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

Thursday, 21 April 2022

She Gets The Girl by: Alyson Derrick and Rachael Lippincott

 Genre: Young adult fiction, contemporary 

Published: April 5, 2022 by: Simon and Schuster 

Pages: 384 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: homophobia, alcoholism involving a parent. 

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review 

Alex Blackwood is a sassy college freshman who is determined to win back her ex and prove to her that she's ready for commitment. Molly Parker is a quirky, awkward freshman who has a lingering crush on her high-school friend Cora. Alex finds the perfect way to reunite with her ex by helping Molly to match with Cora. While Molly is shy and doesn't know a thing about how to get the girl, Alex is a master at flirting, and she decides to give Molly the ultimate dating course in order for her to use her flirtatiousness for good and hopefully win back her girl in the process. But while Alex and Molly attempt to win over other girls, in reality, their plan is actually moving the two girls closer towards each other. 

I thought this was an adorable, fun read. The best part about this book is that it has an OwnVoices sapphic romance. In fact, the two authors are married, which just adds to the overall fluff of the book. I really enjoyed getting to learn about Alex and Molly's characters and I loved the progression of their romance. I think the authors were able to use the love that they have for each other and relate that to the idea of fluffy first-loves in the book, and it was done really well. 

Firstly, it was refreshing to read a book about college freshmen. Most YA books take place in high school, which is fine, but sometimes gets a bit repetitive. In this book, as the main characters are not only dealing with relationship trouble, but also the idea of transitioning from high school to university, an interesting dynamic is brought up. They're not just trying to find love, but they're also trying to make friends in a new environment and find themselves amidst these new changes. I would love to read more books that take place in college/university. 

I think the opposites attract trope was used very well in this book. Molly is shy and awkward, while Alex is outgoing and sassy, and they played off of each other really well. Both girls learn something from each other, with Molly learning to let go a bit and have fun, and Alex learning when to mellow out. I think Alex's growth in particular was interesting to see, especially since she starts off the book with some obvious faults, but ends the book finding a way to commit to a relationship.

The book also deals with some tougher topics like Alex's mother's alcohol addiction. I thought this storyline was treated well, though since I have never experienced that for myself, I can't really comment on it. However, one thing I will say is that while I felt a lot of closure with Alex's storyline with her mother, I'm not sure if I felt the same with Molly and her family. I think I felt more invested in Alex's story overall, and I would have liked to see more development with Molly's family. I wondered if Molly's personal life felt a bit rushed alongside Alex's. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a really fun, fresh take on the YA genre and I love the idea of couples collaborating on romance books. That detail just seems very sweet. 

Have you read She Gets the Girl? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: When You Stand Up For Something You Believe In, But It Doesn't Turn Out Right



Last weekend, I was in a position where I tried to do something with good intentions, but everything went awry. For the sake of this being in the blogosphere, I'm going to keep most details about the situation vague, but for all intents and purposes, I was having a conversation with someone in my personal life, and they said something offensive. They didn't find anything wrong with what they said, but I immediately reacted defensively. I got angry with them, and shockingly stated: "don't say that word." The person was taken aback, we got into an awkward squabble, and the physical conversation was never really resolved. 

In the following days, we communicated digitally in which they apologized, but also expressed concern with how I went about correcting them. The truth is, during the conversation, I was shocked that I immediately reacted with anger to the person. The word from them just kinda slipped out, but I immediately put them on blast and may have potentially embarrassed them. I apologized for my delivery, they apologized for their offensive statement, and I think (or at least hope) that things will go back to normal. The problem is, that after the situation, I immediately regretted how I spoke to the person. Even though what they said was not nice and needed to be addressed, the shock of what they said just immediately took me aback that the only thing I thought of doing was reacting in anger. The whole situation just reminded me about how while it is important to call out offensive language when you hear it, the delivery is equally important so that everyone understands the level of respect that goes into having a difficult conversation such as these. 

I failed to take into account that this person slipped up and said something offensive, but that their mistake does not make them a horrible person. I didn't think before I considered what would be the best way to tell this person that what they said was not okay, and my response potentially made the situation worse. We ended up arguing about it for some time, and I think both parties were just mentally exhausted afterwards. While we did reconcile, I think the overthinking side of me wanted to ruminate about my delivery and all of the other ways I could have approached the situation. I ended up regretting that I said anything at all. My OCD was telling me that it would have been better to just not say anything and let the person continue thinking that such language is okay, rather than just finding another way to approach the situation. I began considering if I was in the wrong, if this person has every right to feel angry with me because of how I put them on blast. I did do something wrong. I reacted immediately in anger and that was not the most affective way to handle the situation. On the same level, the other person did something wrong in saying something offensive. We both made mistakes, and because we both apologized for them, I am fairly confident that we will be able to move forward, my OCD aside. 

I knew I wanted to chat to the blog about this because this whole conversation just got me thinking about how nobody really prepares you for calling out something offensive, until you actually do it. It could very much be a trial and error process. My first time calling someone out went bad, with the person feeling embarrassed and both of us having to apologize for equal wrongdoing. After the incident, I googled some insight into what I could've done better to handle the situation. Things like bringing up sources, or going to a more secluded area rather than stating it in public, are all helpful tools that I now know for the next time I may be in this situation. While I had every intention of simply telling this person that their language was not okay, it did not turn out right at all. The results were uncomfortable. However, at the same time, I feel like I needed this learning process in order to analyze how I can keep my emotions in check and ensure that the intentions behind my conversations are good. 

This rambling post is all just to say that standing up for something you believe in, like calling out offensive language, is hard. It can be difficult to find the right thing to say in the situation, so folks react in anger like I did. This whole process was a learning curve for me. Just as this person made a mistake, I did too, and a mutual apology was needed in this case. Was it uncomfortable to apologize? Yes, because I think sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect people who never mess up. I know I do. But, this situation gave me a lot of good practice, and good exposure to the idea that people of all walks of life make mistakes. The apology is the first step, but going forward, everyone needs to make sure that they are doing their part to make the world a more respectful place. 

Have you ever been in a situation in which you tried to do something right, and it all went wrong? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Ariadne by: Jennifer Saint

 Genre: Mythology 

Published: May 4, 2021 by Flatiron Books 

Pages: 320 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: misogyny, sexual assault, blood/gore, war, animal death 

Ariadne is the kind-hearted princess of Crete, and she lives worried of her brother, the Minotaur, a half man/half bull beast who guards the Labyrinth, a magical maze that sacrifices Athenian children. When a prince of Athens, Theseus, comes with a promise to kill the beast, Ariadne is immediately taken with his charisma. She gives him the tools to escape the maze and kill the Minotaur, and she vows to love him for her whole life. However, betraying her family and escaping with a handsome prince has its costs, and Ariadne soon becomes caught up in war between nations, her love of her family, and a prince who she soon learns she cannot trust. 

Despite me being a huge lover of Greek mythology, Ariadne is one of those stories that I haven't always paid much attention to. I usually stick to stories of the Trojan war. But of course, I am willing to give any Greek mythology retelling a try, and I figured this book might be similar to that of Madeline Miller's Circe. I can definitely say that this book delivered on providing a well-rounded portrayal of the famous myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, though with a special focus on Ariadne. I appreciated Saint's attention to detail and the development of the myth as a whole. 

More authors are beginning to play with writing mythological retellings from a woman's point of view. Figures like Circe, Ariadne, and Helen of Troy are famous mythological figures, though they often get a bad reputation from the male writers who have dominated in telling their stories. There is something about women writers taking back these female figures that I find particularly compelling, and Saint's portrayal of Ariadne was no exception. I got to learn more about what immediately drew her to Theseus, and how his charm captivated her to the point where she could think of no better escape than to leave with him. While this book does rely heavily on the insta-love trope, I didn't mind, because the trope is so common to these myths and since the book is from Ariadne's point of view, I got to see how manipulation from Theseus and the overall isolation she endures prompted her to fall in love with him in the first place. Yes, she falls quickly. But, the poor treatment she receives from her father and her being trapped in a constant cycle of sacrifice motivates her to go for the first chance at escape. This escape just happened to be Theseus. 

I loved getting to learn a bit more about Ariadne's relationship with the Minotaur. Like I said, the myth of the Minotaur is not one that I am super familiar with, so I got to learn a lot through this book. Mainly, I found it fascinating how despite Ariadne contributing to the sacrifice of Athenians, she still finds it in her heart to love her brother. She sees the Minotaur as being a damaged boy, who was cursed through no fault of his own. I loved the idea of Ariadne still loving her brother for who he is, despite the things he cannot control. Saint makes it clear that the Minotaur at his core is a damaged individual, who is controlled by Minos and banished to a constant cycle of abuse from the gods. I think the duality of his character was shown really well through Ariadne's relationship with him. The Minotaur's story is sad, it is not a story of a triumphant hero slaying a monster. Saint made this distinction clear. 

I was really captivated with the book until about three quarters of the way through, when I felt my attention wavering a bit. Without giving too much away, after Ariadne sees her chance of escape with Theseus, there is a lot of action, but then some falling action. There were times in which I felt Ariadne's character was stuck, and Saint wasn't really doing much with her character. The ending was ok, but not entirely satisfying like I get with other mythological retellings. I was captivated for most of the book, but after the main turning point happened, I just wondered where the author could take the character from here, and I'm not sure I was truly enthralled. 

Overall, I thought Ariadne was a great addition to the world of Greek mythology retellings, specifically retellings from the woman's perspective. Saint does a great job at capturing the misogyny of some of myth's most famous heroes, and the troubles that put so many women figures into the unfortunate positions that they are most famous for. I now have a newfound appreciation for Ariadne, and I would love to read more of her story. 

Have you read Ariadne? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: It's Been A While: Let's Talk Mental Health

 


CW: discussions of panic attacks and OCD-related harm intrusive thoughts 

Hi friends! I know I haven't blogged in a while, I kinda took an unexpected hiatus in February. In fact, I didn't even think I was going to write today because I've been overrun with schoolwork. It's now 10:00 at night, and I just had a panic attack. The truth is, the only thing I could think of that would make me feel better was blogging. So, I'm writing this on Thursday, and the post will probably go up tomorrow. This is my disclaimer that this post may not be well-executed lol. But in any case, blogging is therapy, so here we are. I guess I'm not proud of the fact that a panic attack led me back to blogging, but I will try to see this as a blessing in disguise. 

I've been very busy lately. Schoolwork is in crunch-time mode, and after my courses are over, I'll be working on my major research project for my masters degree. During that time, I'll also be going to my first academic conference in Montreal, which I am equally excited and nervous about. My supervisor is giving me a lot of amazing opportunities, and exciting things are on the way. However, with such excitement, also comes stress. Obviously I made the decision to hold off on blogging, and that was the right one to make. I am on track with my schoolwork, and will be talking with my supervisor tomorrow to begin preparations for my research project. But changes and new opportunities usually carry with them some nerves, and these changes have definitely been weighing on my mind. What I've noticed, is when I start getting stressed, whether it be unrelated to my OCD or not, my OCD starts flaring up. This is exactly what happened tonight. 

A bit of a recap since it's been a while since I've talked about this, but I suffer with harm OCD intrusive thoughts. I have constant, anxiety producing thoughts about harming people, and these thoughts cause me a lot of panic, usually sending me into a spiral. While I don't have fast-acting medication for the panic attacks, I do take an anti-psychotic that helps take the edge off. Yet, as any mental illness, it comes in peaks and valleys. Unfortunately, I almost reached my peak, and I haven't had this feeling in a significant amount of time. So, things do feel a little unnerving. However, am I disappointed in myself? Absolutely not. 

Usually when I have panic attacks, I cannot pull myself out of them and I end up crying in a family member's arms. But, this time, I decided to practice first some breathing that my therapist taught me: 3-2-4 breathing. After breathing, and reading one of the scripts I wrote out for myself when I get a bad specific intrusive thought (I have a million scripts), I actually started to feel a bit better! Now I'm writing, and I can feel my heart rate slowing, when I could have just as easily been at a full 10 on the panic attack scale right now. While I don't know what will happen after I shut the computer down, in this moment, I am a bit calmer. And I'm counting that as a win. 

After this, I think I'll either watch some Parks and Recreation or re-read Percy Jackson for the billionth time. Just self-care stuff. I guess I wanted to document this because I know many of y'all also suffer with panic and anxiety, and I think we could all do with sharing our wins with each other. Yes, I have very significant intrusive thoughts. Yes, the stress I have been under has caused me to think about those thoughts even more, which sent me into a panic. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. But for now, I had the energy to pick up my laptop and write. That is what I wanted to do. 

I was going to begin this post with apologizing if I sounded too "woe is me," or egotistical by talking about my win. But, now I realize that I found true value in writing this post. Stress can make our mental illnesses flare up, it's just the name of the game. But, what is making me stressed is also exciting opportunities that will help me throughout my career. So, I can also look upon these events with joy. While I may not know how I will feel in an hour from now, right now, I am peaceful. And if in an hour I spiral again, I will not beat myself up, I will look upon this moment as a win. And that's all I can ask for. 

Did you have a mental health win recently? Does your stress cause you to spiral? How many times have you read Percy Jackson? Talk to me! 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Winter Counts by: David Heska Wanbli Weiden

 Genre: Mystery, Thriller 

Published: August 25, 2020 by: Ecco 

Pages: 336 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: drug use, heroin overdose, discussion of alcohol addiction, discussion of violence against children, gun violence, blood 



Virgil Wounded Horse lives on Rosebud Indian Reservation with his nephew Nathan, who he adopted after his sister died. After struggling with alcoholism, Virgil is now completely sober, and dedicates his life to being a vigilante on the reservation. When the police or tribal council fail to deliver justice, Virgil steps in to set things right. However, when drugs make their way onto the reservation, Virgil faces a new kind of threat, as the drugs have found Nathan, the boy who Virgil has dedicated his new life to protect. Together with his ex-girlfriend Marie, Virgil travels around the reservation and beyond to find the source of the drugs and shut it down, but this task will prove dangerous as Virgil sinks deeper into the investigation. 

I am very picky with thrillers. Sometimes thrillers do not grip me like they should, and the crimes and aftermath end up going way over my head. Admittedly, sometimes I find thrillers extremely boring. So, I wasn't sure what to expect when reading this book. I was excited for the Indigenous representation, specifically Lakota representation, as I don't read many books that centre around the Lakota nation. David Heska Wanbli Weiden is a member of the Lakota nation (thanks Cee @ Dora Reads for pointing this out!), so a big plus for the novel is the #OwnVoices representation. I was immediately engrossed into the story, and I thought that David Heska Wanbli Weiden did a fantastic job at building up the threat and investigation, while also weaving through the story topics of Lakota identity, customs, and traditions. 

Virgil is an incredibly complex character. He was previously addicted to alcohol, but now he is sober and his only mission is to protect his nephew Nathan, as well as anybody on the reservation who needs someone to advocate for them. While Virgil's methods of resolution may be unorthodox, his role as vigilante plays such an important part in the building up of the crime and Virgil's personal connection to it. Not only do the drugs affect Virgil because Nathan is involved, but he also has a strong care for children and teens, and it is evident that he pushes hard to solve this crime because he wants better futures for the kids on the reservation than perhaps the early adult years that he had. I rarely ever read vigilante characters, but I found myself rooting for Virgil every step of the way and I could completely understand that his heart was in the right place. 

I also really loved Virgil's ex-girlfriend, Marie Short Bear. Marie was fascinating because she is somewhat caught in between worlds. She is dedicated to the reservation and making the lives of the people on it better, despite them not always being supportive of her. However, she also has the opportunity to leave the reservation and go to medical school, and she struggles with making the decision to leave, or staying and finishing the work that she started. Marie was empathetic, intelligent, and a great foil to Virgil's character. I thought that the two complimented each other very well. While Virgil likes to seek reparations using physical force, Marie prefers to use her mind to come up with a solution. Both methods work for each character, and the book doesn't try to tell the reader why Marie is a better character than Virgil or vice versa. Marie teaches Virgil to be more patient, and Virgil teaches Marie that there are many causes worth fighting for. They were a fantastic pairing, and their dynamic was great to see. 

The story was well-balanced, with a great mix of information surrounding the crime, climatic action, and falling action/resolutions. Throughout the story we see Virgil reconciling with his Lakota identity, something that he hasn't always embraced, and there was also interesting information about Lakota customs for readers who may be unfamiliar. I cannot recommend this book enough if you are into thrillers, as I think it offers something different into the thriller genre, with its diverse cast of characters and integration of the Lakota nation from a Lakota author.   

Have you read Winter Counts? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: How Do You Read Comics/Graphic Novels?



In the spirit of my superhero course and all the graphic novels and comics I have been reading recently, I wanted to talk a bit about my reading practices. Something that I've observed when I read comics or graphic novels is that I always pay attention to the text first, as opposed to art. I find this detail interesting, because the main component of graphic fiction is that there are graphics attached to the text. If anything, the text is not intended to be the focal point of where your eye goes, as the art is much bigger, much brighter, and would typically catch someone's attention. So I wonder, why is it that when I read graphic fiction, my eyes immediately go to the text? Why is it that sometimes, I forget that there's art at all? 

I want to make clear that I love graphic fiction dearly. I read graphic fiction because I find that it's really easy for me to absorb and be entertained by, and usually I pick graphic fiction that aligns with my interests such as Marvel or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So, just because I don't tend to focus on the graphics, doesn't mean that I hate the genre. I think it just means that I read the genre in a different way than other people might. I can't exactly say why my eye immediately goes to the speech bubbles before the art, other then maybe conclude that it has to do with what I'm used to. I only got into graphic fiction within the past couple of years, but I've loved fiction books for years. So perhaps, I gravitate towards the words in a graphic novel because I was trained to look at words before I look at pictures. Or, perhaps this all says something more about learning practices. 

I was telling a seminar that I teach that when they plan out their essays for the course, they should use whatever methods they learn best in to help them. So if they're a visual learner, they should draw out a mind map. If they're an oral learner, they should speak their essay out loud and record themselves. If they learn best by reading, they should just start writing. I align myself most with reading, as sometimes graphics don't allow me to grasp what I'm supposed to understand, and orality doesn't engage me. So I wonder if the way I learn best has allowed for me to almost gloss over the graphics in a comic book and instead trust the text to tell me all that I need to know about the story, because I'm confident that the text will carry me through. Now, this isn't always the case, as graphic fiction relies heavily on the graphics. Since the text is not really the focal point of the comic, there isn't always enough description in the text to build the world of the story. The pictures do crucial work in establishing setting, that the text cannot always do. However, no matter what, I will always see the text first. It's just an odd way of how my brain works. 

Usually how I read graphic fiction is by reading all of the text, and then going back and looking at the pictures. I know that may sound really odd, but nothing about how I read makes sense to me either. But either way, I do think this opens up an interesting conversation about learning methods and how people practice the great art of reading. However you read graphic fiction, it is a valuable genre, and I'd love to know more about how you approach it. 

How do you read graphic fiction? What kind of learner are you? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess 

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Jonny Appleseed by: Joshua Whitehead

Genre: Fiction, LGBT 

Published: May 15, 2018 by: Arsenal Pulp Press

Pages: 224 

Rating: 5/5 stars 



CW: references to residential schools and inter-generational trauma, addiction, homophobia, fetishization of Indigenous people, abuse 

While on the way to his stepfather's funeral, Jonny Appleseed, a Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer young adult recounts his childhood and all that led him to where he is today. Jonny flashes back to when he first realized he was gay, his first love, and a life influenced by inter-generational trauma that has led him to fetishize himself on dating websites in order to make money. Jonny left the reservation for the big city, but his return will bring back past memories and reignite the respect he has for his beloved grandmother, his kokum. 

I've had to read this book a couple of times: once for pleasure and the other time for school. I found that when I had to read the book for school and I was able to talk through my feelings of the book with other students, it resonated with me even more. Reading from Indigenous queer authors, or Indigiqueer authors as Whitehead puts it, isn't something that I always dive into. However, Jonny's story touches on so many topics that I couldn't help but find some sort of connection to it. It was an emotional coming of age story, and I can see myself recommending this book for years to come. 

To start, the plot in and of itself is quite simple. The book takes place on Jonny's journey back to the reservation, and this is a time of self reflection for him as he recounts what his childhood was like. There isn't much present action that takes place, as the book has a significant amount of flashbacks. But in Jonny's flashbacks, his present self becomes all the more clear to the reader. Whitehead does a really cool thing where he uses Jonny's past to talk about Jonny's present, and the transition of time is made really clear in how Jonny's relationship with his friends and family changes. 

Something that Whitehead talks a lot about in interviews is how Jonny as a character can be reflected through his own life experiences. While the book is by no means autobiographical, Whitehead's own identity of an Indigiqueer person is certainly influenced in Jonny's way of life. Own voices novels are so important, especially when themes of coming of age are so prevalent. I couldn't help but see the authenticity of Jonny's life experiences and how Whitehead took care to share an important, emotional and authentic story. 

This book doesn't have a main action take place, or a main problem that the main character has to solve. However, it becomes clear to the reader that Jonny is at a transformative moment in his life, in which he needs to reflect on the person he has become and who he wants to be. A lot of the topics in this book are hard, because they hit on inter-generational trauma that many Indigenous teens and young adults know too well. Jonny's quest to simply survive has impacted how he feels about his own Indigenous identity. It's not an easy read despite the book being easy to follow in structure, so please do take care to read the content warnings. However, I think this book is a staple for those who want to read more books by queer authors, and especially those who want to see how gender and sexuality is explored in Indigenous communities. 

Have you read Jonny Appleseed? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess


Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Month in Review: January

 


Now that I've returned to blogging after a hiatus, it is also now time to return to monthly wrap-ups! I really missed these posts, so here's what I got up to in January, and how my 2022 is shaping up to be: 

What I Read: 

I've set my Goodreads goal for 100 books, which I'm fairly confident I'll make judging by my reading list for school and the types of books I'll be reading. I'm already on track, and some of the books I read in January include: 

Monstress: Volume 1 by: Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda: 2/5 stars 

Moon-Girl and Devil Dinosaur by: Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos: 5/5 stars 

Our Violent Ends by: Chloe Gong: 5/5 stars 

Cyclopedia Exotica by: Arminder Dhaliwal: 4/5 stars 

Squad by: Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle: 5/5 stars 

Fall On Your Knees by: Ann-Marie MacDonald: 3/5 stars 

Favourite Book of the Month: You may be able to tell that I read a heavy assortment of graphic novels this month. This is partly why I'm able to keep on track of my goal. Graphic novels are faster for me to get through and I've been absolutely loving them. Some of these books I had to read for a superhero course I'm in, and some were just for fun. But my favourite has to be Moon-Girl and Devil Dinosaur. I got it as a Christmas present and it is such a fun series. It's diverse, heart-warming, and has some great cameos from other Marvel superheroes. 

What I Blogged: 

Like I said, I've returned to blogging weekly and my new routine is shaping up very well. I'm hoping that I won't have to stop any time soon because I really did miss it. My favourite post of the month would have to be when I wrote about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Abuses of Power. There are content warnings attached to this post, but it felt great to get out my frustrations towards the creator of one of my favourite tv shows. 

Some of My Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Cee talks about censorship in Of Monsters, Mice and Men 

Roberta shares Her Most Fulfilling Author/Blogger Interactions 

Claire says that 2022 is Ours 

Sabrina is Reading Outside Her Comfort Zone 

Life Stuff: 

It's a new term, and I've got an easier course load than last term, which is good. As I mentioned before, I'm taking a superhero course, which has definitely fueled my graphic novel collection. I'm hopeful that this term will bring about some new reading favourites, but of course, I also expect things to get busy as we near the end. 

Other than school stuff, I'm really looking forward to the Olympics this month! Today is the opening ceremony, and I've been waiting so patiently for things to kick off. My family are very much into the Olympics, and I am extremely passionate about snowboarding in particular. I'll be cheering on Canada and hoping that everyone has a safe and successful time in Beijing! 

That was my January. How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Marshmallow Skye (The Chocolate Box Girls #2) by: Cathy Cassidy

 Genre: Middle-grade fiction 

Published: September 1, 2011 by Puffin Books 

Pages: 304 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: parental divorce, grief, use of slur to refer to Romani travelers 



Skye and her twin sister Summer have always been inseparable. However, while Summer has flourished in her talent for ballet, Skye has recently been feeling left out, and she struggles to fit in while her sister takes on new opportunities. While feeling isolated, Skye stumbles upon an old chest full of vintage treasures, and soon she begins to find a connection with an old ancestor. While Skye fills her head with stories of a past time, she begins to move further away from her sister, and the two girls must find a way to reconcile their differences despite wanting to forge their own paths. 

This is the second book in the Chocolate Box Girls series by Cathy Cassidy, which I really took an interest to after seeing it recommended on Booktube. I just love light-hearted middle-grade novels, they can be the most perfect form of escapism. Since this series is native to the UK, I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series. However, I was able to find them for a reasonable price on Amazon, and now I'll be able to enjoy the rest of the books, which I'm thrilled about. While Marshmallow Skye didn't completely win me over like the first book, it was still a good sequel and encouraged me to continue on with the series. 

I really appreciated how Cassidy gives Skye and Summer different interests despite them being twins. Being a twin myself, I think the common trope is to make twins mirrors of each other, both in looks and in personality. However, while Summer is extroverted and opinionated, Skye is quieter and more laid-back, and I think the dynamic between the two sisters was well developed. I could definitely relate to their fears of drifting apart, and I think Cassidy did a good job at capturing an age-appropriate representation of the struggles with finding your own interests against your best friend. 

I liked how Skye took up an interest in vintage things, as her interest was unique to her and I had a good time seeing how she processes the different treasures that she finds. Once again the book is set in Dorset, England, and Skye's fascination with history mixed with the setting blended well together. I think the atmosphere, like the first book, was overall very cozy and a big reason as to why I enjoy these books in the first place. They're just easy to get through, calming, and every book is filled with some significant descriptions of chocolate, as Skye's step father runs a chocolate business. 

Now something that I didn't really enjoy in this book is the overuse of the g-slur to refer to Romani travelers. A lot of Skye's fascination with history stems from this exoticized viewpoint of Romani's, which I think got a little bit out of hand. It went to the point where I could definitely see almost an objectification of Romani people, and I think Skye was very much given a white gaze, where she looked onto Romani people with a fascination that stems from exoticizing a group of people due to their skin colour. I completely understand that this book was written in the early 2010's, when the standards for acceptable language was different. Still today people are just starting to learn about the problems with the g-slur, as it is very commonly used in colloquial language to refer to Romani people. However, I do think Skye's interest in Romani people could have been handled better, and as a middle-grade book, it could have become a teaching moment for kids to learn about a culture unfamiliar to them. I still quite enjoyed the book, but these problems were striking enough that I did take notice. 

Overall, I think Marshmallow Skye delivered on giving the cozy, comforting tone that I expect out of The Chocolate Box Girls series. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. While I do think the book has some issues that can be chalked up to the time period it was published, it was a satisfying sequel. Just do be aware going into the book of its issues, as reading a book in 2022, we can always do better to point out issues. 

Have you read Marshmallow Skye? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Abuses of Power

 


CW: this post will discuss the various abuses committed by Joss Whedon, as well as addiction issues, and will also include major spoilers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. 

I mentioned in my life update from two weeks ago that I am currently back on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer kick. Right now I'm watching Angel, the spin-off series about Buffy's former vampire love interest who makes his way to Los Angeles to help victims of magical crimes. Angel teams up with Cordelia, the "mean-girl," from Buffy, and the two go through some amazing character development, with Angel redeeming himself from years of past crimes, and Cordelia becoming a more empathetic and independent individual. Cordelia, played by Charisma Carpenter, easily became one of my favourite characters from the Buffy-verse. That's why the downfall of her character, and the reasoning behind the downfall, really upset me. 

*Spoilers for Angel and mentions of abuse ahead* 

Last year, actor Ray Fisher came forward with allegations against Joss Whedon for creating a toxic work environment on the set of Justice League. I'm not familiar with Whedon's work in the DC universe, so for the most of this post, I will be focusing on his work in the Buffy-verse. However, it's crucial that we also remember the bravery of Fisher and other actors for standing up to Whedon. After Fisher came forward, Charisma Carpenter posted that Whedon verbally abused her on the set of Angel, especially after she told him she was pregnant before filming the fourth season. The result, was that Whedon killed Carpenter's character off in season four, by giving her a huge downfall in which she commits some heinous acts, all while under the extremely under-developed guise that she was possessed by another being. All of the growth that Cordelia went through is un-done, all because Joss Whedon decided to take it out on Carpenter. When I first got into Buffy, I was still in high-school, so I didn't know of these allegations. It's only been recently during my re-watch that I've come to recognize why Whedon made the writing decisions that he did, and it has made it extremely difficult for me to reconcile my love for all things Buffy, with the asshole who made it all. 

First and foremost, it is our duty as consumers of media to believe victims when they come forward with allegations of abuse. Recently, Whedon came into the public eye by doing an interview with the Vulture, where he pretty much denies all allegations and chalks a lot of his previous faults down to addiction issues. I'm not going to re-circulate the interview because I think it just gives Whedon more publicity. However, an important thing that I want to point out is how insensitive it is that he admits he has addiction troubles, and yet he uses those troubles to excuse the fact that he is also just a shitty person. Addiction is a mental illness, and people struggling with addiction can commit acts that they will later regret and want to take back. There is always room for people with addiction to heal, and to work towards redemption. However, Joss Whedon doesn't seek that redemption for himself. Instead he calls his victims names, and makes them sound stupid for even saying their piece in the first place. He makes people with addictions all sound like monsters, which is not the case. If you are struggling with addiction, you are worthy to heal. Joss Whedon does have an addiction, and he has every right to heal himself from that addiction. However, at the same time, he needs to take accountability for his actions, which he continues to fail to do. 

I love Buffy. I think it is a brilliant show, and its spin-off Angel is also a fascinating exploration on how to redeem oneself from the past. Whedon created some great shows, but I no longer want to give credit to him. Instead, I give credit to the actresses that made these shows great: such as Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Charisma Carpenter. While Whedon has been lifted up as this pillar of feminist tv, we as viewers have forgotten that at his core, he is a misogynist. He has not grasped the concepts of feminism, and the concepts of redemption that his characters represent. All he was concerned about was exploiting the idea of feminism to uplift himself. If Whedon really cared about his female characters, he would've given their actresses more respect. 

I suffer a lot from morality OCD, and a large component of that is me overanalyzing media I consume to make sure that it is completely unproblematic in subject matter and in the people who made it. Recently I've been struggling a lot with wanting to watch Angel, but also not wanting to give Whedon more money. I understand that we cannot do everything perfectly in life, and I can enjoy the show and the work that Carpenter does on the show while also recognizing that Whedon is not a great creator. It is through posts like these when I am able to get my more deeper feelings out, and realize that a show that I really love had a bad person behind it. I can enjoy a show and also recognize its problematic past, the two can exist at the same time. But when I see Whedon get more publicity through a magazine spread, that doesn't sit right with me. I think all of us Buffy fans can continue appreciating the universe for what it is, and the comfort that it brings us, but there is no need for us to honour Joss Whedon just because he created the world. 

I feel as if this post is very much an info-dump of some pent-up feelings I've been having the past couple of weeks in respect to watching Whedon content and struggling with all of the pain he has caused actors who I really appreciate. I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this post, but I guess I'll just leave it at this: Buffy and Angel are great shows because they demonstrated magical beings dealing with human issues such as misogyny, crime, and redemption. We can watch these shows and find comfort in the characters. But, I do not ever want to give kudos to Whedon for creating such a world, and I hope that soon he will recognize that his actions will never be forgotten by the fans. 

Do you watch Buffy or Angel? Did you read the Whedon article? What do you think about consuming media that has been created by problematic people? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Thriller, Contemporary 

Published: May 22, 2018 by: Katherine Tegen Books 

Pages: 448 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: child abuse, murder, PTSD, racism 



Claudia and her best friend Monday have always been inseparable, willing to tell one another anything. Until one day, when Monday doesn't show up for school. Claudia knows that it is unlike Monday to leave her best friend without telling her where she went, so she begins to try to put the pieces together as to where Monday is. The problem is, nobody but Claudia seems to be taking Monday's disappearance seriously. The police have no interest in a missing Black child, and Monday's family react defensively to Claudia's questions. All Claudia has are possible clues that Monday has left behind for her, and she is determined to find out where her friend is. 

This book was really quite something. It was shocking and disturbing, while still offering important social commentary on the epidemic of missing Black children and the systemic barriers put in place by the very people who are supposed to protect Black communities. While I did have some trouble with the format of this book, I still overall thought it to be a jarring read that really impacted me. 

Claudia is a fascinating character, and I enjoyed how Jackson wrote and developed both her and Monday. The two come from different economic backgrounds, with Claudia's parents both having stable jobs and high expectations for their daughter, while Monday comes from an abusive household and doesn't really get attention from her mother. Claudia's parents are reluctant to helping their daughter because of their judgements of Monday's background, and I thought these details were needed, because I could imagine such a conversation happening in real life. So often, different communities are labelled as "the bad communities." Parents from middle-class backgrounds are reluctant in having their children associate in these communities. However, this book explored what happens when these stereotyped communities are ignored. It results in children going missing, and parents turning a blind eye. While this story was frustrating in the sense that nobody but Claudia took Monday's disappearance seriously, I thought the reaction from the middle-class people in the story was sadly accurate to a situation that could happen in real life, and Jackson did a great job at showing the consequences that come out of these situations. 

I really liked how this book explored Monday's character even if she was not always present in it. There are flashbacks to Monday, but a lot of Monday's story is told by Claudia and by Monday's own family. I learnt a lot about Monday just by reading about what other people said about her, and this made me want to root for her to come back even more. I ended up reading this book rather quickly, because I wanted to know what had happened to this girl and if she was safe. I ended up rooting for a character who we don't get to see that much in the story, which made the reading more emotional. 

I will say that the main issue I had with the book is the way it is structured. The book follows Monday and Claudia growing up, but also moves forward to the present after Monday has disappeared. The result is that a lot of the chapters use years to explain what timeline we're in, however this made the reading confusing. One chapter could be: "two years before Monday's disappearance," then it goes back into the present, then it goes three years back, and continues. I found it hard to situate myself within a certain timeline and often I just ended up confused as to what time I was in. I would have liked for the book to stay more consistent with one moment in the present, and one moment in the past, in order to be more focused. 

This book is labelled as a thriller, but it is so much more than a mystery in which one is disconnected from the characters. I feel like thrillers are often there to keep the reader entertained, but I wouldn't say that I was entertained in a positive sense by the book. I was certainly concerned, and very disturbed, and I think Jackson did a great job at reinventing the thriller genre so that it still has aspects of a crime that needs to be solved, while still rooting itself within a particular social issue that isn't supposed to be comfortable. Overall, I would recommend this book for folks who can handle its heavy subject matter (see content warnings), because I think it is an important book. 

Have you read Monday's Not Coming? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 7 January 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: How Do You Keep Track of New Releases?



Every December I usually get some Indigo gift cards for my birthday and Christmas. (For those of you outside Canada, Indigo is our main bookstore.) Then on the day after Christmas, I go crazy buying books that I wouldn't normally purchase in a physical format. The thing that I've been noticing, especially this year, is that I never actually save my gift cards for when there's a new release out later in the year that I know I will love. I don't even preorder books using the gift cards. Mainly the reason for this is, that I never can keep track of when new releases are coming out. Part of this problem comes from forgetfulness, and part of it is me being impatient and just wanting to spend the gift cards right away. However, I do think I need to come up with a better system of how to keep track of new releases, so I know just when to wait to buy books, and what to wait for. 

I do read fellow book blogger's posts throughout the year, when people share what upcoming releases they're excited for. But I don't think bookmarking these posts and returning back to them would help with my forgetfulness. I would simply forget to check back on the posts. Putting reminders in my phone on new releases doesn't seem practical, as I try to reserve reminders for really important things. I just don't think at the moment I'm that great at marking down throughout the year what books are coming out and why I should wait for them. Mainly I'm appealing to those of you who do make posts documenting releases you're excited for, and I want to know how you get your information and how to remember what to look out for. 

I do often see upcoming releases through author announcements on Twitter, but again, these announcements often go in my one ear, and out the other. For example, I know that author Mark Oshiro is coming out with a new Nico and Will story as a part of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson universe, and I know that when that book comes out, I would like to be in the loop. However, I can't seem to find a system that'll give me news as soon as it happens. 

I suppose that finding out a new book has been released through blog posts and buzz on Twitter isn't all that bad, as sometimes the surprise of realizing that a book you know you'll love has now been released is a welcome surprise. However, I would love to have this information before I spend all my gift cards on other books, and I just need to find a better way on how to get this information. 

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this post. I think I'm really just looking for some organizational help from fellow book bloggers. What are some simple things I can do to know when new releases are approaching? Are any of you as forgetful as I am? What is your most anticipated new release of 2022? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess