Book Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

i see you via paper trail diary

I See You by Clare Mackintosh, via Berkley Books, out now.

Do you ever think about all the people you see on your commute to and from work? Do you ever raise your eyes up while on the subway and look around? Wonder who these people are, where they’re going? Wonder how their day went, if they’re okay? Most of us go about our business on our commutes, staring at the floor or an ad or a book, losing ourselves to a loud album through headphones, or dozing. A lot of people flick through newspapers, whether they picked them up in the station or from the seat they want to sit on, learning what’s going on in the world while they’re so busy doing their jobs. What none of us expect is to flip past the personal pages in that daily paper and suddenly realize we recognize our own face staring back at us.

In her highly anticipated follow-up to I Let You Go (which I still haven’t read, gah!), British author and former police officer Clare Mackintosh plays with the heebie-jeebies of feeling eyes on your back, the mystery of being one fish in a giant sea that is a city, and tackling the danger that women face, often in secret or under scrutiny.

Zoe Walker is that someone who sees her face in the paper — along with a phone number and a listing for a website, The picture is grainy and zoomed in, and she cannot figure out where it came from. Who got her picture, and why is it in this ad? She’s a middle-aged mum of two young adults with a live-in boyfriend, working for a real estate agent, living a boring, normal life. Zoe knows in her gut that this is incredibly fishy, but everyone around her thinks it’s just some weird joke and to let it go. But when Zoe recognizes other faces in more ads for the site and connects them to theft and even murder, she knows that she has to trust her gut on this one. Could she be next?

I See You rotates through three POVs: Zoe, a young policewoman named Kelly Swift, and the unnamed uber-creep that is watching women all over London. One of the biggest themes of the book, abuse of women, sits largely with Kelly, as the cop who desperately wants to cover the case of connecting the dots Zoe has found, as a way to avenge how her twin sister was raped while in university. The rape haunts Kelly more than her sister, which continually confuses and frustrates her, motivating Kelly forward on her hunt for justice. Zoe is kind of a bland character, and we mostly just see her on high alert because who wouldn’t be if they realized they’re being watched! The creeper’s voice is, well, incredibly disturbing.

If you’re as into the grip-lit craze as I am these days, I See You will definitely get your heart-rate up. I was guessing through the whole almost 400-page book of who the murderous creep could be and how they’re administering such horrors. I don’t want to give away much because it’s better to find it out yourself, but this book will give you the shivers because it feels all too-real. Some grip-lits seem too soap-opera-y to be relatable, but this one comes pretty close. You know that what’s going on could really happen and that’s a huge part of why everything is so upsetting. By the end, I was completely taken off-guard, sweating from not being able to turn the pages fast enough, and yet craving more. These days watching Happy Valley is filling that weird fascination (and it plays out a lot like a grip-lit book), but I’m ready to find the next mystery that’ll keep me on my toes.

I See You will leave its mark on you — for a while, you’ll be more aware of yourself and your surroundings as you set out on your commute, and though it might feel uncomfortable, it’s not a bad thing. Just think of what’s out there.

[I received this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review; this did not affect my opinion of the book whatsoever.]

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11 rad YA books coming out in January/February 2017

january and february 2017 YA reads via paper trail diary

2016 isn’t quite dead yet, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from grasping at any kind of good that will come in the new year. If the 2017 books I’ve read so far are any indication, at least YA novels are in for some good shelf and mind space. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming out, especially when there is so much discussion happening in the community now about race/diversity, queer stories like more bi voices, etc. So I want to give you guys a little taste of some books that are coming out in January and February for you to use all your holiday gift cards on – just say, hey, these books are making me feel a little bit better about the world!

Under Rose Tainted Skies

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall (out January 3)

I’m so pleased that I’ve had the pleasure of reading this already, though I’m already hoping I can read it again soon! For fans of Everything, Everything and Finding AudreyUnder Rose-Tainted Skies takes a fascinating look at OCD and anxiety that I felt sounded genuine and from an interesting perspective. Norah’s OCD/agoraphobia keeps her trapped in her home, she can’t even reach outside for groceries on the porch without distress. She’ll crumble to the ground if she’s taken outside to go to therapy. But then there’s the boy next door, pop-punk sweetheart Luke, who just moved in and instantly was drawn to Norah when he saw her through the window. Besides enjoying how cute their crushes on each other are, I was so interested in Norah’s account of what goes through her mind. Louise Gornall’s writing shoves you right into it. I felt like I learned more about OCD from this book, which I really appreciate. To see so closely how the walls of your mind can keep you between physical walls, to recognize triggers, to see how it affects relationships, it’s all great. Stay tuned for a longer post on the book from me soon!

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (out February 28)

Angie Thomas’ Black Lives Matter-inspired novel is so hyped up right now, and rightfully so. I plan on reading it soon! Starr is stuck between the poor neighbourhood in which she was raised and the posh suburb where she attends high school. The two settings of her life don’t fit together, and it becomes even more of a danger to Starr when she witnesses her best friend, unarmed, killed by a police officer. This novel will be a welcomed powerful force in the YA community, and I hope will inspire discussions and more books that will further raise awareness of the horrible injustice against black people and how much of an impact it makes on younger people. And the movie rights have already been acquired, with Amandla Stenberg in the starr-ing role!


A Season of Daring Greatly

A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White (out February 14)

If you guys are as hooked on the tv show Pitch as I am, and are itching for more, you are in for a treat with A Season of Daring Greatly. Eighteen-year-old Jill Cafferty, her high school’s star pitcher, has become the first woman drafted by a major league baseball team. As expected, though talented and deserving of being there, Jill faces the opinion that baseball should be an all-male sport, and has to take on the role of defying conventions. Even though she has support from coaches and some teammates, she’s still trailed by the media and touted as a big role model for young women, all the while struggling with being away from home for the first time and unsure of the direction her life has taken. Now is the perfect time to read this too to get us through this dark non-baseball patch!

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti (out January 3)

Hawthorn doesn’t like herself very much. As a loner who pushes away her friend (yeah, singular), she doesn’t understand why everyone is so upset when her school’s former prom queen, Lizzie Lovett, goes missing. But as she tries to figure out the public’s woe, she falls fast into her own fascination with Lizzie, ending up taking Lizzie’s job at a diner and hanging out with her boyfriend, Enzo. Hawthorn and Enzo are both lonely and sad, and end up depending on each other in unhealthy ways. Plus, Hawthorn’s convinced herself that Lizzie is actually a werewolf. I’ll share more when I’m part of the blog tour for the book in a couple weeks!


Life in a Fishbowl

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos (out January 3)

I read this book this past weekend, and let me tell you, it is one of the weirdest books I’ve read in quite a while! At times it seems so dark for YA, but then I think about The Hunger Games, and I’m like okay, pretty much everything goes. There is so much packed into this novel, but it kept me hooked all the way through. Fifteen-year-old Jackie’s father realizes he has a brain tumor, with only a few months left to live. In his panic about how his family will survive without him, he decides to auction off his life on eBay. And that’s just the start of the bonkers story. You meet the people who are interested in bidding on his life (and boy are they characters), and you even read from the point of the tumor. The winning bid ends up being a television executive, who gets Jared to agree to signing his life away to a reality show. With cameras installed all over the house, quiet Jackie is trapped, with no way to really communicate with her family, all while watching her father wither away. She has to find a way to fight back. I told you it was dark! I really recommend it!

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom (out February 7)

I love a good YA book about mental health, so I hope that I’ll love A Tragic Kind of Wonderful! Sixteen-year-old Mel is diagnosed bi-polar, which makes her life pretty unpredictable. Even though she’s falling into a new relationship, she still feels like she needs to keep everyone at arm’s length away from her. And when a former friend confirms why their friendship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and make things even worse. Mel fears that her friends will abandon her if they learn what she’s hiding. I’ll be reading this one soon so I’ll keep you guys updated! It definitely sounds intriguing.


Love and First Sight

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist (out January 3)

I just finished this book, and I adored it!! It was so innocent, sweet, funny, and raw. Will has grown up blind. He’s never seen anything. It hasn’t exactly been a blast, but he’s smart and able to get by. When he switches to a public high school from a boarding school for blind kids in order to gain some real life experience, he doesn’t expect to make new friends so suddenly, and to find someone who could teach him so much about sight. That someone is Cecily, and Will is drawn to her beautiful voice and love of photography. They develop a lovely friendship, while not admitting they like each other. But everything could change when Will gets a surgery that can give him eyesight. Turns out Cecily’s been hiding something… I will post more about this book soon, but I really, really suggest picking it up!

History is All You Left Me

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (out January 17)

This one sounds like quite the emotional read! When Griffin finds out his first love, his ex, Theo, has drowned, his life is turned upside down. Griffin’s always believed that they would find each other again. And the only one who understands is Jackson, who was Theo’s current boyfriend. But Griffin’s grief and secrets of the past tears him apart, sending him into a downward spiral of submitting to obsessive compulsions and destructive actions. If he wants to move forward, he has to confront his past. This one is my next read, so I’ll share more thoughts soon!


To Catch a Killer

To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough (out February 7)

Erin Blake’s name is forever going to be tied to a horrible crime. As a toddler, she survived three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case remains unsolved. Though she’s grown up a relatively normal life under the care of her mother’s best friend, Erin once again finds herself in tragedy when she discovers the body of her murdered biology teacher. She doesn’t voice it, but Erin secretly suspects the two homicides are linked, and inspired by her FBI agent uncle, she decides to dive into the investigation herself. But as she comes closer to evidence, somehow the authorities are pointed towards her, and she must figure out what’s happening before it’s too late. This book sounds so dark and along the lines of the grip lit craze, and I’m really excited to read it!

Our Own Private Universe

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (out January 31)

Fifteen-year-old Aki knows that she’s bisexual, but up until now has only dated guys. But when she goes on a month-long youth group mission to a small town in Mexico, a girl named Christa catches Aki’s attention. There isn’t much more information on this book out yet, but I’m interested in reading more! I expect it will contribute to the recent discussions of bisexuality that were sparked by Julie Murphy’s Ramona Blue, which will be out later in the year. I say keep that momentum going! It’s important to show teens that being bisexual is more than okay.


Rebels Like Us

Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhardt (out February 28)

I think this book will perk up a lot of people’s ears. Nes has always been a city girl, living comfortably in Brooklyn. But when her mother ends a relationship and moves them to a small Southern town, Nes’ life throws her many changes. Besides being homesick and heartbroken of a boy left behind, Nes finds herself pitted against her new school’s reigning belle and the principal. Good start! And when she starts to fall for ‘the golden boy’ named Doyle, she discovers that her town is actually pretty racist. In fact, her high school holds two proms… a white prom, and a black prom. Nes and Doyle start a group to run an alternative prom, but when the hate crimes start, Nes realizes the danger she’s in and what it takes to stand up for something so important.

So much goodness coming out in just two months!! That’s only the beginning of 2017! What are you guys excited to read next year?

This entry was posted in Books.

My top books of 2016

paper trail diary best of books 2016

Ahh, here we are, at the long-awaited (by me) best-of list! Because I am a huge nerd, I have been thinking about this list since I made my 2015 list. And you better believe I’ve already got a title or two reserved for my 2017 list. I’ve known of a few titles that would be on this list since early in the year, but a lot of them didn’t come until the last few months. It’s been hard assigning numbers to them, which is kind of meaningless, but I’ll do it anyway. I feel like a lot of them could change depending what mood I’m in, but isn’t that life? *strokes chin*

One thing I’m really proud of is that I set my goal to be 40 books this year, and I’ve read 70. I was hoping to make it 80 by the end of the year, but that’s not going to happen 😉 This is still the most books I’ve ever read in a year (at least as an adult). Some reasons for my numbers increasing beyond expectations: The Georgia Nicolson Readalong, being a book blogger and receiving a load of books and wanting to read them all, starting an internship at a publishing company which inspired me to read even more, and being unemployed for a few months, which has given me some more time to read!

Oh, on that note — good news! I got a job! Starting in the new year, I will be the Marketing Coordinator for Playwrights Canada Press, a small press that publishes fantastic new Canadian play scripts. If you’re interested in blogging about that kind of book, let me know 🙂 I am so happy about this, I’ve been wanting to work in publishing for a long time, so my relief and excitement for a fresh start in 2017 is almost unbearable :p Plus, I’ll get to keep blogging about all these kinds of books, but you’ll probably hear about some cool plays 🙂

Back to the list. When I was going over the 70 read books to decide which would be my top 10, I realized there were maybe about 15 that I would even consider for the list. Which doesn’t seem like great news to me. Every once in a while I’ll go back and look at my previous lists, and realize I’ve even forgotten about some of the books. It just reinforces me actively trying to read books that really affect me, and to put down books that aren’t making much of an impression. There were plenty of books I liked but I would never be interested in reading again, you know? Hopefully I’ll have more book love in 2017!

There were also some books I read this year, that if they had been released in 2016, they definitely would be on the list. Those books are Me Before You, Room, and Every Day. I absolutely adored those books.

So, here we go. My top 2016 books that came out in 2016!

female of the species paper trail diary

1. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

To say this book has left an impact would be a simple statement. It made me hold back tears, it made me sick to my stomach, it made me want to tell everyone about it. With such complex, confusing, yet endearing characters, who are thrown into really tough but realistic events, The Female of the Species has set itself as one of the most important books in the young adult genre about rape culture. Read my full review here.

the museum of heartbreak paper trail diary

2. The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder

Hands down, this is the cutest book I read all year. I loved Penelope, I wanted to hug her as if she was my little sister, but also I saw a lot of myself in her. Also, Eph makes for a great ‘book boyfriend.’ (Though saying that makes me feel kind of gross.) This book just made me feel so warm and giddy, and made clear to me one of the reasons why I love young adult books so much: because I think back on my high school years as misguided and boring, I like to live vicariously through them. Read my full review here.

gena/finn via paper trail diary

3. Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

I look back on this book fondly, as I know that it gave me heart eye emoji face, internal squeals, and tears. I adored the relationship between Gena and Finn, the way they communicated (the book is in the style of emails, texts, etc), and everything they became. I seriously want to re-read it soon, though I know I’d still be wishing for a sequel! This does make me look forward to reading the spring title Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, which is in a similar nature of girl/girl relationships through fandom. Anyways, *squee*! Read my full review here.

girl mans up paper trail diary

4. Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

This is one of those kinds of books that I’ve been talking about for months. (M-E, you’re probably so sick of me by now.) It just has everything going for it, and it’s an incredible debut for an author who has so much more to give. (Excited!!) Pen embodies what it’s like to know the direction you want to go in, but feel hindered and judged by those who are close to you. It’s queer, Canadian, edgy, and so passionate. Adore. Read my full review here.

witches of new york paper trail diary

5. The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

Welcome to my most recent book hangover. I finished this weeks ago, but I’m still sad it’s over. The Witches of New York is not the typical kind of book I’d read in the simple facts of it’s historical fiction and it’s a bigger book (I have this thing about being daunted by bigger books because they’ll take longer to read). I am SOOO glad I read it though. I didn’t want it to end! I was so comfortable wading into this world. It’s about three witches in the 1800s in New York City – the youngest one arrives to the tea shop the others own and starts to see ghosts. A lot of the book is just purely the characters and their world, but things do go down when the girl suddenly disappears. I want more!! I loved how witchy and feminist it all was, the quirks and qualities of the three women, and just learning more about how witches were perceived back then. I definitely want to go read Ami McKay’s other titles now. *Swoon*

replica paper trail diary

6. Replica by Lauren Oliver

Replica might be the most fun book I read this year! It’s kind of a play on choose-your-own-adventure, in that you pick how you read this dual-sided book, which cleverly makes you really think about the story more. I am so excited for the sequel, which should be out next year. It’s told through two characters – Lyra and Gemma – one knows she’s a clone that has grown up in a mysterious research facility, and the other has until now, led a safe but boring life, until she decides to try to figure out why her parents are somehow connected to the facility. As soon as the two meet, the story ramps into gear and runs with it, and you’ll be running right along side of it. Read my full review here.

cursed child paper trail diary

7. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

It feels weird to have a Harry Potter title not be the #1 on my list, but here we are. I just don’t assimilate this script to be on the same level as the seven novels, however, I did really like it. What made me absolutely love it was seeing it in person, which I know was very privileged for me. I can tell you that what seems dry in a script comes across as magical on stage, because so much lies in the directing and acting. I thought the way the story went was clever and kind of like fan-fiction, and it was interesting to see how it all wove together to play out. Read my post about seeing the play here.

the best kind of people paper trail diary

8. The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

This is one of those kinds of books that has the power to destroy you. It’s the Indigo Heather’s Pick of the year, a huge Canadian title for 2016, which was nominated for the Giller Prize (and was the one I was really rooting for). A story of a teacher accused of sexually assaulting his young students is not exactly unique to the public, when real life stories like this happen all the time. What was so special and interesting about this book was that it wasn’t really about him, it was about what happens to his family after he is accused. The wife, who can’t escape the public’s ‘wouldn’t she have known this was going on?’ opinions and doesn’t know what to do with herself now that she’s alone. The daughter, who is pulled in different directions, is confused, and knows there’s a possibility what happened with her father was true. The son, who refuses to believe the worst, but in that, alienates those around him. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking. You come to care for the characters, and wish them the best, but know that nothing can ever be easy for them again. I highly recommend!

the thousandth floor via paper trail diary

9. The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGhee

I won’t forget how this book left me shaking. My heart racing, my eyes bulging. It starts and ends with someone falling off the tallest building, an epic thousandth-floored sky scraper above Central Park in NYC. It’s in the future, and focuses on six high school graduates as they navigate their floors of privilege and poverty. It’s ridiculously dramatic and kind of weird, and very comparable to Gossip Girl, which isn’t something I’ve touched since my teen years, but I really enjoyed reading this. This is definitely the start of a series that I will keep reading. Read my five reasons why you need to read The Thousandth Floor here.

shrill lindy west via paper trail diary

10. Shrill by Lindy West

If you’re not reading Lindy West’s articles on sites such as The Guardian, you should be. Lindy is real, blatantly honest, and a pure treasure. Whether she’s writing about being plus size, getting an abortion, politics, or rape jokes, you know what you’re getting is going to be good. She makes you think about things in a way you may not have yet, and even if it’s dark, she can find a way to make it comfortable. This is the kind of book of essays that you can read all at once or pick up and put it down and pick it up again. Lindy will be there for you. And good news, it’s being optioned for television! I have no idea how that’s going to be adapted, but it’s something to look forward to! Read my full review here.


Looking back at the list, I realize that it’s not very diverse, besides 9 of the 10 titles being written by women. (I actually rarely read books by men these days.) There are only two main characters of colour (and one of them is in a book of 5 main characters, The Thousandth Floor). Four titles have queer main characters. (And again, one is from The Thousandth Floor.) Though there were books with these kinds of characters that didn’t make my top 10, there weren’t enough. I will definitely make reading diverse books more of a priority in the new year. Check out this great resource, a list of diverse books to read in 2017!

Other random observations about my 70 read titles… I read eight titles that were the first in a series. I don’t think in the past I have read many series, and only a few of these I’ll continue the series with, but I thought that was kind of interesting. Six titles were non-fiction or autobiographical. 44 books out of 70 were young adult. Seven were grip-lit or suspenseful. I could keep going but I think I’m the only one interested in this! I like to keep my trends in check so that I can set new goals for the next year.

Now, to books that I’m really excited about in 2017. I’ll have upcoming posts that go by months, but I can say that on them, some of the titles will be: The Upside of UnrequitedThe Hate U GiveAlways and Forever Lara Jean, Under Rose-Tainted Skies, and When Dimple Met Rishi. (!!!)

Thanks for reading along with me this year! I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these books if you read them, and what you chose for your favourites this year! Here’s to great reading in 2017.

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Book Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

holding up the universe via paper trail diary

Holding Up the Universe, by Jennifer Niven, via Knopf Books, out now.

“Do you ever wonder if it’s everyone else who sees the world differently? Like maybe you see people the way they’re supposed to be seen?”

I have a lot of feelings about Holding Up the Universe. The first time I heard about it was when the news was announced, and the original copy on the Goodreads page was fairly upsetting, in that it read like ‘hey, this is a book about a love story between a girl who was so fat that she had to be lifted out of her house by a crane and a boy who is sick by not being able to recognize faces.’ It was off-putting, because to me, a sensitive somewhat overweight gal, that translated to ‘the only person who could love a fat girl is someone who doesn’t recognize her.’ But because All the Bright Places was my favourite book of 2015, I was reserving judgement until I read this one.

Yes, Holding Up the Universe is about a girl (Libby) who was once so overweight she needed a crane to be taken out of her house. Here’s the context: she gained a lot of weight when her mother passed away, and she lost control of her world. Now she’s lost a lot of weight and is fairly confident, strong, and comfortable, but she’s aware of how those around her aren’t accepting of her body. Yes, Holding Up the Universe is about a boy (Jack) who cannot recognize faces, and he does mainly recognize Libby because of her size, and he does keep his prosopagnosia a secret. He is a genuinely sweet person who needs to learn a lesson or two about being okay with himself and that it’s okay to tell others about his disability. He causes a lot of problems for himself because he won’t talk about what’s happening to him. The two meet in an odd way at school, and end up in a group therapy class together, and eventually fall for each other, with plenty of high school drama in between.

“Listen, I may be keeping the face blindness a secret for now, but that doesn’t mean I want everything in my life to be a secret. It doesn’t mean I want to keep you a secret. I would never hide you away, if that’s what you’re thinking.” As I say it, I ask myself, Is that what I’m doing?

Jennifer Niven wrote Holding Up the Universe as a response to everyone who wrote to her after All the Bright Places, which dealt with severe mental illness. Her individual responses had been ‘You are wanted. You are necessary. You are loved.’ She wrote that a lot of times. So a story blossomed, which took parts from her adolescence when she was struggling with weight and grieving her father, from her recent grieving for her mother, and from her sixteen-year-old cousin who doesn’t recognize faces. She wanted Holding Up the Universe to be like a letter to all the teens who wrote to her, doubting their place in the world, and the messengers for that story took form in Libby and Jack. I do respect that Jennifer did a story that way and is so open about the origins. And I would love to read more about how specifically teens have reacted to the book.

I read the first half of the book very sensitively. I was so nervous about how the characters would come across – mostly how being overweight would be portrayed – that it definitely stuck to how I think about the book. Some things could be a bit triggering, or so upsetting that I’d question if things, like Fat Girl Rodeo – in which a boy runs up to a fat girl and jumps on her and has to hold on for as long as possible – actually exist. If so, that’s so awful. In my teenage years, I don’t recall anything like that ever happening, just mostly people saying hurtful things out loud or online. But I know of others who have reacted differently than me, comforted to see their own struggles rather than thinking the portrayal of a character might be wrong, so that makes me feel good. There is a point in the book where it’s obvious (once you know the author’s motive) how the tone changes, and you’ll spend the rest of the book squeeing at cute moments. By the end of it, I didn’t really have any problems with the situation, although was it necessary to make her so big she had to be lifted out by a crane? I can see how that would be used as an excuse for her being absent from school from so long and for dealing with trauma, but is that not a little extreme?

I did really like Libby and Jack as characters. I loved how Libby portrayed her confidence (even though sometimes it was used as a shield) and that she was up front about her sexuality (fat girls have sex too!). I liked Jack for his voice as I was there to see him learn how to navigate the world around him. I could have done without half of his mentions about prosopagnosia – a lot of times it was like ‘yes, I get that you have that, you don’t have to tell me again,’ especially when it was about his family members. We understand right away that he can’t recognize his family members, and is paranoid that people could play tricks on him, but 99% of the time if you walk into your brother’s room, you know that guy is going to be your brother, right? And there was not one mention about if he could recognize voices, which I figured would be a big sense that would take over, but that’s just my guess.

Overall, I did like the story and the motive behind it, but I did not love it or connect with it as much as I’d hoped, especially after All the Bright Places. I am not a teen that’s looking for that message, so there’s that. And I hold ATBP up in high regard, so it’d be hard to come close anyway. I will remember that I read it with hesitation (which is simply a personal reaction), but I will also remember how well Jennifer writes characters and her romantic writing style. How much I ended up loving Libby. I’m looking forward to what Jennifer comes up with next!

[I received this book from Chapters Indigo in exchange for an honest review; this did not affect my opinion of the book whatsoever.]

This entry was posted in Books.

Book Lover Postcard Swap, Round 2! Winter holidays!

book lover postcard swap winter holidays

I’m so excited to share with you guys the second round of the Book Lover Postcard Swap! This time we’ll be spreading some holiday cheer and notes about what books are on our wishlists this year. No matter what holiday, or even if you don’t celebrate anything, it’s still a good time of year to send someone a nice note.

Barb and I were so pleased with how the first round went, and we hope you were too! We’d love to hear any feedback or see any photos if you have any.

Check out these amazing posts from the first round by fellow bookworms on Instagram!

Interested in sending someone a bookish postcard? Read below for more information and instructions on how to participate!

England trip, part 3: Harry Potter!

Here we are, my final recap of my recent trip to England, the whole reason why I went there: to see The Cursed Child, The House of MinaLima, and the WB Studio Tour!!

This week has been pretty brutal, so I haven’t been feeling like posting much that doesn’t have to do with the election. But I figured hey, I need some joy this week, and you probably do too, so here, look at some cool Harry Potter things.

I had the most amazing time seeing all these things, and yes, The Cursed Child was MAGICAL, AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, etcetera. I’ll get to more of that below the jump!

Just an FYI for your browser: there are a lot of photos 😀

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England trip 2016, Part 2: Paper shopping

england trip paper trail diary

As you saw in my previous post – I had so many photos from my recent trip to England that I decided to split them up! Earlier this week you saw the sights, now I’m here to share with you some of the amazing paper goodness I came across over there. It seems I somehow lost a bunch of photos from Bristol, which I’m really bummed about because there was sooo much there, but I have a few. England seems to be really into cards – there were little card shops all over the place, which warmed my heart. In this post you’ll see some of the shops I visited in Brighton, Bristol and London and then some of the goodies I took home with me! I yearn to go back, but my wallet is like ‘ok lady, enough!’ So take this British paper tour with me, and know that my final post will include all of the amazingness of seeing The Cursed Child and visiting the WB Studio Tour.

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England trip 2016, Part 1: Sightseeing

england 2016 - paper trail diary

As many of you probably saw over Instagram, a few weeks ago I went on a vacation to England. What brought me there was tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which was AMAZING (more on that later), but as I went with my partner Jack, we also got to spend time with his family in Brighton, Bristol, and London. I have so many photos from just one week in England that I’m going to have to split up these posts! So I’ll start with some of the amazing places I saw. Stay tuned for parts two (paper goods!) and three (all things Harry Potter)!

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Book Reviews: Replica, The Female of the Species, Girl Mans Up, The Lost & Found and Write This Down

book reviews on the paper trail diary

Though I’ve been reading a lot lately (woo, already passed 60 books for the year, a feat for me!), I haven’t quite kept up with book reviews, even though I want to talk about all of these books! So to catch you and me up, I’m going to do a review round-up of some awesome reads! I really, really liked all of these fall releases and I think you will too.

Replica by Lauren Oliver

What a wild ride! If you’re a fan of Orphan Black like me, you’re going to really like ReplicaReplica is told in two narratives, which is not uncommon for YA, but what makes that even cooler is a) it’s two girls and b) the book is a flip book, so you get to choose how you read it. (Also – two bookmarks!) I’ll explain how I read it soon, but first, I’ll tell you about the book.

Lyra is a replica (aka clone) who lives in a research facility on a remote island off the marshes of Florida with hundreds of other replicas. She’s a fairly self-aware replica for someone who is treated as an it rather than a she. She doesn’t think she’s human, she’s just there to be tested. Gemma is just a regular girl who lives a few States away with super protective parents. She knows she spent a lot of her childhood in the hospital, but she doesn’t think much on why besides the fact that it’s made her bullied for looking like Frankenstein’s monster with a big scar down her chest. Gemma feels trapped and lonely, so when she discovers her parents have some sort of secret connection to a shady research facility in Florida (hm!), at first she is excited to defy her parents and go on an adventure to uncover the truth. But it quickly escalates as soon as Gemma and Lyra cross paths, as they both must run for their lives from those who want to keep the research facility a secret.

I was totally sucked into this book, I was so satisfied. I wouldn’t say the concept is very original, but the experience is fun and exciting. I think I liked Lyra’s narrative a little bit more, because for her everything is new and mysterious, whereas with Gemma it’s more anxiety and panic. But what one lacks, the other has. So Lyra doesn’t realize there’s a mystery to be solved until some things happen, but Gemma’s been on the case from the start.

In a scene in the lab as Lyra makes a discovery:

“Lyra moved deeper, into the forest of file cabinets and old plastic storage bins, into mountains of paperwork no one had touched for years. A few rooms were dark, or only partly illuminated. And she could hear, in the quiet, the whisper of millions of words, words trapped behind every drawer, words beating their fingernails against the inside of the file cabinets.

All the words she could ever want: words to stuff herself on until she was full, until her eyes burst.”

Because it is a flip-narrative book, it’s rare that the story overlaps, which I liked. Everyone will have a different way of reading it, but here’s how I did. I flipped after every 2 chapters of each (starting with Lyra) until chapter 9. Then I’d flip every other chapter, however there were a couple parts where the narrative kept going for one character so it made more sense to do two chapters then back to the other. You’d recognize it while reading. Some people read one whole side first then the second, but I know that would drive me crazy. So it’s really up to you!

Lauren has announced that Replica will be the first in a duology – Helix is set to come out next year and I could not be more excited!

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Oh man, this book left me with so many complex feels. I was reading the ending while out in public, which I would’t recommend, because I almost cried at a bus stop. So, just a warning, this book might destroy you for a while. But oh is it necessary.

Alex Craft’s sister was brutally murdered, so Alex is out for revenge. The story takes place a year or so after – with her sister’s killer also mysteriously murdered. But Alex is hyper-aware of the people who surround her. She’s a colder character – you would be too – but still has a lot of heart. She makes friends with Peekay (nicknamed for Preacher’s Kid) as they both volunteer at the local animal shelter. And soon she ends up surprisingly interested in popular jock Jack, who was actually found having sex with another girl, Branley, while he was supposed to be searching for her sister (yeaaahhh), though he does have a softer side to him, which is what Alex is drawn to. The book is told from all three of their POVs, but obviously Alex’s is the most compelling. I got a little annoyed with Jack after a while because he is always being all ‘yeah so I was attracted to Branley, so what, I’m a guy, can I help it?’ which is a little uncomfortable because get this – the book is largely about rape culture and how guys assert themselves. Though Jack is never the bad guy, it’s still a bit bothersome (and just annoying to read after a while). And Peekay is a sweet, lovely flower who needs to be protected. I don’t want to give too much away because you really need to read it on your own, but I will say that this book is so important, is such a good reflection on assault and rape, and how girls have to deal with really upsetting actions, even something like a boy getting away with humping a basketball on a playground, but Alex knowing she’d never be able to do that. It’s full of really memorable scenes, and you’ll be left feeling all sorts of things. It’s not your average heart-wreck of a YA – you’ll be a bit confused by how you feel, because it’s sort of noodled its way into your brain, and you don’t know if it’s right to feel compassion in ways that you will. But oh, just please read this.

From Alex, in the humping-a-basketball scene:

“I wonder what would happen if I went down there, took a ball out of the cage, and pretended to have sex with it. I think people would stop and look. I think the whole gym would come to a standstill and teachers would definitely interfere. There would be discussions (again) about what exactly is wrong with me that I would do such a thing. I would definitely log some more hours in the guidance office.

But boys will be boys, our favourite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.”

Girl Mans Up by M.E. Girard

I so enjoyed this book! I’ve been meaning to tell you guys more about it for a while. It’s a queer diverse YA novel that takes place near Toronto <3

Pen is a girl who looks like a boy and likes girls but doesn’t want to be a boy, she just wants to be herself. She has no problem with this (which I loved about her), but it seems that everyone else around her does, from her strict Portuguese parents to her childhood best friend Colby to her peers. These people are straight up closeminded and awful to her, and she takes it. I felt so much for Pen, I wanted to hug her and high five her and tell her it’s going to get better. I wanted to punch Colby in the face multiple times, like, woof, he’s bad news. Pen must find a way to convince everyone that she is wonderful just the way she is, which is unfortunate, but makes for a good story, ha.

But Girl Mans Up isn’t all about pain, it’s also about love. Pen adores her older brother Johnny, though siblings are bound to have their bumps in the road. She also falls for a girl at school, Blake, and their romance is just plainly adorable. Pen also finds a new friend in Olivia, a girl who had hooked up with Colby before, and is having some problems with him too. They’re unlikely friends at first, but each find something in the other that they needed.

I loved M-E’s writing style – I was immediately and completely drawn into Pen’s life from the beginning, and was sad when the book was over. At a recent event, M-E explained how Pen is based off of her girlfriend Melissa’s teen self. When Melissa was reading it over she told M-E ‘this totally happened to me when I was younger’ and M-E was surprised because she knew Melissa hadn’t told her anything like that before, but she had really wound her way into Melissa’s character. I think that is so sweet! Because of this, Pen is one of the most genuine characters in YA you’ll meet these days. I just want everyone to read it! I particularly think it’d be a fantastic read for queer teens who are in a similar position as Pen.

Girl Mans Up is full of gems. I compiled a list of the top ten quotes for HCC Frenzy, but here’s one:

“Everyone wants something different from me. It’s like one second, I should be a better dude. I should stop being such a girly douche, and I should just man up. Then, it’s the opposite: I’m too much of a guy, and it’s not right. I should be a girl, because that’s what I’m supposed to be.”

The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno

Frannie and Louis always lose stuff. Things that mean a lot to them, and things that don’t. There is no way to explain the weird phenomena that has affected them, so they just accept it. Frannie and Louis don’t know each other by name at first – only screen names – The Missing Nib and Bucker – from an online support group for those who have suffered a tragedy. Their childhood tragedies still very much affect them as teens, and they’re both pretty much alone in their coping besides talking to each other online. But something happens to each of them that encourages them to move forward, to the same place. They embark on their own road trips with the only other people who mean the world to them — for Frannie it’s her adopted cousin Arrow, and for Louis it’s his twin sister Willa. Along the way, Frannie and Louis mysteriously and randomly find the things that the other has lost.

It took me a little while to get into the story – just a warning: it starts with their tragedies and they’re both fairly graphic – but once I did, I found what I came to the book for: a cute YA story with dual narrators that includes love but isn’t all about love. It significantly brightens throughout the book, along with their attitudes. I enjoyed reading their separate journeys – what they must go through in order to find relief and happiness – the love that they find is just a super cute bonus. Their past tragedies and present worries are totally valid, but you root for them to find a way to find some peace. And I love the hint of magical realism in the sense of the lost and found objects!

This book seems to have flown under the radar, so I hope you’ll now add it to your TBR! It’s beautifully written and has a bit of everything. One thing I’ll say though as a paper person who was drawn to the book with the words ‘pen pals’ – online chat buddies are not pen pals 😉

“The distance between two things so phenomenally far apart from each other crossed at the slowest possible rate. And when they collided, there was only buzzing and humming and the bone-deep vibration of a thousand light-seeking beasts… We were seeking our own light, and we had just found it.”

Write This Down by Claudia Mills

While all the books above are YA, Write This Down is middle grade. Twelve-year-old Autumn is sweet, bookish, and confused about the world. Autumn and her older brother Hunter used to be so close, but recently he’s been angry, withdrawn and mean. Hunter crosses a line when he reads Autumn’s private poetry to his friends, which includes the brother of Autumn’s crush Cameron, who of course she wrote about in her journal. Autumn is so upset, and she wants to get Hunter back. But being the precious self-proclaimed next Emily Dickinson that she is, she’s not going to do something on Hunter’s level – she’s going to get back at him through the written word. Autumn is a young, aspiring writer, and she decides she can not only get Hunter back but also prove herself as a writer and as crush-material to Cameron, by getting a story published in The New Yorker. I loved the bit of ridiculous this was – Autumn – a preteen – truly believed she had a good shot at The New Yorker, which was sweet. She even submitted some of her novel to agents at a public event.

“There have been lots of – well, some – mega-popular books that were written and published by kids. S. E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was in high school. Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon when he was fifteen. Fifteen isn’t that much older than twelve. And Christopher Paolini probably didn’t have a horrible older brother and a fabulous boy in his journalism class that he needed to impress, or maybe he would have published his book even sooner.”

I had fun reading this book and I think it could speak to a lot of middle graders. I sure saw a lot of my former self in Autumn, and I know there are lots of girls out there like me. While Hunter is truly frustrating, and it’s hard to feel invisible to a crush, Autumn has nice relationships with her parents and best friend Kylee that keep her supported. Autumn has some growing up to do herself, and she needs to learn how to deal with anger, but it’s nothing anyone hasn’t had to go through before. I’d recommend it to the shy, young writerly girls who are learning how to use their voices.


Well, well, well! Five reviews in one post! I won’t be doing that again 😉 But I hope you’ve added these to your TBRs and would love to hear what you think of them when you’ve read them! And hath no fear I definitely have a lot more reviews coming your way.

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for ReplicaThe Female of the Species, and Girl Mans Up, and thank you to Raincoast Books for Write This Down. This did not affect my opinion of the books whatsoever.

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Book Review: Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

where am i now mara wilson via paper trail diary

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson, via Penguin, out now.

[I received this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review; this did not affect my opinion of the book whatsoever.]

Ok, let’s get the basics out of the way. Most of you will know Mara Wilson from her portrayal of Matilda or her role in Mrs. Doubtfire. You may or may not know that since those many years ago, she’s grown up to be a great writer, comedian, retweeter and voice actor. Though it did feel kind of random to hear about her doing a memoir of sorts, I was excited about it from the get go. Of course I want to know more about what it was like to be Matilda, one of the biggest bookworm icons! Of course I’d be interested in finding out what she’s been up to! Of course I’d want to read more of her genuine and comedic voice! And these wants are exactly what play into the premise of Mara’s book of personal essays. And I was not disappointed! I really like Mara’s writing style and hope to see much more in the future. She was in Toronto for press and events this week and I was lucky to see her do a Q&A and signing at Indigo. She is such a wonderful presence to be around – she seems comfortable, happy, and interested in everyone. Plus, she’s as much of an eloquent speaker as she is a writer. Where Am I Now? is a great read – something you can pick up and put down or read all the way through, something everyone can find something to identify with, and overall, it’s totally enjoyable and interesting.

So here are 5 reasons why you need to read Mara’s book of essays.

1. Memories of being an existential kid are hilarious.

I wish I had as good of a memory of my childhood as Mara does. There’s one essay about how she was such an existential kid, going through her years, and it probably cracked me up more than any other essay. Here’s a passage from age five:

My kindergarten class goes to an assembly on astronomy. The astronomer, in an attempt to make science more exciting, plays up the danger in the universe. When he talks about solar flares, I am convinced that come the next solar flare, fire will rain down from the sky and incinerate us all. By the time he moves on to all the ways the planet Venus could kill a human being, I am sobbing hysterically.

None of the other kids are crying, and I wonder if I’m the only one who understands. If this is what it is to be special, it’s terrible. Several kindergarten aids take me aside to try to calm me down. When it doesn’t work, they give me a rice cake and call my mother.

‘Maybe you were scared because you were getting something out of it the other kids weren’t,’ she tells me when she picks me up. ‘The other kids just thought, ‘Oh, Venus, it’s a planet,’ but you were making connections they weren’t. Maybe you really love astronomy?’

I don’t think she’s right.

2. She understands what it means to be called ‘cute.’

As a child actor, or as someone who has a baby face, the word cute could be good or bad. And there’s always a time in your life when cute is very bad, because you want to be more than that. You want people to see your maturity, not as a thing to hug. In her essay “the ‘c’ word,” Mara explains how being cute was just one of the many reasons why she was falling out of love with Hollywood, especially as she was a pretty dark and kind of edgy kid. In a scene where she discovered she was being scouted to be ‘the next Shirley Temple’:

We watched Bright Eyes and The Little Princess and I thought about how I’d say no to this. Shirley Temple was so cute, she didn’t quite seem real. Did I admire her? Yes. Did I want to be her? No. My mother knew, and I was starting to sense, that being cute meant being controlled, and that being the next Shirley Temple would mean everyone in the world knowing a version of Mara Wilson that wasn’t me at all.

3. She’s a strong advocate for mental health.

I don’t think I knew much on this before I read the book, so it was a pleasant surprise to read so much about Mara’s experience with depression, anxiety and OCD. She explained how it felt really well, and it made my heart ache to experience it along with her again, to think of this kid being totally confused as to why she was feeling so different and upset all the time, and why she felt like she couldn’t tell anyone about it. Now, Mara will candidly talk about her experience, being on medication, and how important it is for people (especially child actors) to go to therapy, which I really admire.

4. She gives a funny, personal and smart look at what it’s like to be a child actor.

Normally your first thought about ‘child actors’ is something along the lines of look now they are a recovering alcoholic, can’t get any work and just seem sad, right? Because that’s what we’re fed through weird slideshows online and entertainment tv. Mara acknowledges this throughout the book, pokes fun at it a little bit, and shows how her growing up was nothing like that at all. She’ll reference kids she hung out with (at her event this week, someone asked if she still hangs out with Hilary Duff) and the silly things they did. She was just a kid who liked acting, but liked other things, then a teenager who went through an awkward phase, and then someone who wasn’t comfortable in Hollywood and wanted to come at it from a different angle. Respect!

5. She’s just a really good writer.

Her style flows so naturally, like she’s talking to you, and it’s really funny and poignant. She could make the smallest things sound interesting. She’s so in touch with her memories and feelings that they just jump off the page. And like I said, I hope there will be more to read in the future!

Have you read Where Am I Now? What do you think?

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