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 ūüėČ 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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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 Unrequited,¬†The Hate U Give,¬†Always 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 ūüėÄ

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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¬†Replica.¬†Replica 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:

‚ÄúEveryone wants something different from me. It‚Äôs 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‚Äôs the opposite: I‚Äôm too much of a guy, and it‚Äôs not right. I should be a girl, because that‚Äôs what I‚Äôm supposed to be.‚ÄĚ

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 ūüėČ

“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 ūüėČ 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 Replica, The 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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Georgia Nicolson Readalong (The End!) – Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?

are these my basoomas i see before me via paper trail diary

Welcome back to the Georgia Nicolson Readalong!

Quick refresher: in honour of our dearly departed Teen Queen Louise Rennison, I started a readalong so that we could read (or re-read) her classic Georgia Nicolson series.

You can catch up with posts on Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God, Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas, Dancing in My Nuddy Pants, Away Laughing on a Fast Camel, Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers, Startled by his Furry Shorts, Love is a Many Trousered Thing and Stop in the Name of Pants!

Please note that if you haven’t read this book yet and intend to, there are spoilers!

I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of the readalong!! We did it!

Ten books of Georgia Nicolson – the quirky boy-crazy British teen gal who diaries her bonkers conversations with her friends and family and her ongoing love triangles. We went from the iconic first few books and movie – the ones people really fell in love with – through to the very end.

We’ve learned our lesson that maybe we should leave the things we used to love in the past rather than experience them in a whole new unflattering light now. We’ve seen how books can really not stand the test of time, though¬†it has been a bit interesting (but cringeworthy) to think about how things we find problematic now weren’t seen that way in the 90s.

We’ve gone with Georgia from her first boyfriend Robbie (The Sex God) to a guy she used to make him jealous (Dave the Laugh) to the new Italian stud in town (Masimo) and to Dave a bunch of times in between. We’ve been there when Georgia and Jas had many fights, when the ace gang performed weird dances, and when Libby sang inappropriate songs. We’ve observed how Georgia’s parents have been a weird see-saw of reality and wackiness the whole time. After reading ten of these books you will for sure feel immersed in Georgia’s world!

So, the final book. We pick up from a fight that Masimo and Dave had over Georgia, and Georgia is left confused as to where she stands between them. She still firmly wants to be the girlfriend of Masimo, though, mostly for just being his girlfriend, so she waits for him to come back to her. She doesn’t really try to win him back. Dave tries to tell Georgia again how he feels and is again eschewed. Not much happens throughout the book actually – a lot of just general stuff going on at home and school for Georgia and her friends like another Shakespeare play, and seeing Dave around, and fighting with Wet Lindsay, and wanting to be all sexy for Masimo. But by now it seems clear to everyone but Georgia and Masimo that the two of them barely spend any time together, barely have anything in common, and Georgia spends way more time thinking about Dave anyway and STILL NOT GETTING THAT SHE LIKES HIM. I had hoped earlier in the series that things would¬†change, but gotta say guys, nothing did. In this last book, I was waiting and waiting and waiting (in the two hours it took me to read it) for Georgia to realize she liked Dave, dump Masimo and tell Dave how she felt, even though she’s been toying with him for years. But the end was sadly the most frustrating thing of all. She never did what I’d hoped – they do end up together but only because Masimo decides to move to London with the band. So Georgia never really did any growing up, she never stepped up to do something about her situation herself, only turned to Dave once Masimo was gone, so it just sort of seemed like a ‘well I guess I’m single now because Masimo left, so, hey.’ What kind of message would that send to young readers??? I was pretty disappointed. Do you guys remember reading it when you were younger? What did you think?

I will say though that these ten books all had jokes that had me cracking up, so I will look back fondly upon that.

in the lounge in my jimjams

Vati came in with a pork pie. Taking his health seriously then.

He said, “What’s the matter with you?”

Not that he cares.

I said, “I’m depressed actually.”

He said, “Depressed at your age? You’ll be saying you’re bored next.”

“That is what I was going to say next.”

I want to thank Kaley of Books Etc. for reading and blogging along with me. That’s been fun! And she’s kept a much more level head about all this teenage drama than I have ūüėČ And to any others who have been reading along, or just following along, thank you for your patience :p We will now resume regularly scheduled blogging!

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Georgia Nicolson Readalong: Books 8 & 9

georgia nicolson readalong 8 and 9

Welcome back to the Georgia Nicolson Readalong!

Quick refresher: in honour of our dearly departed Teen Queen Louise Rennison, I started a readalong so that we could read (or re-read) her classic Georgia Nicolson series. Every three weeks we’ll post about the next book in the series. You’re invited to join in at any time!

You can catch up with posts on Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God, Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas, Dancing in My Nuddy Pants, Away Laughing on a Fast Camel, Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers, and Startled by his Furry Shorts.

Please note that if you haven’t read this book yet and intend to, there are spoilers!

Well friends — I’ve fallen quite behind, sorry! I don’t have a good excuse besides being busy/tired/uninspired creatively lately. And I’ve found I don’t have much more to add to my discussion on these books as they keep going. I still think Georgia is a selfish knob though she still is quite funny. And I’ve thought a lot about how the series would be half as long if Georgia grew up in the time of email and cell phones :p

Here’s a quick recap of book 8,¬†Love is a Many Trousered Thing.¬†

At the end of #7, Masimo (aka Luuurve God), Georgia’s most recent obsession, the Italian¬†new singer of The Stiff Dylans, has changed his mind and told Georgia that sure, he’d be her boyfriend. But right as he has, and Georgia is all swoony, Robbie, (aka original Sex God, original singer of The Stiff Dylans, etc etc) shows up after being in New Zealand for many books. And what does Georgia do? Take off running, naturally. Which was quite hilarious. Book #8 picks up right there, as Georgia’s panting her way home, assuming that she has two boyfriends now. So the book goes through Masimo and Robbie sort of vying for Georgia’s affections with snogs and Georgia being ridiculously confused. It ends with Georgia picking Masimo, which I can see how it’d make sense because she was still feeling hurt by Robbie leaving, and as she picks Masimo, Robbie lets out a single tear and says he’s going to go back to New Zealand.

It’s all very well writing books about how to make any twit fall in love with you, but what do you do when you have got them? That should be book two, What to Do with a Collection of Twits When You Have Accidentally Done What Some Fool in a Book Told You to Do and Now They Are All Hanging Out Without You.

So of course once the Robbie issue is settled, Masimo tells Georgia he’s going to Italy for the summer and wants her to come with him (realistic for teenagers, yes?). So Georgia’s back to confusion, and I don’t blame her. What a ping pong game. But it wasn’t over — on a school camping trip, Dave the Laugh and the boys crash in the middle of the night, which results in Dave and Georgia hanging out solo and Dave telling Georgia that he loves her and then kisses her. Anddddd fini.

And now a recap of book 9, Stop in the Name of Pants! 

Like the others, this one picks up right where the last left off. Georgia and Dave are still in the woods — Dave sort of blames Georgia for always toying with him, which makes her cry, and he apologizes and suggests they be friends again.

He said, “We haven’t done this luuurve business before, so we are bound to be crap at it. I do feel bad about Emma, but that is not your fault. That is my fault. We can put away our horns and be matey type mates again. Come on. Cheer up. Be nasty to me again, it’s more normal. I like you and I always have and I always will.”

Which was probably the most mature and swoony thing anyone has said in all 9 books so far.

Georgia still feels quite tied to Masimo, though he’s off in Italy at this point. She questions herself x1000 why she always ends up snogging Dave (and is still clueless).¬†She still doesn’t ever think ‘hey maybe Dave should be my boyfriend’ – it’s all about being with the hottest rock star… which makes me feel bad for Dave at this point. She doesn’t deserve him! Yes he can be a bit of a dolt sometimes too, he’s a teenage boy, but I feel like he’s so clearly put it out there for Georgia so many times and she hasn’t clued in at all besides knowing that she likes to kiss him and that he always makes her laugh and she feels all warm and nice whenever she sees him. *head desk* I know this is the point of the story but my god it’s killing me!

Most of the book is Georgia missing Masimo. She tries to trick her parents into letting her go to Italy (lol). Masimo calls finally, but the number she took down from him was wrong. She tells him she’s coming to Italy because she still thinks she could, so now she’s leading Masimo on. So she waits and waits and waits to hear from him again – I think she gets a postcard and one more phone call. This would never happen now, with people being in constant communication!

A side storyline that’s been building up throughout the books is that Georgia’s parents are having a tough go at things. It seems to be more obvious in this book – they actually separate for a little bit and talk to Georgia about how things aren’t going well – but it doesn’t really seem to affect her much. Another storyline in that Angus has a near-death experience, so Georgia nurses him back to health (with Dave’s help), which was quite touching.

Stop in the Name of Pants! ends with Dave and Masimo having a bit of a face-off for Georgia at a Stiff Dylans gig – Masimo’s picked up on the Dave vibes after he came back from Italy, because who wouldn’t. He gets upset and stomps off, and Georgia isn’t sure if he’s dumped her or not. So who do you think will win in the final book? ūüėČ

I’ll be back on September 27th with the final round-up of Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?! I can’t believe it’s almost over!

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