Book Review: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

the field guide to the north american teenager via paper trail diary

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

Norris Kaplan is not a Canadian, not yet an American… he’s somewhere in between, if that. He’s Black (of Haitian immigrant parents), but was born in Quebec (that’s French Canada) and now he’s living in Texas, where all he does is sweat and grimace at his fate. He had friends and a life in Montreal, but his single mother got a job as a professor at the University of Texas (in Austin) and his father has no “room” for him in his new family, so off he went to the South in his junior year of high school. He promised his mom he’d give it a chance, but begrudgingly. When the school guidance counsellor hands him a notebook to jot his thoughts down during his acclimation to American life, Norris uses it to put his classmates into their stereotypes on paper, especially his sworn enemies: jocks and cheerleaders. Norris slowly finds a friend, a coworker, and a sort-of girlfriend, but it isn’t until he screws things up with everyone that he realizes how good his life got in Texas.

Everyone’s got a judgemental bone in their body, big or small, don’t even try to deny it. Norris’s voice taps into that. It’s familiar. He is vulnerable, trying to protect himself from feeling lonely and getting hurt, so he hides behind his notebook and salty snark. Whether you think it funny or annoying or both, he is real, and it is endearing to have this displaced character welcomed into today’s YA. Perhaps I felt more connected to his story as I moved from the States to Canada at age 18 (though of my own decision) and recognized some of the differences that Norris does (Canada barely cares about football, for example). Norris often mentions how what he knows about American high schools are from movies, and it made me think about my high school a lot. The lunch table thing is real, although I assume that happens in places besides the States. I thought his observations were so keenly detailed, especially at the beginning when that’s all he has. He goes through all the typical high school stuff, like bullying:

“It occurred to Norris at that moment that Hairy Armpits probably would never give this moment a second thought, whereas, for Norris, it was already congealing into something rock-hard in his chest. It would definitely be one of those repressed high school wounds that only decades of living on a yacht made of nachos would someday come close to healing.”

I really enjoyed reading along as Norris settled into friendships with an odd duck named Liam and a cheerleader named Maddie. They both had great chemistry with Norris and I have a soft spot for people who understand and notice others when nobody else seems to. I liked being on the ride of Norris’s growth, and the way author Ben Phillippe ironically framed his story to mirror the American movie cliches.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager is endearing and entertaining, and proves debut author Ben Philippe has some serious storytelling chops!

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This entry was posted in Books.

Join the Valentine’s Book Lover Postcard Swap!

Book Lover Postcard Swap Valentine's Day 2019

It’s back! Barb and I took a little fall/winter snooze as we were busy with other things, but we’re back with everybody’s favourite round of the Book Lover Postcard Swap: Valentine’s! Swoon. Read on below for all the information and the form to sign up!

Want to see some fantastic postcards people sent and received? Check out the hashtag #bookloverpostcardswap on Instagram!

Banner sale!

Happy 2019, everyone!

I’m planning some improvements to the Paper Trail Diary for this year, which includes a big step-up in the banner department. Before I release Banners 2.0, I’m having a sale of what’s up in my Etsy shop! All the pre-made banners are currently $5, which is half off!

Your walls could look real good with these… just sayin’.

send more mail banner - paper trail diary cute as a button banner - paper trail diary make stuff banner - paper trail diary make stuff banner - paper trail diary fries before guys banner - paper trail diary

Check out these and many more over on Etsy!

And stay tuned for what’s to come 🙂

This entry was posted in Crafts.

My Top 10 Books of 2018

paper trail diary top 10 books 2018

Here we are at 12:30 pm on December 31st, 2018, and I’ve finally decided on my top 10 books of 2018.

It’s been a bit of a weird year, reading-wise, for me. Only a few books really knocked my socks off. I spent a lot more of my free time watching TV and crafting. I steered clear of really tough subject books in favour of lighter, happier stories. I did still read a ton of books (66!), but a lot of them were just alright. Still though, these top 10 stuck with me in some way and for that they made my year, personally, a good one!

Without further ado, here is my top 10 reads of 2018!

  1. Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather 
    For a pure story full of heart and a journey that had to be taken.
  2. Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner
    For its strong female character and a quest that I could’ve read for many more pages.
  3. Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce
    For just being absolutely lovely and setting the bar higher for future reading.
  4. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
    For giving me Stella and Michael and their steamy story.
  5. Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern
    For knowing this feel-good story of chosen family is going to stick with me for a long time, even though I finished it an hour ago.
  6. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
    For being the book I probably hugged the hardest this year, and for giving YA not only a story of a sensitive boy and a new friendship but also taking him outside of the States.
  7. Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
    For being ridiculous and still relatable, funny and still serious, and just lovely.
  8. Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
    For its sweetness, being set in college, and its dry humour.
  9. Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
    For its supreme power, feeling like it could be a post-apocalyptic war but knowing it was all too real.
  10. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel
    For making me blubber like a baby, snot down my face and everything, and giving a wonderful voice to the bond that is between a human and their cat.

Now, I also read a few books that I absolutely adored this year that weren’t published in 2018. Those were Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett and The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag.

I leaned into more adult women’s contemporary fiction this year, searching for the stories that would leave me feeling warm, and I am A-OK with this development. Not a lot of YA excited me this year, but that doesn’t worry me, seeing as 2019 is going to be ace for YA contemporary (more on that in the new year). While I still can’t really get into non-fiction, I am at least happy with how many diverse stories I read this year compared to previous years.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Now I must jet off to prepare for tonight’s festivities – see you in 2019, paper people! <3 

This entry was posted in Books.

Book Reviews: Dear Mrs. Bird, The Kiss Quotient, and Ayesha at Last

kiss quotient dear mrs bird ayesha at last

Hello hello, another disclaimer of ‘yikes it’s been a while,’ insert here. But let’s just quickly move past that, shall we? These three adult books (I know, shocker) are some of my favourite reads this year!

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you’ll love this. Set during WW2 in London, Emmy Lake is trying to figure out how to become a journalist, or as they call it, a Lady War Correspondent. She volunteers answering the phones at a fire station and adores living with her longtime best friend Bunty. When she sees an ad for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, she goes in head-first, gets the job, and then realizes that it wasn’t what she thought it was. It’s actually an administrative job for the partner women’s magazine to the paper — Emmy has to read the letters from women coming in looking for advice and decide which are acceptable for the publisher to answer, which is no easy feat, since it was shameful for women to admit they need help while the men were off doing honourable fighting. She feels for all of these women writing letters and decides to take the answers into her own hands.

Despite its sad context, the best word to describe this book is ‘delightful.’ I had a grand old time reading it — I really wormed my way into Emmy’s life quite easily. I loved learning more about what it was like to live in a major city during a major war (sometimes things felt eerily close to current day, though). I was so interested in the concept of the book, and how it came to be. I liked Emmy as a main character, her best friend Bunty, and her colleagues Kathleen and Mr. Collins. A lot of time while reading I was picturing this as a movie. But I wanted more letters! There wasn’t as much letter-writing to the readers as I felt was promised, it was more about living in London during WW2, which is fine, but I felt misled. I also wasn’t fully comfortable with the ‘is Emmy a good person or bad person’ sort of direction it was going with the moral ideas with the letters, and I felt the ending was rushed. Don’t let this deter you, these were just things that nagged at me. I actually read this in June and I’m still thinking about it, which is the mark of a good book for me!

Add to Goodreads | Order on Amazon | Order on Indigo | Order on Book Depository

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

2018 is the year that I gave in to the fun of sexy books, and The Kiss Quotient is a big proponent in that. I’d seen this book all over all my feeds for weeks, and I finally caved at the urges of friends, and I’m so glad I did. Stella Lane is a genius with Asperger’s with a whole lot of money for inventing an algorithm used for online shopping. But she is lacking in the romance department. When her parents start pestering her about having grandchildren, Stella panics at the thought of a relationship, and decides she needs practice. So she hires an escort to help her feel more comfortable with sex. She didn’t expect that the escort would be a gorgeous and sweet Vietnamese-Swedish hunk named Michael Phan. Michael is equally stunned that his client isn’t a middle-aged crazy-eyed mom. When he realizes her roadblocks with intimacy, he immediately adapts and tries to help her at her own pace. Stella finds herself so comfortable with him that she proposes to hire him for weeks, and then months, with not just intimacy but as a pretend boyfriend. So of course they soon fall in love while eventually having perfect sex, and they have to admit their feelings to themselves and each other before they lose one another to “reality.”

This book left me with a solid hangover when I was done! Helen’s writing was so good, and I adored Stella and Michael. At times Stella felt a bit like a cliche, but I was fine with that because how often have you read a romance story about a woman on the spectrum? Michael was such a good egg to her that it melted my heart. The book has been in the beginnings of becoming a movie these days and I am SO. EXCITED. And coming in 2019 is The Bride Test which focuses on a side character of the novel!

Add to Goodreads | Order on Amazon | Order on Indigo | Order on Book Depository

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

I don’t read a lot of retellings but this one caught my attention as it’s a Pride & Prejudice story of two Muslim characters that takes place in a suburb outside of Toronto. It took me a little while to get into the book but once I did I was hooked! Ayesha is used to floating in the background of her younger cousin Hafsa’s life. Hafsa gets all the attention but does none of the work for it. Ayesha is shy, with some deep-rooted anger, and is trying to make it as a substitute teacher and spoken-word poet. Khalid is traditional, conservative, and frustrated at how his appearance hinders him at work with his racist boss. He’s also incredibly soft-hearted and just wants to find a partner – except in an arranged marriage. Ayesha and Khalid have two odd chance encounters in which they clash, but eventually feelings get messy and adorable! Things get even more complicated when Khalid’s mother sets up an arranged marriage with Hafsa…

This was super fun and at times so ridiculous, all the while being swoony and sweet. I think there’s also talk of a movie for this one, which I’d love to see. This book has everything but it’s not crammed or anything like that. I’m excited for what’s next to come from Uzma as well!

Add to Goodreads | Order on Amazon | Order on Indigo | Order on Book Depository

Have you read these books? Are they on your TBR/wishlist?

This entry was posted in Books.

Sign up for the 2018 Notebook and Pen Swap!

notebook and pen swap 2018

Now’s the time to sign up for this year’s Notebook and Pen Swap! I love how much you guys love this swap, and I’m so excited to see what everyone gets!

We all love a good notebook and pen. New tools like these are a great way to refresh creativity, find comfort, or take notes of opportunities. I know a lot of you are like me, in that we hoard pretty notebooks and pens, but I am of the mind that there’s no wrong in adding another pair to the collection here and there. 😉

Check out the #notebookpenswap tag on Instagram for photos on previous swaps!

Want to participate? Just fill out the form below! But first, please read these notes:

  • Yes it’s literally swapping a notebook and a pen with someone. I will make pairs of all the participants and it’s up to you to send your partner a nice package tailored to their preferences.
  • In the form, you’ll be asked about your preferences, so that your partner has lots to work with when looking for you!
  • Keep shipping costs in consideration. The heavier/bulkier the notebook, the more someone could pay in shipping.
  • Keep your notebook purchase to around $20. Pens usually vary but $5 is a pretty good cap, I’d say. No need to go out and buy someone a quill!
  • Some people like to include other little gifts in their packages. This is not required and is up to the shipper.
  • The notebooks and pens need to be new and unused.
  • It’s preferred if you can get tracking on your package, but understandable if you can’t afford it.
  • Only sign up if you know you can commit to the timeline and costs. It is super frustrating when someone joins and gets a package, but doesn’t send their partner one. On this note, I reserve the right to deny someone’s participation if I have reason to be unsure of their commitment.

IMPORTANT DEADLINES:

  • Sign up closes on Friday, October 12. It will then take a few days for me to match everyone and send out emails. Please do not message me saying you signed up and haven’t heard back before then. I don’t have time to respond to everyone – you will hear from me! If you haven’t heard from me by October 19, then you can check in (and check your spam folders).
  • You should pop your swap in the post by Monday, October 29. Please email your partner if you cannot do so by then.

Remember to share on social! Use the hashtag #notebookpenswap!

Review & Guest Post for The House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker

the house of one thousand eyes via paper trail diary

The House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo

In the Better Germany, the truth got you locked up. To live in this world, you needed to be able to do three things: keep your head down, keep your mouth shut, and learn to like cabbage.

East and West Germany are brought back to life in the haunting new young adult novel The House of One Thousand Eyes. The novel follows Lena, who has had a really rough go at life by age sixteen. Her parents tragically died in a factory accident, which sent her into a mental breakdown and a mental institution. She lives with her conservative aunt and works as a night janitor in the Stasi (secret police) headquarters, where she experiences sexual assault. Her solace is her uncle Erich, an optimistic writer. But when Erich suddenly disappears and everyone in Lena’s life tells her she never had an uncle, there are no books by a famous writer of that name, and there isn’t even a birth certificate, Lena’s already extremely tested nerves are put on high alert and she must decide if she will accept what she’s told or to question everything she’s known.

The House of One Thousand Eyes has done what few YA novels have done for me as an adult: taught (well, re-taught) me history. I definitely did not remember much about divided Germany, and now I feel like I’ve lived in it for a month. It didn’t feel old or boring, it was captivating with hints of relatable. It wasn’t until after I put this book down that I realized how deep I’d gone into the dark, bleak, dry existence that was East Germany before the wall was brought down. I felt like I was right next to Lena as she lived through confusion, shame, paranoia, and secrecy. I couldn’t trust that anyone would be on our side.

People wore two faces: the public one that did what the children’s magazine said – “be happy and sing” – and the private one that wanted to curse Scheiss Osten every five minutes.

It was fascinating to me to show a character who lives in such a paranoid world. And though she’s not exactly dying to escape to the West, despite being completely aware of how poor her quality of life is, Lena knows that trust is a complicated privilege. That makes for such a lonely life. I felt cautious yet relieved when Lena meets a handsome, brave boy. I needed her to have a confidant. She has a few friends, but nobody she feels close to, except Erich. All she wants is to know what happened to him, but when she decides to finally look into his disappearance, the confines of East Germany start closing in on her.

This was a powerful novel that kept me guessing, taught me something, and succeeded in dropping me into a place and time that is completely unlike my own.

Now a very special occasion for me – the author, Michelle Barker, has written a guest post for The Paper Trail Diary! Read on for her super interesting piece on how she came to write this novel during a trip to Berlin.

Continue reading →

This entry was posted in Books.