Book Review: Golden Hour by Chantel Guertin

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Golden Hour by Chantel Guertin, out now

The long-awaited conclusion to Chantel Guertin’s Pippa Greene series is here! For fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, this equally driven and talented, hyper-focused, total catch of a protagonist is learning her biggest lesson yet.

I’ve been talking a lot about how I want to read more YA novels about characters who are more focused on working on their life’s path, and Pippa Greene is definitely one of those characters. Pippa is a senior in high school who is obsessed with photography and knows with all her heart that she HAS to go to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In fact that’s the only school she applied to. So when she finds out she’s waitlisted for her dream, she hits the spiral quickly.

Pippa has always thought that in order to get into university for something like photography, you have to dedicate your life to it. She lived and breathed photography, it runs in her blood (she takes after her late father). Being waitlisted guts her, and she makes one last desperate attempt to go to NYU and meet with the program head, and it’s not what she expected at all. He tells her that she sounds like every other applicant, and what they want to know is what sets her apart. What else does she like besides photography?

My insides squirmed when I read this part, because damn, I get it. I feel like the high school years push two messages at teens as they start to think about their futures: you either know what you love and you do all you can to be perfect at it or you join every club everywhere and spread yourself too thin with nothing that interesting to show for it. So Pippa’s reality is a slap on the face to her and I’m sure many readers. Where was this department head guy’s message about living-in-the-moment when she was at the Tisch summer camp? Where was it when she was applying? I was so frustrated for her. (But also, she applied to one school! *Dies of anxiety*) This same kind of mentality could be said for job interviews when you’re older (AKA does a publishing company really want to hear how much you’ve loved books since you were a child?) – how do we make ourselves consciously well-rounded? Ugh I’m exhausted thinking about all of this.

Pippa takes living-in-the-moment to mean putting down the camera and following friends in their escapades, and it works enough to show her some perspective. She has her teenage rebellious phase, basically. And of course, in that, she gains a new appreciation for her passion and enough separation to take a look at her goals.

My other big takeaway from these books is her ex-boyfriend Dylan. The distant musician heartthrob first love. I was so done with him in book #3, and I remembered really liking Ben, so I was feeling all catty reading about Dylan in this book. I felt like I was a friend watching Pippa make these choices in her life, and disagreeing with them, but not saying anything about it. Bah! I also felt like his storyline here was a little meh and unnecessary, and I wanted more of Pippa figuring things out without getting back together with her ex. That’s just me though.

The Pippa Greene books are short and sweet – now that the series is completed, they make a nice set that you could devour pretty quickly. For my reading experience right now, it’s been three years since book #3, so I had a hard time remembering what happened before this, and sometimes found myself looking back on the other books. I know I wouldn’t feel this if I read the books closer together, but it did hurt my reading experience in this case, as I didn’t have time to re-read the first three books before reading this one. But I think Chantel did a pretty good job with the reminders when Pippa would recall something that happened earlier. I do like Chantel’s writing a lot – it comes across so smoothly, and I’m hoping she continues to write YA! (Also, bonus points for being set somewhere near my hometown of Buffalo, NY, which I still think is hilarious.)

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The Paper Trail Diary turns FOUR with a giveaway!

paper trail diary fourth birthday

I am pretty pleased with myself that I’ve managed to keep this blog going for four years now, to be honest! And while this “birthday” is actually weeks late because I’m not the most perfect blog mom, I am still thrilled to celebrate. Especially because I’m so into this giveaway pack I’ve put together!

This year’s giveaway includes:

*A copy of one of my favourite 2018 reads, Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

*A notebook

*A custom-made banner of your choice

*A pack of The Pillars of The Paper Trail Diary zines

*A stack of postcards

Because shipping costs suck, I do have to limit this to US & Canada only. Sorry international pals!

TO ENTER: Head over to THIS Instagram post and follow the instructions!

I will choose a winner on Sunday, May 27.

Book Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

chaotic good review via paper trail diary

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner, out now

It’s been a while since I finished reading Chaotic Good and I still feel hungover. I wish I had more time with Cameron, Cooper, Why, and Lincoln. Chaotic Good will easily make it as one of my favourite books of 2018!

I loved Whitney’s first book You’re Welcome, Universe that came out last year so I was firm in my mind that I would read anything Whitney writes. When I found out her next book had to do with D&D, I laughed. D&D is in my life, but I don’t play, my partner does. And as much as I wish it was something I could share with him, it is not for me at all. I teased Jack about how he can’t get me to play but Whitney can get me to read about it, and he just lovingly said he’d read the book sometime. (He’s too good.) D&D isn’t a huge part of the book, but it does work as a crucial turning point in the plot, which worked well for me. :p

Chaotic Good is basically a nerdy She’s the Man (which then Jack said ‘which is basically Twelfth Night‘) and I am all here for it. Cameron has just moved to a new town after living in Portland, and finding herself friendless, she heads to a place that should be able to give her comfort: a comic book store. But it’s there where she runs into the pretentious and misogynistic employee Brody, who immediately questions her nerd status because she is transparent about her love of costumes, the fact that she hasn’t already read everything in all the universes, and that she has her own opinions. She’s still reeling from the continuous slew of trolling after she admitted at a Con that she didn’t know something about a character she was cosplaying, so Brody’s words sting. Unable to accept not being able to return to the only comic book store in town, Cameron lets her twin brother Cooper convince her to don his clothes and return as a guy, which of course completely convinces the guys at the store and lands her an invitation to their D&D game, and she accepts. Further complicating things, she develops a huge crush on the group’s adorable Dungeon Master, and she becomes distracted from preparing a portfolio of costume ideas that she plans to present to a university later in the summer.

Besides really admiring Whitney’s writing style, which just feels so effortless and careful (even though I know it’s hard work) I also love the characters she creates. I want to be friends with everyone (except Brody) and I want to help and protect them because they’re so precious. I admired Cameron for pushing herself and others, Cooper for his support as a brother and friend, Why (another comic book shop employee) for his sweetness and inclusivity, and Lincoln for his creativity and honesty.

Chaotic Good is a wonderful read that challenges nerd culture and shows the reader that you don’t have to know every single thing about something in order to love it. It shows a girl who knows what she wants and that she takes steps to follow her dreams, embrace her creativity, and kiss a cute boy in between. It still appeals to those who don’t know or like D&D. It has more than one delightful budding romance. Seriously, I could go on forever with words and mostly squee-type noises about how much I loved this book. So add it to your TBR, friends!

This entry was posted in Books.

Join the mail edition of the Book Lover Postcard Swap!

book lover postcard swap mail edition

In honour of April being National Letter Writing Month, Barb and I knew it was only fitting/obvious that our next Book Lover Postcard Swap theme be mail 😉

So sign up to be matched with someone – you’ll write each other postcards about books you’ve enjoyed that involve mail in some way! I have so many I could write about… 84 Charing Cross Road, The Lost Art of Letter Writing, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyetc etc etc. Even my first favourite letter writing book, The Jolly Pocket Postman!  I’m swooning just thinking about them! (If you have not read them, OMG READ THEM.)

So go on, follow the form!

Book Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

tyler johnson was here via paper trail diary

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles, out now

“Who do you even call when the cops are the ones being the bad guys? Who do you even beg to protect you?”

I am so glad that Black Lives Matter-inspired books continue to be published and break grounds. Tyler Johnson Was Here is a worthy addition not just to the subject but to YA in general for the character of Marvin Johnson.

Marvin and his twin brother Tyler are used to going quiet when the cops bang on their door, but they are still terrified. They’re terrified when they see a cop threaten another black kid down the street. They’re terrified when a cop goes off on them for no reason in the convenience store. When Tyler goes missing after a party, and then a video goes viral of his death by police brutality, Marvin is thrown into chaos and 100% justified frustration.

The thing about Marvin is he cries. He cries A LOT, and he talks about crying. And I think that’s SO important to show in YA lit – a boy crying. In the beginning of the book, Marvin mentions how his father, who is in jail for a wrongly accused crime, told him ‘men don’t cry,’ but he still cries. And then he gets a letter from his dad, which says “Crying can free you, son. Crying can make you see past it, past the pain that hurts your growing heart. The best time to cry is, weird enough, at nighttime — when all the lights are out, and it’s dark, who no one is around to see.” He starts on a good point, but I don’t agree with his ending sentiment. And thankfully those are not words Marvin lives by. It’s obviously tragic that he cries so much because he’s living through hell, but it’s important to show his tears. In public. It’s real.

This book will break your heart. This is from the convenience store scene:

…in this very moment I’m starting to really hate myself, really feel sorry for myself, because I’ve been black for too long, because I’ve been such a menace to society because of this skin, because of the words that come to mind when some people see me.

Another thing to point out is that Tyler was falling into a gang. And, like one of my new fave TV shows On My Block, this book does a solid in pointing out that those who are in gangs are worth caring about, they’re more than the throw-away news story.

Is Tyler being a gang like a pass to not look for him? Just because he fell for the gang life doesn’t mean he’s not saveable, that he’s not worth risking everything for.

I’m glad I read Tyler Johnson Was Here. It made me uncomfortable, and it should’ve. If it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, you have some thinking to do. You’ll want to wrap Marvin and his mom in the hugest hug and wish that you could bring Tyler back for them. From the grand scape of the real issue to the zoomed-in grief, Tyler Johnson Was Here gives a delicate, strong, and important story. Plus, Jay Coles is a new voice in YA that’s worth investing in. I look forward to what else he’ll bring to literature.

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Book Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Emergency Contact review via Paper Trail Diary

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi, out now

I must have read the description for Emergency Contact a handful of times and it never stuck. So how did it become one of my favourite books of the year so far? This was a good recurring lesson of ‘don’t always judge a book by its description’ (though as someone who writes book descriptions as part of her job it still nags me). Then I get into the black hole of ‘what if all the bad description books are actually amazing?’ And things go all haywire. Anyways. A combo of things happened to get me to pick it up and buy it: blogger friends reading and saying they’re loving it, seeing it everywhere, and feeling a need for a new kind of book and being in the bookstore at the right place and right time. The power of marketing! And I’m so glad all of those things came into play, because Emergency Contact was exactly what I needed and then some.

Emergency Contact falls into New Adult genre but definitely has YA crossover, as the main character Penny has just started university. I really liked that it took place in her first year at university, because a) it showed how Penny grows once she’s taken out of her comfort zone and dropped in the real world and b) it includes her pursuing her passion/career. But the story is mainly an adorable love story, and I’m a sucker for a good one, no matter how much I push against the concept.

The story is told by two characters: Penny, an awkward and uncomfortable aspiring writer, and Sam, a self-aware lost pup/barista/documentary filmmaker. Now reading that might make some people chuckle, but just go with it. Penny first meets Sam when she goes to his cafe with her roommate Jude, who is Sam’s former step-niece. Jude makes Penny agree she won’t fall for Sam, but obviously that won’t stop someone. Penny meets Sam a second time when she sees him fall over at a park while he’s having a panic attack. She becomes his emergency contact as she’s driving him to the hospital, and away we go on a cute but forbidden texting relationship, as these two awkward ducks find comfort in their new confidants. It starts as a simple friendship, and builds into something even more. While both going through their own very real stuffs, they need to figure out what exactly they’re doing, and what their feelings are trying to tell them. Both are in desperate need of having someone who understands them in their life, and they run with it.

What made this story set itself apart from the description and the somewhat simple idea was Mary’s writing. She’s got a dry humour that will come out of nowhere and tap you on the forehead. It’s real, weird, and silly. It had me laughing out loud on multiple occasions. Mary throws herself into Penny’s and Sam’s voices, giving them exactly what they need to be damaged but pure, adorable yet cringe-inducing, into each other but still focused on their lives, etc etc. Occasionally the writing would feel a little disjointed, and the ending was rushed, but it was rare and not a big deal, so I’d say this was fantastic for a fiction debut from a journalist (not knocking, I used to be one – it’s very different writing styles). I very much look forward to future books by Mary.

Emergency Contact faced my challenges and still became one of my new favourite books. If you’re looking for a fresh voice with a slightly more grown-up angle from YA while still getting an adorable fix, I’d highly recommend picking this up.

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