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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

Hits and misses of my recent YA reads

hits and misses spring 2018 paper trail diary

I’ve been reading quite steadily this year, faster than I can blog! Get ready because I’m about to talk about FOURTEEN BOOKS. This includes books I’ve loved and books I’ve reaaaally not loved. Normally I don’t say much about books I’ve disliked, but these have some reasons I want to discuss. I am NOT saying these ‘misses’ are bad books, or that you won’t like them, that’s not what I’m here for, but I want to explain why they were misses for me. But as for the books that I loved, they’ve left a special place on my heart this year and let’s just take a moment to go all heart-eyed first, mkay?

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This entry was posted in Books.

Contest: Win a Pipsticks+Workman Planner Set!

pipsticks workman planner paper trail diary

Thanks to the lovely Thomas Allen & Son here in Canada, I’ve got a great contest for you guys! Have you heard of Pipsticks? They started out as a sticker subscription service, but they’ve branched out into creating their own stickers and now planner sets with Workman! This time of year always gets me in the need-to-feel-organized mindset, so it’s a great opportunity to share one of their new sets!

pipsticks workman planner paper trail diary

(The set I have is different, but they share most of the same designs!)

Here’s the prize:

*The Just Getting Started 17 month planner
*The Fun Stuff Inside notekeeper
*The Fun Has Just Begun sticker book

pipsticks workman planner paper trail diary

TO ENTER:
*You must live in Canada (except Quebec) – sorry to those outside!
*Comment below about what you’re looking forward to in September!

I will choose a winner on Tuesday, September 4.
Thank you, Thomas Allen & Son!

This entry was posted in Crafts.

A Boston Favourite: Calliope Paperie

calliope paperie via paper trail diary

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to visit a new-to-me stationery store, and oh man, what a feeling. I wish I could bottle it up. That excitement of walking inside and wondering what treasures could reside there, that ignoring of your wallet’s cry, the thoughts of what you could do with your goodies… it’s my kind of bliss. So when I found out I was going to go to Boston for a work trip, I knew I’d be able to visit Calliope Paperie, a store I’ve been following for ages. I’ve always admired Kristina’s selection of paper goods; she makes me want to open up my own store. And then there are her epic Instagram stories. I’d so love curating paper goods but I could never handle running a shop!

Calliope has two locations just outside of Boston: Natick and Somerville. Natick is the home-base store, and Somerville is part of their new Bow Market. I couldn’t make it out to Natick, but I did get to Somerville so I got a good heap of stationery joy! Just check out how HAPPY this store LOOKS and then imagine FEELING THAT.

calliope paperie via paper trail diary

calliope paperie via paper trail diary

I love how Kristina sorts her cards – she really understands what people look for.

calliope paperie via paper trail diary

And she just has a great eye for cards that someone would want to keep after you give it to them!

calliope paperie via paper trail diary

She also carries planners and planner accessories, pins, patches, keychains, candles, notebooks, pens, pencils, mugs, prints, etc!

calliope paperie via paper trail diary

Hi Kristina! It was so lovely to meet you.

calliope paperie via paper trail diary

*lol*calliope paperie via paper trail diary

And here’s what I brought back home (along with a couple things from other places)!

boston paper goodies via paper trail diary

Let’s Stay Up All Night by Crafted Moon bought at a store next to Calliope called Home Slice.
Hello Darlin’ card by Olive & Company bought at Calliope
better than a text postcard by Ginger P. Designs bought at Paper Source
Paper Nerd pencil bought at Calliope
Pink Lemonade Notebook by Iron Curtain Press bought at Calliope
Always Making Things pin by Worthwhile Paper bought at Calliope
Penpal club keychain bought at Calliope
Sending Good Vibes card by UWP Luxe bought at Calliope