To Read: May 2019

Stack of books released in May 2019 on The Paper Trail Diary

I know it’s already halfway through the month but May is so full of exciting book releases (most of this list is YA)! Just you wait until June, though. That list is even longer! Anyways, holy smokes, look at these books.

I’ve been too busy or too tired offline (my usual story) so I’m hoping I’ll still get a good few reads in this month! So while I’m pressed for time and craving sleep, I’m going to tell you about all of these books in a couple sentences.

Out now

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo: Famous K-pop star Lucky is in Hong Kong for a night before a big performance, and while out on a secret hunt for a hamburger, she bumps into a cute paparazzi boy.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang: The much anticipated sophomore novel from the author of The Kiss Quotient is a fun love story between Khai, an autistic accountant, and Esme, who was handpicked by Khai’s mom in Vietnam as her son’s future bride. I read it in a day!

This Is Not a Love Scene by S.C. Meagale: 17-year-old aspiring film director Maeve has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and a monster crush on her leading man!

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo: High school senior Emoni has a young daughter and abuela to support – she lets go of her stress in the kitchen, where she adds a bit of magic to everything she cooks.

Kings, Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju: Awkard Nima is in love with her straight best friend and still hurting from her mother’s departure. She stumbles upon a drag scene in her small town and it helps her to learn more about herself.

Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum: A love story between a girl who grew up alongside her odd fame of being photographed near the burning twin towers on 9/11 and a boy who was also affected by the tragedy.

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox: Biz knows she has it good between her mom, siblings, friends, and love interests… but she also sees the ghost of her father. But something happens and soon he’s gone, severing Biz’s sturdy tethers to her reality.

All Our Broken Pieces by L.D. Chrichton: Lennon believes in the security of the number five. And flicking light switches enough times so she can go to sleep. Kyler, the boy next door, sees these light flickers from his treehouse, where he hides from his pain and fills notebooks with lyrics.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay: Another bookshop novel! I feel like those are ABUNDANT this year. Anyways — Madeline inherits a bookshop from her aunt, but it’s struggling and she’s gone through hell since her childhood days of love towards the shop. When she intends to sell, the store’s two employees have other ideas. The book promises a story of sweet friendship.

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver: This book has had all the hype from the YA twitter world, and I’m excited to check it out. When Ben comes out to their parents as non-binary, they’re kicked out and forced to live with their estranged sister. Ben is struggling with anxiety from the ordeal when they meet Nathan, a charismatic student who takes Ben under his wing. And then their friendship continues to grow!

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno: Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea ever since her abuela and mother had epic traumatic experiences with their loved ones there, so going near a boy with a boat is bad news. But then there’s Alex. And in between, Rosa is mostly concerned about feeling caught between cultures and big life choices.

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: I’ve seen a lot of love going around for this book about an American First Son falling in love with a Welsh prince, but they have to pretend to be best friends. Also, the First Son’s mom is president. So. Yes.

We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra: Jonathan and Adam are partnered in English class to write letters to each other in a weekly pen pal assignment. (!!) With each letter, their friendship grows into love.

Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane: An introverted forty-year-old university gardener gets a year off work and decides to set out to reconnect with four old friends. It’s about maintaining friendships in the digital age, and it sounds very sweet.

May 21:

Going Off-Script by Jen Wilde: From the author of Queens of Geek and The Brightsiders is back with a story about a TV writer’s room intern who must join forces with her crush to keep her boss from ruining a lesbian character on their show.

Symptoms of a Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra: 16-year-old medical prodigy Saira has already graduated med school and is working with children cancer patients. Things are already complicated for Saira – battling skeptical adult doctors, working alongside her mom – but then she falls in love with one of her patients.

May 28:

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling: Teen witch Hannah lives in Salem but has to keep her epic powers a secret. She spends her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend until dark magic starts to take over the town. What follows is badass teen witches fighting evil, and a love triangle!

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn: Kimi longs to be a fashion designer, but her mother sees this as a distraction from her portfolio for a fine art academy. When her grandparents invite her to Kyoto for spring break, she jumps at the chance, and immediately loses herself to the wonders of Japan, and a cute med student named Akira.

When am I going to find the time to read all of these?!?!? Have you read any? What are you interested in on this list?

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Blog tour: The Beauty of the Moment

Book 'The Beauty of the Moment' on a sheet of colouring paper

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena

Welcome to my blog tour stop for The Beauty of the Moment, organized by Penguin Teen Canada! Make sure to check out the rest of the bloggers this week.

beauty of the moment blog tour graphic

Reading The Beauty of the Moment was like getting to know the teenagers I see on the bus. (Minus all of the squealing, swearing, and staring at phones reality.) It takes place in the next door neighbour to Toronto, Mississauga, so it felt very familiar and like a great representation of Toronto teens. Teens who come from all kinds of cultural backgrounds, who put on fundraisers for Syrian refugees, who are taking their driving tests, who are working part time jobs, who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives, who are trying to live up to their parents’ expectations… all the while just wanting to enjoy themselves.

This book is all heart. At the base of the story, you get a will-they-won’t-they out of Susan and Malcolm, but there’s so much to their family lives that you get to see. It’s not all beautiful. Susan has just moved from Saudi Arabia and is feeling like an outsider. She spends her time alone at school, and when she gets home, she is incredibly stressed by the demands from her parents, even though they aren’t setting a good example. All she wants is to apply to art programs at universities… and maybe gain the confidence to talk to boys. Malcolm is still feeling the heartbreak of his most recent relationship, the grief from his mother’s passing, and the pain from the aftermath with his father. But even with all of this hurt, he still has enough love to give to his friends, sister, and maybe this cute girl Susan. These two have a LOT on their plates, but they find each other. It’s a slow start for them, but it makes things so much sweeter. They complement one another so well, and their character growth is natural and satisfying.

The Beauty of the Moment felt incredibly authentic in such a gentle way. It doesn’t make drama more dramatic than it needs to be, it just is what it is. Despite all it tackles, it is a soft read, one that I think will resonate with a lot of people. I would have liked to get a bit more out of Susan’s passion for art and Malcolm realizing his talents with accounting, but I don’t want to ask even more of these kids!

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To Read: April 2019

stack of books mentioned in blog post for being published in april 2019I can’t believe it’s already almost April! I’ve had a slow-ish reading March, but I did manage to read Internment which was amazing, and I’m reading Daisy Jones and the Six now, which is alright (disappointed face). Anyways, some really exciting titles coming up this month, check these out!

April 2

Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins: I adored Mitali’s last book You Bring the Distant Near, and this one sounds super interesting! Katina King, the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, and Robin Thornton, who was adopted from an orphanage in India, meet on a summer service trip to Kolkata to work with survivors of human trafficking. This sounds like nothing else I’ve read in YA yet so I’m looking forward to reading this soon.

April 9

Love and Other Curses by Michael Thomas Ford: A family has been haunted by a curse for generations – if one of them falls in love before their seventeenth birthday, the person they love dies. Sam, a young and innocent hopeful drag queen, finds himself in trouble when a new guy moves to town. This sounds silly and cute!

In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton: In 1958, Ruth and her family move from NYC to Atlanta after her father dies. Ruth figures out she can ‘either be Jewish or be popular.’ She decides to hide her religion, and soon finds herself hanging out at an all Christian club. But she keeps going to temple secretly. She ends up caught between two love interests, two worlds, and two religions. I’m very curious of this one, and it seems to be getting great reviews!

April 16

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett: I am sooo ready for a new Jenn Bennett. Alex, Approximately was one of the best books I read last year – this author really knows how to write hate-to-love chemistry! Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life. So not only is there going to be some great banter but also mystery! I can’t wait to get to reading this.

Normal People by Sally Rooney: This I’ve read already, and you guys, it’s fantastic. It’s as good as everybody says it is. I haven’t read Conversations with Friends but I’d like to now. Anyways, this follows an on-again-off-again couple from high school through college. Connell and Marianne are very different people. Connell is too concerned about what others think of him, while Marianne is comfortable in her own skin. So much is working against these two but they’re always drawn back to each other. It’s melancholy in the best way. It’s beautifully written. Highly recommended! This will be one of my favourites this year.

April 23

You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno: So far, Katrina’s books have been light with touches of magical realism like The Lost and Found, Everything All At Once and Summer of Salt. They’re sweet. But You Must Not Miss will not be that. It’s billed as for fans of One of Us Is Lying and Carrie, so. Everything changed for Magpie Lewis on the night that her sister Eryn skipped town, leaving her to fend for herself. It was the night of Brandon Phipp’s party. Now Magpie is called a slut wherever she goes, and finds herself alienated besides with a group of exiled misfits. Magpie retreats to her notebook, writing of a place called Near, a perfect place. She writes it so fully that she dreams it into existence, where she can have everything she wants… even revenge. Ohboyohboyohboy I am READY. (I do hope Katrina can continue with her lighter stories in the future, but this is exciting!)

April 30

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan: I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about this one so far this year. It sounds adorable! Lou Parker is determined to have the most epic summer, but a few things stand in her way. She’s landed a job at an amusement park dressed as a hot dog. Her crush already has a girlfriend. Her best friend is not into Lou trying to set her up with the perfect girl. And it turns out this could be their last summer at the park, unless they can find a way to stop it from closing. This sounds like the sweetest YA romcom, and I am here for it.

How to be Luminous by Harriet Reuter Hapgood: When seventeen-year-old artist Minnie’s mother disappears, so does her ability to see colour. Minnie and her sisters have already lost their fathers, so they’re left to fend for themselves. Minnie worries about losing everything, even her mind. I’m hoping this is an interesting piece on mental health.

What are you looking forward to reading in April?

Also, get ready, May is going to be EPIC.

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To Read: March 2019

stack of books in an office with stationery and art in the background

The list of books I’m excited for that are coming out this year is incredible. Last year was not like this! There are so many interesting books on their way. Here’s what I’m looking forward to just this month.

Out now

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: This fictional story of a band’s mysterious break-up will certainly satisfy fans of Almost Famous and Behind the Music. While I’m past the point in my life of loving stories about musicians (it’s a thing for me, sorry), I absolutely adored The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo so I’m willing to give this a shot.

Chicken Girl by Heather Smith: After being mocked online for dressing up as Rosie the Riveter (why??), Poppy decides to change her style to that of a chicken costume and accepts a job of waving a sign outside of a restaurant. She meets six-year-old Miracle, who helps her see past her pain. Heather Smith wrote The Agony of Bun O’Keefe which I still have to read (eep) – it was beloved and has set her up as an author of really interesting characters, so I’m curious of what’s in store for Poppy!

March 12:

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds: When Jack meets Kate at a party, spending all night talking, he knows he’s going to fall hard. But then Kate dies. And this isn’t an ordinary story – Kate’s death ships Jack back in time to their meet cute – and he’s stuck in a loop of trying to save her, but actions are not without consequences. I think this is an interesting take on the typical YA romance, so I’m looking forward to it!

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis: Leave it to Mindy McGinnis to tackle the opioid crisis in her beautifully disturbing brand of YA fiction. A car crash sidelines Mickey before softball season, and she’s desperate to keep her spot as catcher, so she finds herself addicted to painkillers and the benefits to the new life it’s brought her. I loved The Female of the Species so much, and have been looking forward to this one for a while!

If, Then by Kate Hope Day: I’ve actually read this one already – it was so captivating! I liked it a lot and it stuck around in my noggin for a while after reading it, which is a good sign for me. It focuses on four people who all know each other in some way and live near a volcano in Oregon – and they all have weird occurrences of seeing visions of themselves in very different circumstances. Alternate realities! It makes them paranoid and questioning their realities – leading to lots of ‘what ifs.’ The story is intricate, honest, and exciting – you really don’t know how it’s going to end. It is more of a character exploration novel than a sci-fi journey, so keep that in mind.

Meet Me in Outer Space by Melinda Grace: I’ve read this one already as well and had such a good time reading! I was drawn in by learning more about a character in college who has a learning disability and was kept in by the sizzling chemistry she has with her TA. The only thing is I wanted it to be much longer – this was a really quick read and I wanted more from the characters!

March 19:

The Witch’s Kind by Louisa Morgan: Ever since I read The Witches of New York I’ve been super hungry for another great witch novel. Could this be it? The Witch’s Kind is set in the Pacific Northwest in WW2, starring a young witch and her equally witchy aunt. First they find an abandoned baby with a hint of the kinds of power they have; second is the young witch’s long-lost-husband reappears. *strokes chin* It’s a story of the lengths we go to to protect our loved ones. Exciting!

Internment by Samira Ahmed: I’d say this is one of the most hotly anticipated books of the spring. Set in a horrifying near-future US, a 17-year-old girl named Layla and her parents are forced into an internment camps for Muslim Americans. With the help of friends on the inside, a boyfriend on the outside, and a new alliance, Layla starts a rebellion against the camp. I am excited and kind of terrified for this book, but I feel like it’s going to be a necessary read.

March 26:

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick: Obviously this title and cover are total bait for us book lovers, but I will fall for it every time! This one sounds like a lot of fun. A librarian who prefers books to people finds a mysterious book of fairy tales on her doorstep, with a dedication inside from her dead grandmother and a clue that she might still be alive. Oooh! Now, I’m going to prepare myself that this will be more like The Bookshop of Yesterdays which is more about family secrets than books, but it still sounds real interesting.

That’s it! I’m looking forward to reading these! What are you reading this month? 

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On unknowingly reading a Christian novel

cover of the secrets of paper and ink on an ipad on a table

This might be the most rant-driven post I’ve ever written. It’s also going to be completely spoiling The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel, so read at your own caution. Also, I’d like to leave this disclaimer that I don’t exactly have a problem with people who are religious – one of the things about religion that bugs me the most is when God is presented as the answer to a problem. I have a lot of thoughts to work out on my own about religion but right now I want to focus on the kind of hilarious escapade I’ve had in reading and how furious it’s left me. 

So, read on for my review of The Secrets of Paper and Ink.

Continue reading →

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Introducing the Toronto Letter Writers Society

toronto letter writers society

I’ve been running a monthly letter-writing drop-in with my friend Andrea aka the snail mail queen @dreyray over at Toronto’s First Post Office for a year now! To celebrate, we’ve completely rebranded :p We are now the co-runners of the Toronto Letter Writers Society, and our events are Letter Writing Socials! We’re so happy with this update and are feelin’ real fancy.

Follow us on Instagram or join the Facebook group.

You should also so totally write to us. We’ll write back!

Toronto Letter Writers Society
P.O. Box 174
260 Adelaide St. E.
Toronto, ON M5A 1N1

We meet every second Sunday of a month (unless it’s a holiday), from 1-4 pm. You can bring your own supplies or use ours. No cost to attend.

We’re incredibly grateful to the Post Office for letting us have so much fun, and to the friends we’ve made through the events.

We will be celebrating one year of awesome letters and pen pals on Sunday, March 10 – come on out!

toronto letter writing social

Book Reviews: Slayer and Watch Us Rise

slayer and watch us rise - paper trail diary

I’ve started out 2019 by reading about some real badass girls and I dig it! Check out these reviews of Slayer – a continuation of the Buffyverse – and Watch Us Rise – about two girls who make some noise.

Slayer by Kiersten White

*Please note this includes minor spoilers about Buffy*

A lot was working against me and this book. I’m a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I don’t read fan fiction and not really into that side of things. I didn’t know what happened in the comic seasons between the tv show and this book. I had a hard time with the writing style. I almost put this book down so many times but I did finish it! It did get better for me, but it was a bit of a painful process.

This isn’t fan fiction, I will clarify, and I know it’s accepted as canon, but it just felt so different to me. Nina is part of the Watchers world – the people who were once tasked with protecting the Slayers. But the Watchers have had a rough go of it since Buffy dismissed herself from their stead. Their headquarters were blown up in the last season of the show, and the few remaining Watchers and their families have been on the run ever since. Now in Ireland, they live in their castle and wonder what to do with themselves without being able to protect the hundreds of slayers that were activated at the end of the show. Nina’s father was Buffy’s first Watcher – the one who told her of her destiny in LA. But he was killed on duty. And then Buffy ended all of magic in order to save the world in one of the comic seasons. All of these happenings mean that Nina really hates Buffy. Like a lot. So much so that she repeats it constantly. So for someone who enjoyed Buffy, to come right into this was kind of off-putting in a way. But it was the repetition that really bugged me.

Anyways. Nina’s been feeling weird lately, but hasn’t told anyone. When she surprisingly took down a hellhound on castle grounds, her worst fears are confirmed: she is a slayer. The last one, in fact, to be activated before magic disappeared. There’s a ton of angst around this, which is to be expected, but it did grate on me after a while. Then there’s Nina’s relationship with her twin sister Artemis and their mother, full of so much tension and confusion. Nina spends the book constantly questioning everything that it gets a little out of control. Everyone expected Artemis to be the star – she’s strong, smart, and a natural leader. Their mother even saved Artemis first when their house was on fire, so that’s left Nina feeling traumatized for sure. With her new slayer power, the dynamic in the family has shifted. I liked this aspect since in the Buffy show, Joyce (<3) was just a lovely regular person, and Dawn was a whiny ball of light. So for a whole family to be involved in this way was interesting to me. Even when Nina starts suspecting her mom has been up to something.

The story continues involving more demons, a fight club, creepy dreams, and a lot of backstabbing. I wasn’t fully invested in all of it, especially the fight club stuff because it just felt so unoriginal. There’s a cute guy too of course, and I liked his role in the story.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series. I am not someone who usually does, especially when years pass between books. I had to do a bunch of Wiki-ing to remember details or find out what happened in the comics. I’m not sure if the writing style will change. I’m very thankful to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the advance reading copy, and I’m glad I read the whole thing, but I think I might be too much of a purist for these revamps! (Pun intended.)

Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

I didn’t end up reading a lot of girl power type books last year. Most of the new books that seemed to fall in that category included sexual assault, and I just couldn’t handle that in 2018. I don’t want to diss books like that because they are incredibly important. Watch Us Rise doesn’t start with assault but it does deal with the topic at one point, in a different way. This book is all about girls standing up for themselves, making noise, and not stepping down when faced with being silenced.

Jasmine and Chelsea are angry. Angry at everything. Jasmine’s father is dying of cancer, she can’t stand shopping and the limitations for a fat girl, and she’s being racially pigeon-holed into upsetting roles in her theatre group. Chelsea rages against media’s role in the concept of beauty and how it affects girls, how her poetry club doesn’t seem to take modern poetry seriously, and sexist expectations on the women around her.

Both Jasmine and Chelsea are writers – Jasmine tends to write more free form prose, and Chelsea writes poetry (the author who wrote this character is a poet, so the poetry is actually really good!), but sometimes I got confused on which character I was reading because they could sound quite similar. The girls end up dramatically quitting their clubs at school, and decide to start a new club for feminists with a blog, called Write Like a Girl.

Then for a good chunk of the book the girls are put in a series of situations you know will piss them off, from a gross encounter on the subway to a shopping trip to a family dinner, so in that sense it got a little predictable, but I don’t think it was terrible. Unfortunately these situations are real. It just felt kind of crammed together. Each situation prompts a new post on the blog and then they go viral. But for being at a social justice focused high school (those exist now?), their male principal is considerably far behind, and threatens to cancel the club when he thinks the girls have stepped too far over some invisible boundary. I can understand a school not wanting to be responsible for the actions of some kids rioting against universal issues, but you’d think for a social justice school they’d stand behind their students. A-nope. (Well the teachers do. Yeah teachers!)

It was awesome to see the impact the girls made on their loved ones, classmates, and neighbours. It was also kind of great to see them put in their place sometimes. There’s a moment when Chelsea remarks to her teacher that it’s sexist she needs to go home and make dinner for a man, to which the teacher replies that she actually likes cooking and is in fact married to a woman. Context! This shows that it’s good to be angry but it’s also good to look at things from multiple angles. The times we live in are complicated.

I really felt for Jasmine, and had a bit of a hard time feeling for Chelsea but I think that was kind of intended. Jasmine is precious and hurting, while Chelsea is loud and excitable. But they work together well, and they even teach each other lessons, which I think was one of the best things to show in the book.

I think the authors did a really good job with this idea, and it’ll be an awesome read for teens. I wish I had something like this when I was a teenager. I think if it had a bit more tightening up (it was a lot longer than it could’ve been), it would be stronger, but there is so much strength in there it’s like a month’s worth of protein. Get em, girls!!

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