Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me by Lorina Mapa

I love reading graphic novels, almost as much as I love reading memoirs, but putting them together is even better. Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me by Lorina Mapa is a graphic memoir about Lorina Mapa's experiences growing up in the 1980s during the People Power Revolution in the Philippines.

It was absolutely fascinating, and done so well. Mapa's starting point for her story is her father's death and her trip back to the Philippines for his funeral. While she tells the story of the aftermath of her father's death, she interweaves flashbacks of her time growing up. I sometimes find that hopping back and forth in time gets confusing, but Mapa does it flawlessly. The present day story line and the childhood story line perfectly transition into each other, in such a way that gives the other story line even more meaning and depth.

I also loved learning more about the People Power Revolution from the perspective of people directly involved. This is why I love memoirs - reading about events from the point of view of people who were there makes them come alive and helps me to realize just how the people involved were impacted and how it is meaningful to them. Mapa's own personal struggles and questioning of big life questions like culture, poverty and family made me think about how complicated history really is. This is my favourite way to learn about history: through the people that lived it.

Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me is a fascinating, well put together story that is narrated by a woman whose insight and questioning of her world makes this book an enjoyable and eye-opening read.

Check it out on:

Monday, June 12, 2017

Local Book Nook #2: Southern England, UK

Remember that blog series that I started almost two months ago to get people talking about their favourite local books? Well, today I have the first installment by someone other than myself! 

Local Book Nook, in case you forgot, is a blog series featuring readers from all over the world talking about their favourite local books and authors. Featured today is the lovely Lara

I found Lara's blog through the excellent blog event Disability Diaries 2017 that was run by a bunch of awesome teen bloggers. As you can tell from her post below, she has a great, fun (and funny) style and voice that is super enjoyable to read, and she is also passionate about things like diverse representation in books. So definitely go check out her blog after you're done here! Thanks Lara for participating.

Where are you from?

I'm from the UK. Southern England, if you want to be more specific.

Yes, I know. I'm being infuriatingly vague about it. But the mystery-loving, let's-keep-the-intrigue-going part of my brain is getting a little bit twitchy about revealing exactly where it is I live, so we're just going to go with that. Mostly because the amount of decent books from my tiny part of the country is so frustratingly near zero that I don't want to go there.

What I do want to do with this post is subvert some stereotypes.

You see, there's no way I'm anywhere near close to what the international community expects a British person to be like. I don't like tea. I love London, but I've never lived there (Yes, that photo was a trick. MWA HA HA). And, despite the fact that my family could be considered posher than some, there's no way I'm as posh as you think. (I am, however, ridiculously apologetic. That really is a cultural thing over here.)

So, I have some books and authors which I think will show you what modern Britain is really like. As much as a bunch of stories is capable of doing, anyway.

Wish me luck.

Web of Darkness is a deep, psychological thriller based on adults being kind of predatory towards children and causing them to commit suicide. I don't want you to think that is what Britain is like - but the main character and her friends are modern British teenagers. They're a great place to start when you still genuinely think we all wander around drinking tea with our corgis at heel. Not only that, but a lot of the plot circulates around the British schooling system. So you Americans and Canadians in particular get to understand the absolute joy that is school uniform.

I hope I managed to get across my intensely British sarcasm properly there.

You'll notice that I've also linked to Bali Rai's author page up above, which I don't often do, because - although Web of Darkness is the only one of his books I've actually read - he has an amazing reputation for portraying the multiculturalism of Britain, specifically the intricate cultures of its Asian communities. And I'm so, so keen to get across that modern Brits are not necessarily white. We don't all look like we belong in an Enid Blyton novel.

It'd be dull otherwise.

2. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Okay, so technically this is a cheat. Maureen Johnson is not British, and since as far as I can tell she does not live in Britain she's about as American as you can get.

But this series, especially the first book ... it's so darn British I can't even quantify. The whole plot is based on a bunch of Jack the Ripper style murders (gory Victorian history for the win, amiright?) and the antics that result from an American main character attempting to understand British life really do a great job of highlighting exactly what it's like. There's a lot of recent and not-so-recent history involved because of the ghostly aspect, including some Britpop related stuff (just Google it if you're not sure), and even the descriptions of Tube stations are nigh on perfect.

I also kind of like being able to laugh at Rory's complete inability to comprehend British culture - although if I ever end up living in a foreign country, I feel the bad karma will come back to bite me.

Ah, well.

This book has been included solely for the school element. If Web of Darkness was a taster of what British education is like, this is a full intensive guide. And it is worth noting that the school in this book is a very very posh private one. Most British schools are not as stuffed with rich folks.

But the popularity systems are the same - I feel it's important to realise that, despite our incredibly fortunate lack of cheerleaders and jocks, we still have a hierarchy. It's just a lot more subtle than you might think.

4. Margot and Me by Juno Dawson

Newsflash, my friends! There's more to England than London! And this will really blow your minds - THERE'S MORE TO BRITAIN THAN ENGLAND!

I can just feel you gasping.

I'm partway through this book right now, and what I'm absolutely loving about it thus far is its beautiful Welshness. It's technically set in the nineties, so life has obviously progressed a little since then, but it feels real - I hasten to add, however, that I am not Welsh. As far as I'm aware, it's a pretty accurate representation of life in a country which has a dragon on it's flag, and a good introduction to Welsh culture as seen from the outside. That said, if a Welshperson informs you that it is stereotypical, listen to them.

(Quick shoutout needed for all the lovely World War II evacuation sections - if any of you have been wondering, this is basically history lessons in every British primary school ever. I think I wrote a war diary from the point of view of an evacuee pretty much every year from the age of six to eleven. None of them were set in Wales and you can be rest assured it didn't get as racy as Margot's ...)

Lara Liz is a teenage procrastinator, blogger and reader who is passionate about diverse books, proudly disabled, and utterly obsessed with musical theatre of all kinds. She tweets @otherteenreader, blogs at ... and yes. She was named after Lara Croft.

If you would like to do a Local Book Nook guest post, contact me at asherlockwrites(at)gmail(dot)com. You can find some more information here.

Monday, June 5, 2017

2 Mini Memoir Reviews: A Two-Spirit Journey & From the Tundra to the Trenches

I think my favourite nonfiction books are memoirs. There is just something so special about reading the stories of real people's lives. Fictional characters are great, but there is nothing so strange and fascinating as real life. I often find memoirs to be some of the most eye-opening, entertaining, and hilarious books I've read. I love that the memoir narrator can introduce me to ways of living and being that I would never have even considered otherwise. I recently read two very different, and also similar memoirs and wanted to share them with you!

The first one was A Two-Spirit Journey by Ma-Nee Chacaby, with Mary Louisa Plummer. It is the
story of Ma-Nee and the struggles she faces throughout her life, as a lesbian Ojibwe-Cree from Ontario. Her story was told in a very simple, straightforward style but what stunned me was the incredible resilience of this woman. There is so much pain in Ma-Nee's story - I lost count of the times she was abused or harassed by a variety of people, all throughout her life. It takes her a long time to find a place where she's content. But even so, she has such a positive outlook on her life and demonstrates compassion for others around her. She comes across as so humble and caring, even in the tone of her narration. Through her own outlook on life, she provides a tremendous amount of hope to her story, and to others. I think that is the strength of her story; her example of continuing to hope amidst pain. I would definitely encourage everyone to read Ma-Nee's story. (Just a warning though: while the style is easy to read, some of the content might be difficult to get through.)

The second memoir I read this year was From the Tundra to the Trenches by Eddy Weetaltuk, which is part of University of Manitoba's First Voices, First Texts series (an amazing series - all of the books in the series that I've read so far have been wonderful.) From the Tundra to the Trenches is a memoir written by an Inuit soldier, and his time fighting for Canada in the war. This very much just a life story, and very easy to read, especially if you're interested in war memoirs. There's a bunch of forewords and afterwards since it's an academic edition, but if you just read what Eddy himself wrote, it's a quick and entertaining read, that also opened my eyes to what it's like being an Inuit in Canada and in the Canadian army. I also appreciated how self-aware Eddy was as a narrator.

If you do want to read the extra essays though, it includes some really fascinating background to the publication of Eddy Weeltaltuk's story, and how he wanted it to be a bestseller to give hope and teaching to Inuit youth, while everyone else regarded it as an artefact to be stored in a museum. Eventually it was rescued from the museum and published in this edition by the U of M. I'm still hopeful it could make a bestseller list somewhere. :)

What are your favourite memoirs?

Friday, May 26, 2017


I am too tired to do anything interesting on the blog this week, but I don't want to break my streak yet! I am stealing this update idea from another blogger, who took it from another blogger... you know how it goes.

currently loving

The revival of the Queen's Thief fandom since Thick as Thieves came out! There is a thread on Sounis with 151 comments! Insane! I'm so excited to reread Thick as Thieves and get into all the analysis with my fellow Queen's Thief nerds, and try to figure out exactly what Megan Whalen Turner is up to. ;) I am also very much loving the web series Away From it All, which is sadly almost at an end :( (but a perfect time to binge watch!) One of the most enjoyable part of the series is the transmedia. I've particularly been enjoying the characters' Tumblrs, which I find give so much background to what the characters are thinking and feeling. The Away From it All team is doing something so right with their transmedia. 

currently reading

I am slowly making my way through the Indigenous Sci-fi short story anthology called Love Beyond Body, Space and Time, edited by Hope Nicholson. I've read three stories so far, and fell in love with two of them. I'm excited to read more! 

currently watching

Last night my brother and I finally watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was a lot better than I expected it to be. I love Newt and his creatures, and it was so much fun being back in the Harry Potter world, and also interesting experiencing the adult world of Harry Potter. Since it got us excited, my brother and I are now planning to do a rewatch of the whole series.

currently listening to

I have been listening to the French indie folk/ukulele band Nazca a lot because they are amazing (I am so sad they are not popular enough to have everyone publishing ukulele chords of their songs... but still amazing.) I've also been listening to the Hello Internet podcast a lot because it's always entertaining, and my friend just introduced me to a couple musicals that I'll probably listening more to soon, Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away.

currently thinking about

I think about way too many things at any given moment, so you probably don't want to know. Right now I am thinking about whether it is a good idea to go to bed at 7:30.

currently anticipating  

The weekend. Also, I am experimenting with a vegetable garden this year, so I am also waiting to see if anything actually happens with it.

currently wishing

That I could sleep all day. (I really should not write blog posts when I'm tired.) I also wish that the next Queen's Thief book wasn't another probably ten years in the future. And that it would never end.

currently making me happy
  • good meals I've managed to cook myself
  • time with friends 
  • the smiling, enthusiastic and always willing faces of volunteers
  • cycling to work through a park and seeing all the people enjoying the outdoors 

So what are you currently up to? 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What's Up Wednesday

I have no idea if the official What's Up Wednesday is still a thing, but I figure it's time for an update and I like the formatting. (The original What's Up Wednesday was created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch!)

What I'm Reading

If you didn't already know, The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner is one of my favourite series of all time, and the fifth book in the series came out this week after seven years! So I'm currently halfway through rereading the series before reading the new book, Thick as Thieves. That is probably going to consume me for the next few weeks, and then I really need to get started on reading stuff for Women in Translation month in August!

What I'm Writing

I have been working on rewriting the book I finished in December, and I am currently at about 34,000 words. I have been making good progress on this thing. I even made a semi decent outline before rewriting, which is not something I usually do. Because of that, I think if I just sat down and powered through, I could probably finish it in maybe a month. Except I keep giving myself a million other things to occupy my time when I'm not at work... heheh. I was thinking of doing Camp NaNo, although now it looks like there's only sessions in April and July. Another year I did it June and that would've worked better for me... we'll see. Maybe I'll do my own Camp NaNo in June. Anyone want to join me? ;)

What Inspires Me Right Now

Weirdly enough, the beautiful storytelling of the TV shows The Get Down and Skam have really inspired me lately. They are the kinds of art that are so good that they make you want to sit down and create art. And also Megan Whalen Turner's genius, of course.

What Else Is New

Well in April I finished my second to last year of university! Next year I will be graduating with a 4-year Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences with a concentration in Intercultural Studies. I also started my full time summer job a day after I was done everything for school. This summer I'm working at a volunteer department, helping coordinate volunteers. I really enjoy it - it's always busy and there's always something different to do. In just my first month, I've had to fold clothes, organize a uniform swap, call someone to tell them a visitor dropped their phone in with the snakes, go to and help set up volunteer trainings, send a million email reminders, and have lots of lengthy conversations with talkative volunteers who ask a million questions. And that's not all!

So work has been keeping me pretty busy since it's full time, and then I get home and I'm too tired to do much of anything. But I'm still trying to work on my own projects, like my book, this blog, and my garden! I am going to attempt to grow things this summer, although I'm such a newbie gardener, we'll see how it goes. Anyway, I think this summer is going to be hectic, but fun!

What are your plans for summer, writing or vacation related?


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