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?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro

This is one of those books that was so good that I don't really want to do a review of it because I want to keep it all to myself. But, at the same time I also want to talk about how great it is and make everyone read it??

I won Sputnik's Children from ECW Press through 49thshelf. (49thshelf always has awesome giveaways and book lists, so if you aren't following that site yet you should.)

Sputnik's Children is about Debbie, who is a comics writer who takes inspiration from her own wacky life as she hops back and forth in time between the present (2011 in the book) and around the 60s. But it also has two parallel universes of the 60s - one that happened as it did in our world, and the other which Favro calls "Atomic Mean Time" where all the rights movements never happened and everything was a lot closer to nuclear war. And it's up to Debbie to save the entire world from nuclear destruction.

It's SO FUN. I don't think I've ever read an adult fiction book that is as fun as Sputnik's Children. I just whizzed through it. Debbie is great, the time travel is great, the sci fi elements and parallel universes are great.

Before I got the book, I read a blurb somewhere that said it is "genre-bending" and I had no idea what that was supposed to mean. But after reading the book I get it - it's kind of sci-fi with all the time travel and parallel universe stuff, but there are also longer sections in between the time travel that are just about Debbie living her life in whatever time period she happens to be in. So there's a lot of stuff about growing up and family and friend dynamics too. I LOVE it, because Terri Favro writes all genres amazingly well and the transition between them is so smooth, and helps to keep the story going forward at a really entertaining pace. Like I already said, this was one book that I did not want to stop reading! It's great if you like contemp, but it's also great if you really need a swift moving plot to keep you engaged.

Even the ending was great, which is hard to pull of with books like this that tackle big things like saving the entire world from nuclear destruction.

I think that pretty much anyone would like this book, so go pick it up now!!

Find it on:
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com
Goodreads
ECW Press

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Beauty & The Beast Book Tag

Thank you Lara for tagging me to do this! I haven't yet seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie, but I can still talk about books. :)

BE OUR GUEST: 5 characters you'd invite to your dream dinner party




I keep trying to think of what my dream dinner party would even look like, but then I keep just thinking of what would be the most entertaining dinner party. So the characters that would make the most interesting dinner party... I feel like Ronan Lynch from The Raven Cycle would liven up any dinner party. Then add Taylor Markham and Jonah Griggs (from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta), and Tara and Tom from The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta and... oh man. Hilarity. (Someone please write me the fic.)

BELLE: A character whose dreams of adventure inspire you


I'm not sure if she really dreams of adventure, but Aminata from The Book of Negroes has always inspired me with her determination and resilience throughout her journey.

THE BEAST/PRINCE: A character who went through an unexpected transformation



Hmm maybe Bianca and her friends at the end of The DUFF by Kody Keplinger. It was unexpected because I expected them to go the typical way of dumping-mean-girl-friends at the end but it unexpectedly did not happen that way, very much for the better. :) 

THE ENCHANTED ROSE: A book with a terrible curse at the heart of the story



I think it's called Impossible by Nancy Werlin, a book based on all the verses of Scarborough Fair (and the later verses are... weird to say the least). It's so, so weird but when I first read it, it was absolutely fascinating and the execution was great. It's actually the start of a series, but I still think the first book is the best.

TALE AS OLD AS TIME: A classic romance story that you love



Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is definitely a classic by now. Actually just any Stephanie Perkins. Also, I love Jenny Han's Lara Jean series so much, and the new book is out this week!! So excited!! 

THE DANCE: Your favourite romantic scene from any book



Melina Marchetta writes some pretty romantic scenes. But I think my favourite is probably That Scene in King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. If you've read King of Attolia and haven't reread That Scene a bajillion times, you're lying. I melt every time. (Also, poor Costis ;) ).

THE LAST PETAL: A book character who managed to break a terrible curse


I honestly can't remember the details, but maybe Seraphina in Shadowscale by Rachel Hartman? At least, she comes to an acceptance of her "curse", which amounts to breaking it, right? Wow I need to reread those books. Such good fantasy.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Your bookish OTP

One of the couples in the Queen's Thief I think (can't say who because if you haven't read them it's kind of a spoiler?) Their relationship seems really weird at first glance, but is actually really unique and amazingly supportive and very romantic.

Oh, now the part of the tag that I'm terrible at - tagging other people. Let's say Lisa, Madison, Morgan, Ashtyn, Stephen and anyone else who wants to do the tag of course!

What characters do you think would make the most hilarious dinner party if you put them all together? ;)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Local Book Nook #1: Manitoba, Canada


So the first person to be featured on my new Local Book Nook blog series is... me!


If you don't know, Local Book Nook is a blog series I just started today. It is a blog series featuring readers from all over the world talking about their favourite local books and authors. If you would like to learn more or if you would like to be one of these featured readers, go here or comment below with your contact info and I will contact you!

Where are you from?

I am from Canada, in particular the beautiful and often underrated prairie province Manitoba. There is a book called If You're Not From the Prairie that basically sums up my experience as a Manitoban. As a prairie girl, what other people call flat is often nowhere close to what I consider flat. I have been witness to many beautiful prairie sunsets, and I have felt the fierceness of the prairie winds in all seasons.



Manitoba has a great literary scene which I have really only dipped my toe into at this point. There are a lot of great prairie writers, lots of prairie literary magazines (one of my favourites is Prairie Fire), publishers, a literary festival, and great local bookstores that promote and feature a wide variety of books, including a great section featuring local prairie authors.


What are some of your favourite local books or authors?

While searching for local books I have read, I discovered that there are a ton of local authors whose work I've never read. I need to fix that! Anyway, here are a few of my favourite local authors whose work I have read:

1. Perry Nodelman and Carol Matas (Of Two Minds, More Minds)


I think I was probably nine or ten when I first read their MG fantasy, Of Two Minds. It was about two characters from two different kingdoms - Princess Lenora, who was from a kingdom where the subjects could make their dreams a reality, and Prince Coren, from a kingdom where the subjects could read minds. They get pushed together, and Lenora's fierce personality and Coren's much more subdued one make a perfect pairing. Everything about this book and its sequel (now I think it has two sequels?) I loved - the premise, the characters, the world building. It was so fascinating that I remembered the plot perfectly, even years later. I found it at a used book sale, reread it, and it was still as good as ever. I also realized that Lenora and Coren's relationship had subconsciously influenced my own writing, as I had created two characters in a fantasy series that were based on them. Anyway, when I came back to it years later, I found out that Perry Nodelman and Carol Matas are actually from Winnipeg, Manitoba, which made me unbelievably excited.



2. Katherena Vermette (North End Love Songs, The Break)

Katherena Vermette is becoming more and more well known on the Canadian literary scene, especially with her newest novel The Break, which was actually featured on CBC's Canada Reads this year. I have yet to read The Break (I am planning to soon!) but I have read her first poetry book, North End Love Songs, which just perfectly depicts what it is like growing up in one of the rougher neighbourhoods of Winnipeg. Her writing was absolutely exquisite and so effective at drawing out emotion. It struck me while reading her short book of poetry that she would make an excellent novelist, so I am excited to read her book.






3. Miriam Toews (A Complicated Kindness, Swing Low: A Life, All My Puny Sorrows)
 
I feel like if you are going to learn anything about Manitoba and some of the people that make up its population, you should read anything and everything by Miriam Toews. The first book of hers that I read was A Complicated Kindness, which was the book that launched her into Canada-wide fame. Then I took a Mennonite literature class (fascinating stuff), and reread A Complicated Kindness, enjoying it even more the second time. I've also read her books Swing: Low A Life and All My Puny Sorrows. All her books deal with the suffocation and sorrow of growing up in the stifling environment of conservative Mennonite communities in southern Manitoba, and the consequences of that. But she is also able to write these deeply sorrowful stories with a unique sense of humor that perfectly captures the inconsistencies of the people she portrays. A Complicated Kindness in particular I found laugh out loud funny. I would definitely encourage you to pick up one of her books.


So those are just a few Manitoba authors that I love, although I could talk about more if you want me to! ;)

And don't forget if YOU want to do a post sharing about your favourite local authors, either leave a comment with your contact info, email me at asherlockwrites(at)gmail(dot)com, or Tweet/DM me on Twitter!

Local Book Nook Blog Series Launch (& I Need You!)

One of the things that is important to me in my blogging, reading and especially in my reviewing is to talk about lesser known books, and talk about books set in or written by authors from places around the world. I also love to talk about Canadian literature, because Canada is the place I call home. I know how magical it is to read a book set in a place that I recognize.

It was actually something that the really intelligent teen blogger/reader Jolien tweeted the other day that sparked the idea for this blog series in my brain. She was just asking for some recommendations of local authors she could read and I thought, I love when readers support and talk about local authors, and I love talking about local authors. Why don't I start a blog series that features readers talking about their favourite local books and authors from wherever they are from? It would be a great way to hopefully learn about great reads from places all around the world, which is basically my favourite thing ever. (Is this whole blog series just an excuse to make more book maps and get book recs? YES IT IS.)

So, introducing my new blog series:



What it is:

A blog series featuring readers from all over the world talking about their favourite local books and authors.

Posts will include a brief description of wherever the reader is from, which can be interpreted however, so it could be as vague as the country, or as specific as a town or city. Then the rest of the post will include the reader talking about at least one or more of their favourite local books or authors, and sharing a bit of their corner of the world! 

Who can be involved:

YOU. Seriously, if you read, I want you to be a part of this. I don't care where you're from, as long as you like reading and have at least one local book or author you'd like to talk about. I'd love to have a wide variety of readers from places all around the world. I think it would even be cool if you had local books to share that were in your own local language, even if it is a language other than English.

I hope that you are excited as I am to learn more about the great books that are being written in places all over the world, and I hope you will want to get involved!

If you would like to write a post about your favourite local books and authors, leave your email in the comments or Tweet/DM me on Twitter and I will contact you with some more details. I would also appreciate if you shared this around so more people can have the opportunity to get involved.

You can check out the very first Local Book Nook post right here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Down With Goodreads Challenges (Re: Do We Read Too Quickly?)

A few weeks ago (actually, about a month now... oops) Emily wrote a post asking, Do We Read Too Quickly? In her post, she talks about how she often becomes caught up in finishing books so that she can add more books to her Goodreads challenge or whatever that it becomes more about finishing books than actually the reading them. One of the questions she asks is, "Are we so goal-oriented and productivity-obsessed with READING a book [that it] becomes more about FINISHING a book?" I don't think there's anything wrong with pushing through books to the end even if they're not enjoyable because that can be a unique experience, but I think there is something weird about how productivity and numbers-obsessed we often are when it comes to reading.



One of the things I've noticed in the online book community is that if you don't read a LOT of books, you often feel like you're falling behind. There are people constantly talking about books, and often the most popular people are the ones who are talking about the most books (how do they read so many books!??) Then there's the Goodreads challenge - you set a number of books you want to read each year, and that becomes THE reading goal for the year - the number of books you read. I'm sure it's been like this for a long time, but why did we decide that the number of books we read each year is the most important thing?

I have definitely been guilty of falling into the trap of wanting higher numbers. Even in years when I read lots of really fascinating, mind-stretching books, at the end of the year when I go to do my year-end wrap up post I feel disappointed in myself when I read significantly less books than the year before (even if it's still well over 50). And then I'm like, I read so many great books this year! Why do I care so much that I read 15 less books than last year?



I'd like to propose that we focus less on productivity in the number of books read, and be more intentional in the books we do read. Focusing on numbers often leads to wanting to read the fastest and most easily digestible books so you can get your numbers up, at least in my experience. But what about those 800 page books that take months to get through but are often absolutely fascinating and change your view of the world? (Some of mine have been Five Days at Memorial, Riel: A Life of Revolution and Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood.) Or what about those books that maybe aren't 800 pages, but take just as long to get through because they take so much emotional and mental energy, but in the end have a lasting impact on how you live your life or perceive others different from you? Or what about people who just can't read fast or read five books in one weekend?

I'd love to see the online book community focused less on numbers, and more on basically everything else. What do you think of goals for reading a certain number of books in a year? How else do you think society's focus on productivity and numbers as indicators of success impacts our reading habits?

***


Speaking of reading challenges (kind of), remember my 2017 reading goals? One of my goals was "Do a reading challenge on the blog! Which one? Who knows, not me!" Well, I found the challenge I want to do this year! It is called Women in Translation Month - started by blogger Meytal Radzinski to help promote books written by women in other languages that have been translated into English. WIT Month takes place in August, so I'll try to read some women in translation before then so I can have a bunch of reviews up that month. I am SO EXCITED about this challenge - Meytal shares a lot of my passions, for more international literature in the Western world, and for Western readers to get outside of our own anglophone-centered media bubbles. Reading books in translation is a great way to do that (and one of my other goals was to read 3 books in translation, so two birds with one stone! Yay!) Meytal also has a great list already on her blog and Goodreads. Let me know in the comments if you're planning to join me!!

(also I am working on a ~cool secret project~ which I will launch when I'm done exams, so stay tuned! ;) )

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