on something else. If you're not confident in your decision, then the final decision hasn't been made yet. This post goes out to my fellow folks who just need a little extra time. Take your time on making that decision, and you'll find yourself much more successful in the long run. 

Are you indecisive? Have you ever changed your mind on an important life path? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Monday 10 October 2022

Four Aunties and a Wedding (Aunties #2) by: Jesse Q. Sutanto

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery 

Published: March 29, 2022 by: Berkley Books 

Pages: 293 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

Meddy Chan is engaged to her handsome college sweetheart Nathan, and wedding plans are in full swing. Of course, Meddy's meddling aunties and her doting mother have made their opinions on the planning known, especially since Meddy doesn't want the aunties' wedding catering business to cater the wedding, but instead have the aunties just enjoy the day as guests. The aunties propose that Meddy hire another wedding catering company run by a Chinese-Indonesian family just like themselves, and Meddy is immediately charmed by the company's photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself. However, things quickly turn devious when Meddy learns that Staphanie and her family are connected to the mafia, and they intend to use Meddy's wedding day to get some revenge. Soon, the aunties and Meddy become tangled into another criminal mess, all while Meddy tries to keep her big day, and her family, under protection. 

This is the second book in the Aunties series, the first one being Dial A for Aunties, which I absolutely loved. I adored the quirky humour of the book and the fact that Sutanto was able to weave a criminal mystery into a hilarious story of immigrant aunties and their antics. I knew I had to give the second book a try. I was delighted by the setting of a wedding, as I just love wedding-centred books, and the charm from the first book remains. I definitely think this book falls into the category of not outdoing the original, but overall, I found it to be a satisfying accompaniment. 

Like I mentioned before, I thought the setting of this book was fabulous. I thought that the aunties' occupations as wedding vendors in the first book made for a very entertaining story, as wedding settings can prove to be full of chaos, especially when opinionated family members are involved. But this time, the wedding that the aunties are preparing for is Meddy's, and we got to see how each aunty truly wanted Meddy to have the best day ever, even if sometimes their intentions could have been a bit overbearing. Sutanto makes it clear that although the aunties are meant to be a bit embarrassing and quirky, they truly do mean well, and the family dynamics of this book are meant to highlight the eccentrics of aunties in a lot of Asian families, as opposed to readers simply making fun of the aunties. I appreciate the aunties because they remind me a lot of the aunties on my Pakistani side: very much into gossip, heavily opinionated, and a little too obsessed with British culture. Still, I think whether you can relate your aunties to these aunties or not, you will find this story to be deeply joyous. 

I enjoyed getting to learn a bit more about Nathan in this book. We meet him in the first book as an accomplished businessman who has a heart of gold. Nathan and Meddy have such a sweet relationship, and he treats her aunties with so much respect. While the aunties try a little too hard to win over Nathan's British family, he never once disrespects them or pokes fun, he truly sees how much they care about Meddy and that's all that matters to him. I loved Meddy's and Nathan's positive relationship and seeing it flourish in this book was so awesome to read. 

I thought the mafia plot to this book was interesting. Meddy and Staphanie start by really connecting due to their family's similarities, and at first you think that a unique friendship is forming. Of course, very quickly it is revealed that Staphanie's family are into some shady business, and I thought the mystery plot of this book was handled with intense organization and well development, so that no plot holes were left. While it's hard to believe how the aunties could get into such an absurd situation again, part of the charm of this series is the absurdity of it all. It's supposed to be over the top, and I can appreciate that. 

I've read a lot of reviews of people saying that while they enjoyed this book, they didn't feel as wowed by it because the personalities of the aunties is already known at this point. And I could definitely agree. Since I already know the aunties are opinionated and eccentric, it was a bit more difficult to be surprised or engaged with their antics as I was in the first book. I don't know if Sutanto will ever be able to top the entertaining aspect of getting to know the aunties for the first time. While I will definitely read the third book, I wonder if eventually, the personalities of the aunties will wear off simply because I already expect what they're going to do. I suppose I'll have to wait and see. Still, if you have yet to explore the world of Meddy and her aunties, please do so! You won't be disappointed. 

Have you read Four Aunties and a Wedding? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Month in Review: September

This past month brought...not many changes. In my previous Month in Review I talked about applying for jobs and keeping my fingers crossed, but there hasn't been much movement on that front at all. Applications are very difficult, but I'm staying positive. Here's what happened in September: 

What I Read: 

Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead by: Elle Cosimano: 4/5 stars 

The Prince and the Dressmaker by: Jen Wang: 5/5 stars 

Eve's Return by: Crystal Bourque: 4/5 stars 

Dancing with the Octopus by: Debora Harding: 5/5 stars 

Catch and Kill by: Ronan Farrow: 5/5 stars 

Our Voice of Fire by: Brandi Morin: 4/5 stars 

Favourite book of the month: Dancing with the Octopus by: Debora Harding surprised me. I picked it up on a whim from the library, not knowing much about it, and now I need everyone to read it. It was a fabulous memoir about a woman who was kidnapped as a teen, and how she dealt with PTSD and learning more about her family as she grew up. I think with all of the true crime "hype" in the world right now, more people should be turning to books like this instead of the more sensationalized media. 

What I Blogged:

My favourite post of the month was my discussion on Burning Out. I think burn-out culture is something that I never really paid attention to until it happened to me, and I was really proud of myself for admitting that I burnt out and reflecting on how to help it not happen again. 

Around the Blogisphere: 

Noel shares the Journal of a Tired Indie Writer 

Roberta asks if you Interact with Authors on Social Media 

Nicole lists books with Stunning Typography 

Life Stuff: 

Like I said before, September really didn't do much for me. While I'm still actively looking for jobs, I haven't really heard much back from anyone, which is disappointing, but also a sign of the times we're in. There's steep competition pretty much everywhere, and I can't expect to hear back unless I'm successful. I'll keep trying to put myself out there, and see how it goes. 

In fun stuff, I did start engaging in fun fall activities like apple picking and beginning to watch Halloween movies. October is such a fun month and I'm looking forward to getting some more baking done too. 

Playoff baseball starts this month, and this house is buzzing with excitement for the Toronto Blue Jays. Here's hoping they can pull out a win in the first round! 

So, that was my month. A little uneventful, but with some fun things sprinkled in. How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

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