Sunday, 29 January 2023

The Prince and the Dressmaker by: Jen Wang

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Graphic Novel 

Published: February 13, 2018 

Pages: 277 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: minor bullying regarding gender norms 

In a regal setting inspired by Paris, Prince Sebastian is waiting for the king and queen to find him a suitable wife. However, the prince is less enthused about marriage and would rather twirl around in beautiful dresses made by his best friend Frances. At night, Frances and Sebastian sneak out and take the fashion world by storm. But Sebastian's princely duties are starting to catch up with him, and he begins to wonder if he can be both a ruler, and a beautiful fashion icon at the same time. 

This book was an absolute delight. I saw it in a bookstore when I was on vacation back in the summer, and I just knew it would be one that I would need the physical copy of. The pictures were whimsical and fun, and the story was heartwarming and refreshing. I would recommend this book to tweens, teens and even adults looking for something easy to read. 

Jen Wang went above and beyond creating beautiful artwork in a gorgeous colour palette. The book is made up of pastel artwork that perfectly captures the whimsy nature of the book. I loved the use of soft pinks throughout the panels, and I couldn't help but focus in on the pictures even when my mind naturally goes to the words in a graphic novel. Wang made the pictures so soft and sweet. 

The story is full of fluff and fashion, though without being dull. Wang is still able to build action and tension within the text, but not in a way that automatically defaults to trauma. Yes, Sebastian does endure some stigma due to his like for wearing dresses. But the book ends on such a happy and hopeful note, and just when you think this is going to be a sad tale, the ending turns out to be so positive. Not to mention that the final few panels are just really fun as well. 

I have to say that I really liked that Wang doesn't really label Sebastian's gender or sexuality throughout the text. I think it's easy to stereotype boys wearing dresses, and saying that they are gay. Or that masc-presenting people who wear dresses must not be cisgender. But Wang just lets Sebastian be Sebastian, without the labels. He has a wholesome, adorable relationship with his best friend Frances, who was also a well-rounded character you can't help but root for. I appreciated the side plots that involved fashion within the story, as seeing Frances have a passionate career in the industry was really cool to see. 

Overall, this book was easy to get through, light and fluffy, and a great example of how to show positive representation of challenging gender norms without resorting to trauma. I think this book would be perfect for tweens wanting to get into reading graphic novels, and the message can't be beat. 

Have you read The Prince and the Dressmaker? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 20 January 2023

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by: Akwaeke Emezi

Genre: Romance, Contemporary 

Published: May 24, 2022 by: Atria Books 

Pages: 288 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: death of a spouse, PTSD 

It's been five years since visual artist Feyi Adekola's spouse was killed in a car accident, and Feyi is coping as best as she can. She feels ready to try and see if she can get a second chance at love, and after she has a flirty encounter with a man named Nasir, she thinks that maybe loving again is possible. Nasir invites Feyi to a luxury island where is his father Alim works as a celebrity chef. While there, Feyi's art career flourishes with opportunity, and she is immediately charmed by Nasir's family. However, things get complicated when Feyi begins to grow closer to Alim as they bond over shared grief, and Feyi begins to question the relationship she has formed with Nasir. 

When I heard that Akwaeke Emezi was writing a romance, I was intrigued. Emezi is known for their powerful, soulful writing, though often these tales come with unimaginable sorrow and trauma. This book seemed a little bit lighter while still dealing with some tough themes, and I thought the island setting would make it perfect for summer. I was definitely not disappointed, as the book definitely has Emezi's distinctive, poetic prose. However, I think most people will find the romance in this book a bit dividing, as I certainly did. 

I think it was really unique of Emezi to have her main character be a widow. I don't read a ton of romance books where the main character is a widow trying to find love again, but I think this detail introduces a whole different layer to the character and makes the stakes surrounding the romance all the more complex. I appreciated seeing how Feyi grapples with wanting to learn to live again, while also not wanting to forget her past love behind. Her and Alim bond as they have both lost past loves, and I think seeing people share grief with one another can be an incredibly healing process. 

This book has a lot of wonderous food imagery, as well as takes place in a luxurious island setting. Emezi wastes no time in filling the page with delicious food and a glorious setting that really helped to make this book an easy to get through read. Since the island is in the Caribbean, I got introduced to a bunch of different foods and flavours that I was not familiar with, and I think setting this book on an island when the book was released right before summer was a smart move. This book definitely set the vibe of  a summer romance really well, and the food imagery was a nice added touch. 

The book begins by introducing Feyi as a woman whose soulmate is her best friend Joy. I definitely don't want to count out Joy, as she was a very welcome addition to the book. Joy has helped Feyi through thick and thin, and their friendship was so supportive and healthy. I think showing platonic soulmates within a romance book is such a unique but important feature, as oftentimes romances can kind of push the friend characters to the side. However, Joy is a ride or die friend to Feyi, and honestly they may have been the most important relationship to the book. 

This book functioning as a romance can be very polarizing to some people. I have seen folks criticize the romance as unhealthy, or people characterize Feyi as being a shitty person because of the feelings that she develops. I really don't want to give much away as I think this is a book that you just have to read and form your own opinions on, but by reading the synopsis and other reviews, it's no secret that the romance in this book is complicated. Thus, my opinions on the romance are complicated. Do I think the romance was unhealthy? No. Do I think Feyi is a bad person? No. Nobody is perfect, and Feyi is learning and growing as she continues to deal with her PTSD after her spouses' death. However, I don't know if I could completely root for the romance in this book. I think if I were involved in the situation myself I would have a really, really hard time rooting for the romance. Like I said, you just have to read it to know what I'm talking about, but at the end of the day, I couldn't give this book five stars because I just wasn't sure if I was wholly supportive of the romantic relationship. I'm gonna sound like a broken record, but it's...complicated. 

Overall, I would recommend this book because I need to know other people's opinions on it. I think it is definitely worth reading for its setting and food imagery, and I think even reading the romance side of it will leave people thinking, which is a good thing! 

Have you read You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 13 January 2023

2022 Year in Review

2023 is here, and will take some getting used to. I'm still writing 2022 when I have to date something. But, I thought it would be fun to recap the bookish, blogish, and life things that happened for me in 2022. Some things were awesome, some things were tough, but overall, I can say that it was a good year. 

Bookish Stuff: 

I went over to my Goodreads stats to recap the reading I did in 2022. Overall I read 142 books, which beat my goal of 100. 41,328 pages were read, with my shortest book being a Captain America comic book at 23 pages, and the longest being The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald at 848 pages. My average book length was 291, which seems fair. I tend to go for books under 300 pages, I am not the biggest fan of longer books. 

The most shelved book I read was The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, which was shelved by over 1.6 million readers. This makes sense, as I know the book went viral on tik tok. My least shelved book was Original Sins by Matt Rowland Hill, which was a queer memoir only shelved by 33 people. I encourage folks to pick up lesser known queer authors! 

Overall, my average rating for books was 3.6/5 which I suppose is alright, though I would like to get closer to an average of 4 stars for 2023. I want to read more books that I know I'll like, and I don't want to force myself to read books I know I'll hate just to give into the hype. 

My favourite book of the year will be incredibly hard to pinpoint. But I think if I absolutely had to choose, I would select The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. Now this would have been a reread in 2022; I first read the book in 2020 and then again in 2021. But, this was the year that I wrote my major research paper for my masters degree, and I wrote the paper on The Marrow Thieves. A lot of hard work and stress went into this paper, but I was overall so happy with the results. It seems only fitting to select this book because it has resonated with me for years, so much so that in 2022 I decided to dedicate a study to it. I suppose this book will always mean a lot to me as it helped me earn a degree, and I'll be forever grateful for its impact. 

Blogish Stuff: 

I stayed fairly consistent with blogging this year, with a few breaks sprinkled in here and there to account for vacations, mental health, and school. I posted 43 posts which I am proud of, with a good mix of discussions and reviews. I think this year I would like to get more on top of reviewing, as I feel like I am very behind on books I'd like to get reviewed and this blog is at its core, a reviewing blog. But, I also want to blog hop more. I am loyal to a few blogs that I absolutely adore, but I find myself not really searching out new blogs as much. While I know a lot of folks don't blog as often anymore, I would like to dedicate some time to finding some new blogs to follow this year. If you have any blog recommendations, please do share them! 

Life Stuff: 

As mentioned before, in 2022 I graduated with a masters degree in English. I made a lot of new friends within my program, which really helped strengthen my mental health this year. I found it really difficult to make friends in undergrad, but forging new relationships was something I was really proud of doing in 2022. 

As expected, 2022 had peaks and valleys in terms of mental and even physical health. For example, I got COVID for the first time in 2022! But, I stayed on top of my medication, continued to go to therapy, and continue to celebrate the good moments. This year I want to try to seek out things that may be uncomfortable, but that I know will help expose me to my fears. I don't want to let my panic hold me back from fun opportunities, and hopefully I can find the fun in things that initially seem uncomfortable. 

In 2023, I hope to begin a PhD. This sounds so scary to say at the beginning of the year, but I want to continue studying Indigenous Literatures and move on to a new chapter in my life. I hope that I can continue finding new opportunities to strengthen my learning, and meet new people along the way. 

So, that was my 2022! I think I accomplished a lot, though I also understand that no year is perfect. How was your year? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 6 January 2023

Indians on Vacation by: Thomas King

Genre: Fiction 

Published: August 25, 2020 

Pages: 288 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: discussions of inter-generational trauma and violence towards Indigenous Peoples, some medical-related imagery 

Bird and Mimi are a middle-aged Indigenous couple who have decided to take a trip to Europe in search of Mimi's long-lost uncle. They spend most of their time in the historical city of Prague, but Bird's continuous health problems and the couple's general annoyance towards each other does threaten to get in the way of a good time. As Bird and Mimi make their way throughout the city and others within the continent, they try to reconcile their personal feelings of each other, and their political values with what was supposed to be a vacation to remember. 

This was the first Thomas King book I've read, but he is well-known as an iconic Indigenous author and a writer whose use of humour in his books is unmatched. I actually read this book over the summertime, and I usually like to read vacation books during the warmer months. Most vacation books I read tend to be from non-Indigenous authors, so the thought of reading a book that doubles as Indigenous Literature and a vacation read interested me. I was definitely not disappointed by King's transformation of the setting and his quick-witted dialogue. 

A big plus for me was that the majority of this book takes place in Prague. I've been fortunate to go to Prague before and I fell in love with the city. Its medieval architecture really captivated me. But, I have never read a book set in Prague so I was very curious to see King's representation of the city. King definitely captured the accuracy of Prague, with Bird and Mimi visiting well-known landmarks and adding their own funny opinions towards what they're seeing. The book almost reads like a tour map of Prague, as Bird and Mimi make their way through the city, documenting what they see and how they personally view the landmarks. 

I've mentioned before that this book is a bit funny and witty, and I definitely felt for poor Bird and Mimi during some of their more less fortunate moments. King really plays up the fact that Bird and Mimi at their current ages experience a bit more aches and pains, and Bird especially is dealing with travelling while having some diabetes related problems. But, Bird chooses to tackle this pain with humour and sarcasm towards his current situation, which I think most people in his situation would do. Similarly, the couple do tend to bicker like an old married couple, which reminded me of my own parents and grandparents and I think most people who've been married for some time could relate to this. Overall, I fell in love with these two characters and would love to follow them through more of their adventures. 

While this book tends to mostly not take itself too seriously, King does also choose to include some discussions related to inter-generational trauma, colonialism, and especially, an Indigenous person's opinions towards Europe. Bird and Mimi enjoy travelling, but they also understand the complicated and quite frankly violent relationship between Europe and Indigenous Peoples. King definitely does not hold back in terms of discussing how travelling can also become political, and I like how despite this being a mostly humorous book, King makes a conscious decision to still educate readers on issues facing Indigenous Peoples. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It wasn't a five star read for me, simply because I just don't think it gripped me as much as some other books have, but I really didn't have any major issues with it. I think it's a great vacation read for those wanting something a bit different, and also a bit educational too. 

Have you read Indians on Vacation? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess