Sunday, December 31, 2017

Review of All The Books I Read in 2017

Well, the year is coming to an end, which means it's time for my annual tradition of trying to make up for a year of not talking about books as much as I would like to by talking about them all at once!! This year I'll do it with the help of this survey done by Jamie over at the Perpetual Page Turner.

2017 Reading Stats

Number of books you read: 61!
Number of re-reads: 16, a few more than last year...
Genre you read the most from: Looking through the genres I read this year, I read a *way* wider variety of genres than I usually do, which is cool! It's always my goal to read widely. However, my top genres remain YA fantasy (mostly because of my rereads of both Queen's Thief and Harry Potter), and adult and YA contemporary.

1. Best Book You Read in 2017? I'm not sure... maybe Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer or Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro. Gosh I love sci-fi. Oh wait, no, I forgot Thick as Thieves came out this year... augh I can't pick! 

2. Book You Were Excited About And Thought Were Going to Love More But Didn't? I loved The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, but none of the books I've read after that have pushed boundaries quite like that one, including the one I read this year, Run, although it was still an enjoyable read.

3. Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read? Trafalgar!! In all ways. Well, not bad, but like, in that I was surprised to find that I liked it, and I was also surprised by the twists and turns and stuff. And now I remember how these end of year things go, where I just keep talking about the same good books over and over...

4. Book you "pushed" the most people to read (and they did)? If by "pushed" you mean "handed to and insisted they read it", then Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Always.

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best sequel of 2017? Best series ender of 2017? I almost forgot about Leigh Bardugo's incredible duology, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. I love when authors can both do amazing characters *and* crazy good action. However, best sequel I would definitely give to Thick as Thieves because, uh, Megan Whalen Turner.

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2017? DAWN DUMONT. She NEEDS to be the next famous-even-outside-of-Canada author, because her work is incredible and absolutely hilarious. I loved her newest book, Nobody Cries at Bingo, and want to devour everything she has written and will write forever.

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read/was out of your comfort zone? I pretty much don't read thrillers but a friend of mine solely reads them, so she gave me Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs. It was good! And I wasn't even (too) scared.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? Six of Crows, hands down.

9. Book you read that you are most likely to re-read next year? Thick as Thieves, definitely! I have been meaning to reread it all year. 

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2017? Probably Glass Beads by Dawn Dumont.

11. Most memorable character of 2017? Ugh, don't even know. The characters in Thick as Thieves though. MWT knows her characters and writes them so well

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017? Probably the most eloquently worded book was Rose and Poe by Jack and Todd, which I still intend to do a review of, so look for that soon! Either that or Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Gosh that author knows how tug on a person's soul.

13. Most thought provoking/life-changing book of 2017? Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Hit me in exactly all the right spots at the right moment. 

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2017 to finally read? Six of Crows!! Also, Devil in Deerskins by Anahareo. I knew that book would be fascinating, and it was! Thanks U of M Press for providing with the final nudge I needed to read it. ;) 

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2017?

“What do you think? I laid my hand flat on the table so that he could see the scars. Do you think we are needed? I mean people like us, who have strayed from the path, withdrawn? Who have no diploma, no education, no work, nothing to show, have learned nothing except this: That it is worth it to stay alive.” – I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar

 16. Shortest and longest book you read in 2017? Well, I read a short story collection, so that's pretty short (it was Love Beyond Body, Space and Time by Hope Nicholson). Longest... probably Thick as Thieves or Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. 

17. Book that shocked you the most? Thick as Thieves! Or Trafalgar. 

20. Favourite book you read in 2017 from an author you've read previously? Do I need to say it.

21. Best book you read SOLELY on a recommendation from someone else/peer pressure: Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs! Unexpectedly entertaining, and enlightening.

23. Best 2017 debut you read? AFTER THE FALL by Kate Hart, hands down.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year. SPACE in Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer. 

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read. Oh! I read Waking in Time by Angie Stanton, and boy was that fun. Romance, college and time travel? Sign me up.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2017? Oh, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, definitely. 

27. Hidden gem of the year? After the Fall! Actually, all the books I read. Please just go back and read all of the reviews I did this year, find some gems!!

28. Book that crushed your soul?? Gilead. And Thick as Thieves, because page 287.

29. Most unique book you read this year? My sci-fi loves, Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer and Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro! Both so unique, and BOTH SO MUCH FUN. Go read. Now.

30. Book that made you the most mad (in a good or bad way)?  I don't think I actually got mad at any of the books I read this year. The ones I didn't like were just... blah... and the good ones were just too good to make me mad. Sad, yes, but not mad.

Book Blogging Life

New favourite blog you discovered in 2017? Guys, I can't keep up with my own blog, how can I keep up with new ones...

Favourite review you wrote in 2017? I think my review of Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro. Although I like most of the reviews I write now. I think I've gotten a lot better at writing reviews. 

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? Either 5 Things To Remember When Looking for Diverse Books or 5 Strategies For Finding Under the Radar Books. Basically, my blog's mission statements.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, virtual events, etc)? Not really an event, but the release of Megan Whalen Turner's Thick as Thieves! I got together with an IRL friend of mine who is an MWT fan and we had a little Queen's Thief Party, it was lovely (and uber nerdy, just the way we like it). 

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017? Some lovely publishers decided to send me books to review, which is awesome! I love it that publicists think it's worth it to send books for me to review. :)

Most challenging part of your blogging or reading life this year? Balancing it with school, as always. And, now that I'm back into writing, trying to balance it with writing. And, as always, figuring out how to grow out of YA (although I think I'm getting the hang of it more now), and what I really want the blog to be. You know, just the little things. Oh, and keeping to my one-post-a-week goal. 

Most popular post on your blog? My review of Devil in Deerskins by Anahareo! I'm so glad because that book deserves to be read more.

Post you wish got a little more love? My post about J.K. Rowling, Megan Whalen Turner and Authorial Intent. I was hoping to get a bit more discussion going... Oh, and my Local Book Nook series! Read it, love it, participate!

Best bookish discovery? Can I just say Women in Translation Month?

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? Yes! I said I wanted to participate in a reading challenge, and I did participate in Women in Translation Month, which was one of the best things I did all year. Meytal Radzinski is a genius for coming up with that campaign and I'm so excited to participate again next year (and read waay more women in translation all the time!)

Looking Ahead

I seriously suck at keeping up with debuts and stuff so the only question from this section I'm going to answer is One Thing You Hope to Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life in 2018? One of my post recent posts was talking about how sharing writing is scary and I think I may have decided (as you can tell, I'm sooo committed) that I want to share more of my own writing on the blog. As for reading, for once I think I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing (although I'll go into more detail in a New Year's reading goal post!)

What are some of your best or worst books of 2017? Have you read any books that I've talked about this year? WILL you read any books I've talked about this year?? 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What's Up Wednesday feat. Christmas Cat

Happy December!

Christmas cat!

Well, I think I can say I have failed my goal of doing a post a week this year, BUT I haven't published this many posts since 2012, so I'm going to call that a success.

I don't have any grand ideas for today, so I thought I'd just talk about what I've been up to, in the style of What's Up Wednesday of course!

What I've Been Reading

As always happens when I start school, I go into a reading slump and don't really get out of it until I start reading fun, easy, fluffy books. So recently I've reread some of The Raven Cycle, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and the kind of companion novel Carry On, also by Rainbow Rowell. I also read somewhere in there Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which I may do a review of still, since it was an unusual book that just seemed to find me at exactly the right moment. I also read Frankenstein and a fun YA contemp about time travel called Waking in Time by Angie Stanton. Now I'm reading Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs because a friend recommended it to me, and it is definitely not something I normally read, but it's fun so far!

What I've Been Writing

So, last year around this time I finished a 50,000 word very messy draft of a thing. Then in July this year I finished a second draft rewrite of that thing. Then in August I think? I started writing another story with the same characters, about the next step in their journey. It's another thing that's a lot different from everything I've written, but I love it and these characters so much. A few weeks ago I thought I might finish this draft before the end of year, which would be crazy. Two drafts in a year!?!? Now I don't think it's going to happen, since the holiday season is a lot busier than I thought (with all good things!) Anyway, it's been cool in the past couple of years to have gotten back into writing, although I'm writing about completely different things than I was when I fizzled out four or so years ago. I definitely want to keep working with these characters' stories for awhile yet. One day I will have the courage to share it with people. Maybe. (I'm working on it).
What Inspires Me Right Now

I think the Literary Inspired Web Series online community is something that inspires me right now. If you don't know, there are a bunch of young women who make literary inspired web series (often following in the footsteps of the famous Lizzie Bennet Diaries, although the series have changed a lot since then). It's cool seeing so many young women be brave and put their writing and work out there, and working together and... it's just so cool. It makes me believe more in myself and my own abilities when I see other women my age being so creative and productive and putting their work out there.

What Else I've Been Up To

Finished my second last semester of my undergrad degree!! One more semester to go. It feels good to be off school for the moment, and the blog ideas are slowly trickling back in... I have a few reviews I want to do, maybe before the end of the year, my traditional end of year posts of course, and I have a special surprise for January that I'm quite excited about! Other than that, right now my life is consumed with holiday stuff like working, baking, and watching Star Wars.

Also, I've been slacking off on my Local Book Nook project (because, school. If you're one of those students who is ALSO a consistent book blogger, you get all the prizes). But if you're interested in participating, please either leave a comment, DM me on Twitter or email me!

What are you reading or writing these days? How do manage to balance blogging, writing, and life?? Please tell me your secrets.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Blogging, Sharing Writing, and Other Scary Things

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a couple months now... thought I'd finally post it.
Summer just whizzed by, and all of a sudden it's almost October [it's November!! ] and I've gone three weeks without writing a blog post (sorry!) In case you missed it, I spent most of August doing reviews for Women in Translation Month, and I also did a review of Anahareo's incredible autobiography Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl, which includes pictures of my family's annual trip to Riding Mountain National Park.

Since then, I've started my final year of university, got yet another job, opened a new bank account, read and thought way too much about media and the way it manipulates our brains, biked a bunch of places, hung out with friends, and somewhere in there the scariest thing of all, writing.

I also have not been blogging, obviously. I have been thinking a lot about what I should blog about, though.

I've wanted to talk about book reviewing, in response to this post, and the bizarre concept that there are book bloggers who review every book they read?? I often feel like a fake book blogger, that I kind of stumbled into book reviewing after goofing off as a teenager for a number of years. I don't really know how this thing is really supposed to work. The type of book blogger world that you review every book you read is so distant and strange to me. I think so differently about the books I review, if I did that with every book I read it would ruin my reading experience and make me want to read even less than I do. (I have been stuck on Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Ueashi for about two weeks now. Although I did read Tash Hearts Tolstoy somewhere in there, and that was pretty cute.)

I also have very specific reasons for publishing reviews on my blog - usually because I think it's a book that people may not have heard of and I want to make them aware of something new, not reinforce or go against ideas they have about a book they already read. Something I don't get is when there are a million reviews of the same book and people think they still need to put their voice out there. I know it's the nature of the beast that is a book blog, that you get more views if you post about more popular books, but it's a stupid system that lets a lot of really good books fall through the cracks.

The other thing I've been thinking about is sharing work. I finished the rewrite of the draft I finished last November this summer, and sent it off to a few people, with the knowledge that some of these people wouldn't have time to read it, and wouldn't necessarily critique it because that's not the kind of readers they are. Did I do that purposefully? Yes, probably. (Okay, definitely.) Sharing work is scary. I get so panicky every time I hit send on a document. It is weird how writing can involve both being entirely solitary and opening your thoughts and ideas up to the whole world. There are these "one line Wednesday" things on Twitter where you share a line of your Work in Progress on Twitter, and even that terrifies me. I don't know how people are constantly sharing their work on Twitter and elsewhere. I know it's my own fault that it scares me so much, that I really just need to practice.

And that's another thing - why is writing so hard? Why haven't I figured out how to do this? I've been doing this for over fifteen years. You would think I would know things by now. I mean, I've figured some stuff out, like telling myself to just write 500 words is a good way to trick myself into getting started and end up writing a lot more than that. But I still agonize over that actually starting part, I don't have a regular writing routine, and I still don't really know how to share my work with people and invite real critique.

I mean, this is the point where I should say, hey, want to read a terrible second draft about friendship, family and scary transitions? But I don't even want to do that, because it's too scary. There are too many things that could happen after that. I'll just keep my MS to myself, thanks, rereading it every so often as a nice reminder that I can spit words semi-coherently on a page. But then there's also the deep desire in me to share this with another human, to have someone read what I wrote and get it, get what I'm trying to say and in that connect our human experiences on earth.

And now I'm going to share this, I guess? In the hopes that someone might comment and assure me that I'm not the only one who thinks these things? 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Devil in Deerskins: My Life With Grey Owl by Anahareo

Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl is written by Anahareo, born Gertrude Bernard, and I really can't begin to describe how amazing she is, and how amazing she is at telling her story. Devil in Deerskins is everything you could ever want in a memoir: humour, adventure, romance, death, separation, coming back together, journeys to find oneself...

Devil in Deerskins begins with Anahareo meeting Archie Belaney, "Englishman, trapper, and guide - later known as Grey Owl, author, lecturer and naturalist - Brother of the Beaver People." She then goes back to tell the story of her Mohawk family and their influence on her, her grandmother in particular, who raised her. Eventually, Anahareo, quite green to the ways of the wilderness (which makes for a hilarious tale), goes to stay with Grey Owl on one of his hunting trips and never goes back. The rest of the book follows Anahareo and Grey Owl's many ups and downs, as well as how they end up adopting two beaver kittens and turning from a life of trapping to a life in conservation.

It was so much fun to read about Anahareo and Grey Owl's adventures, as they were such interesting, funny people, both separately and together. Neither of them quite fit into the usual mold of society, so it is fascinating reading about their lifestyle and the kinds of things they got up to. It's especially funny when they do something more normal, like go to a dinner party, and then one of them (Grey Owl) acts silly because it's so out of his comfort zone.

There was so much tension throughout the book; of what they would do next, of what would happen to the beavers, how they would support themselves, how they would relieve their boredom (this crazy adventurous couple got bored easily), or whether they would find each other again when they left on their various hunting or prospecting trips. Anahareo drives the story forward at a great pace to keep you completely enraptured; I was hooked from start to finish. She also has a great voice and perspective on life that is so much fun to read. Wow did she know how to tell a good story.

I had actually heard of Grey Owl before; every year since I was young, my mom's side of the family has made a trip out to Riding Mountain National Park around the September long weekend. Over the years I've spent going to Riding Mountain, I'd heard of a man called Grey Owl, when wandering through the Visitor Centre or the tiny, packed museum in town. All I really knew about him was that he pretended to be an Indigenous man, and he worked for the park at some point. I'm so glad that Devil in Deerskins was my more in-depth introduction to Anahareo and Grey Owl, as they are both so much more than what I've ever heard in passing.

This year my parents, cousins, uncle, brother and I all biked just over 7 kilometres along the Grey Owl trail in Riding Mountain National Park to get to Grey Owl's Cabin, a cabin where Grey Owl stayed for six months trying to start a beaver colony (Anahareo was off doing something else at that point - I think maybe prospecting?). (All the pictures in this post are from that bike ride.) It was really interesting that Anahareo wasn't mentioned in any of the blurbs about Grey Owl on any of the trail signs or the book about Grey Owl in the cabin, even though she was a huge part of the reason why Grey Owl stopped trapping beaver and turned to conservation.

They are both such fascinating people, and Anahareo tells her story so well; it is humorous, fast-paced, and even romantic, and I definitely encourage everyone and anyone to get their hands on a copy of this excellent memoir.

Bonus fav quote: "A kiss when both parties are on snowshoes leaves much to be desired. Try it sometime."

Devil in Deerskins on:
U of M Press

Thanks University of Manitoba Press for providing me with a copy!

Friday, September 1, 2017

3 Things I Learned From Women in Translation Month

Happy September! Women in Translation Month is officially over. I loved discovering all the new books I'd never heard of before and reading everyone's blog posts, tweets, interviews and guest posts, and feeling everyone's excitement and the enthusiasm for translated books by women. I managed to get in one last WITmonth read before the end of August, The End by Fernanda Torres, which was... really not my cup of tea. I read the blurb on the back cover and was under the impression it was about a group of young boys who got into big trouble, kind of in the realm of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, but it turned out it was just stories of a group of awful old men at the end of their lives. That premise wasn't that bad, but the characters were both awful people and uninteresting characters, and I feel like whatever point was trying to be made following these men's deaths didn't quite come across. Anyway I did enjoy all the other books I read for WITmonth: Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone, I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar, Sanaaq by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk and my favourite, Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer.

I've really enjoyed participating in Women in Translation Month and have learned a lot! Here are a few things I've learned this month:

1. There are so many good books in the world! I love whenever I find new corners of the internet to find books I haven't heard of, and WITmonth has been great for that! It really is true what Meytal Radzinski, founder of Women in Translation Month, said: "[Women in Translation Month] is because we want the best literature, and you simply aren't going to get it if all you're reading is the same men again and again, and only ever from English." I keep coming back to this quote, because it has given me a new perspective on how I choose the books I read. If all I'm reading are books in my own language, from my own corner of the world, I'm missing out on so many good books.

2. Translators are part of the artistic process. I know it seems obvious that translators are part of translating books, but I didn't quite realize how involved they actually are. For some reason I always thought of translators as these neutral mediators who just take words and flip them to a different language. I kind of forgot that you can't just directly translate language, and definitely not literature. There's a whole lot more to translation than that. I had fun reading some interviews with translators and realizing there's this whole other part of literature I'd never considered before.

3. Reading women in translation doesn't have to end! Women in Translation month may be over, but that doesn't mean I have to stop reading women in translation. Which is good because I still have about 10 books out from the library, and I'm excited to read them!

I'm so glad Women in Translation month exists, and I hope it keeps growing every year so that more people like me can discover some awesome books. :)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer

Sorry this week's review is so late, but I have been very busy this week traveling to the line of totality of the total solar eclipse that happened across the US on August 21! That was an incredible sight. It's also very weird seeing an astronomy event like that that I've never seen before in between reading a science fiction collection about interplanetary travel. After I saw the moon entirely cover the sun, I was more inclined to believe that Trafalgar, the tale-spinning intergalactic salesman, was actually real.

Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer, translated by Amalia Gladhart, could be thought of as a connected collection of science fiction stories. The common thread running through the stories is that this swaggering salesman comes back from a trip, and then tells his wild stories to the narrator, who listens raptly and notes how much coffee Trafalgar guzzles.

I was kind of skeptical at first of the telling aspect of each of the stories, as the entire story is Trafalgar telling of his travels to the narrator. However, by the third or fourth story, I was hooked and both Trafalgar and the narrator's personalities added to the telling of these wild stories that never go the direction you expect them to go. I am blown away by the imagination and creativity it takes to create so many different worlds and just absolutely fascinating plots with time travel and characters and different ways of thinking on all these different worlds. Trafalgar reminded me why I love sci fi so much; it's fun, creative, and often completely ridiculous. I haven't had so much fun reading a book since Sputnik's Children.

So technically, you could read this as a collection of short stories - reading them out of order, one at a time here and there in between other things, but I suggest you not do that. Actually, once you get started, you probably won't want to do that. At the beginning there's a little note from the author (or narrator? never quite figured out where the distinction was, or if there was one) that suggests you read the stories in order, "because that way you and I will understand each other more easily." It seemed like an odd comment to make, but by the end I completely understood. At the beginning I was kind of put off by Trafalgar's personality, and not really understanding why these people who listened to his stories were so desperate for them. By the end, I was one of those people, hanging on every word and desperate for another, and also desperate to find this Trafalgar fellow to feed him coffee and make him tell me more stories.

I highly recommend everyone and anyone pick up this book and read it all the way through, and then join my hunt for Trafalgar so we can beg him to take us on one of his space travels.

Check it out on:

Thank you to the person who recommended Trafalgar to me on Twitter when I asked for sci-fi and fantasy recs for Women in Translation month! Check out the rest of my Women in Translation month reviews here and of course search through the #WITmonth hashtag on Twitter to get some amazing recs for great books!

Bonus: My favourite quote from Trafalgar: "He was furious, too, obviously, but on the theological side, and there's nothing like theology to sap the effectiveness of your punches." 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: Sanaaq by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk

Sanaaq by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk, translated from Inuktitut by Bernard Saladin d’Anglure and translated from French to English by Peter Frost, is a collection of stories of the regular, every day life of the protagonist, Sanaaq, and her family in northern Quebec. 

I think the best way to read this book is as a collection of short stories, and only read a few "episodes" at a time. While some of the stories have overlapping incidents, characters, and themes, there isn't really a consistent through narrative so they can easily be read and enjoyed separately. This was actually my second time reading it, and I think being prepared for the very straight forward, direct writing style helped me enjoy it more.

However, once you get used to the writing style, the stories are very enjoyable to read. The cover kind of makes it look like a dramatic and harrowing tale, but the tone is actually quite light most of the time.

There are plenty of funny stories of Sanaaq's kids getting into trouble (I lost count of the number of times Sanaaq's daughter, Qumaq, bumped into things or did things she wasn't supposed to. Actually, now that I think of it, I don't think Qumaq ever does anything she's supposed to...)

There are also a number of stories that are quite suspenseful; a few hunting trips that go horribly wrong, and an interesting story where one character gets possessed by a spirit. And, among these stories are a handful of just simple stories of everyday life for these Inuit people, and what is involved in that - skinning of animals, hunting, sewing up boots, interacting with the Qallunaat when they arrive. As always, I enjoy the insight into the life and culture of a people I don't know anything about, and a glimpse of their perspective on the world.

There is a lot more I could say about this book; that it was only recently translated into English, that it's regarded as one of the first Inuit novels, that it can be used as an anthropological document to understand Inuit life.... I'd encourage you if you did pick up this book, to read through the introduction which gives some background on how the book and translation came to be. I'm sure there's a whole bunch of nuance in the storytelling that I'm missing, too, but I did enjoy following Sanaaq and her family and the adventures - fun and scary - that they get into throughout the book.

Check it out on:
University of Manitoba Press website

Thank you University of Manitoba Press for providing me with a copy! Check out the rest of my Women in Translation month reviews here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Review: I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar

I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar, translated from German by Sheila Dickie, is a book about two men - one young man who has been a shut-in for a long time, and one older man who lost his job and can't bring himself to tell his wife. It tells the story of their meeting on a bench in a park in Tokyo, and how they slowly open up to each other about their life stories.

At first, you might think this would be a small, boring story - two men who meet on a bench and talk about life? But the way it is written makes their small stories incredibly significant. The gentle, soulful prose made me want to read on to see what happened next. Will Hiro open up and talk to this stranger, when he hasn't talked to anyone in what seems to be years? Will Tetsu ever open up to his wife about losing his job? Will they be stuck on that bench talking forever?

This supposedly small story of two men of different generations actually ends up being much more than that - a sad, beautiful story about life, death, the pressure of society and mental illness. It's a short book, which is good because I don't think my heart could have taken much more. I think it's the kind of book you should read in one sitting on a gray, melancholy day when you want to cry and have your heart twisted a little bit and ponder the meaning of life.

Even with all the sorrow in this book, it still ends hopeful, which is probably my favourite thing about it. In the end, there is a happy ending, and hope for the world.

Check it out on:

Check out my other Women in Translation month posts here

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone

Happy Women in Translation Month!

My first review for this month is of Silvia Avallone's Swimming to Elba, translated from Italian by Antony Shugaar. Swimming to Elba is the story of two best friends, Anna and Francesca, and their journey as they grow up, drift apart, and then come back together again, interspersed with the stories of their family and friends, and the impact of living in an industrial town in Italy.

It started kind of weird, and was not really the gentle friendship story I was hoping for, but eventually  I did get into it and really came to appreciate the eloquent and passionate writing style. I think the distant third person perspective was the hardest thing to get used to, since I'm used to reading books where I'm very much inside the characters' heads. Swimming to Elba also slips in and out of many characters' heads, although of course the focus is on Anna and Francesca and how they pull everyone around them into their brilliant and entrancing orbit.

The best part, though, was definitely the writing; the kind of dreamy descriptive writing style that makes me realize why I love words, and as a result makes me want to write. It actually reminded me a bit of Melina Marchetta's books, as it's very much a story of family, friendship, and intense loves. However, it was very much just a glimpse into these character's lives at a certain period of time, with not really any significant plot, which is where I think it differs from Melina Marchetta's works.

I would recommend Swimming to Elba for anyone who is looking for a decadent, sensuous beach read to enjoy in the last weeks of summer. :)

Check it out on:

Follow the WITMonth hashtag for more great Women in Translation recommendations for this month! See you next week for another Women in Translation review.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Women in Translation Month Is Here!

It's August 1 today, which means that Women in Translation month is officially here!

So what is Women in Translation month? Well it is a month to celebrate translations of books written by women, started by Meytal Radzinski. I was so excited when I came across this challenge in April, because it encompasses a lot of things I'm passionate about.

As a native English speaker and monolingual anglophone through and through, I realize how privileged I am to have so many books available to me. But it's also frustrating, because there are a huge number of books out there that are written by people all over the world that I just cannot read because they are not in English, and they haven't been translated.

I think translation is so cool, because through translation I can have books available to me from countries and perspectives that I would never have access to otherwise. Own voices and diverse North American books are cool and important, but I'm still very familiar with North American culture and the perspective behind it. But I don't want to read from just the perspective of North Americans and the people that experience North America, I want to be able to read from the perspective of everyone around the world. (Can you tell that I am a cultural studies major...)

Unfortunately, translation is another thing caught up in privilege and politics like everything else in the publishing world. The world favours anglophones, and therefore way more books are translated from English than into English, and of those translations, there is an even smaller amount of translations from women authors. Meytal has some more statistics on her blog. Did you know that only 30% of new translations into English are of books by women writers? And there aren't a lot of books translated into English in the first place. Thus, Women in Translation month, celebrating the translations of books authored by women!

My blog is going to be WITMonth-focused all of August, and I'm going to try to do at least one review of a translated book per week. Let me know if you're going to join me, and any recommendations you have for translated books written by women! (Bonus points if they are translated from non-European languages!)

You should also check out this Women in Translation Month Bingo which might help you as you're picking out books to read.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mid-Year Wrap Up

Hello, everyone! Well, I have finally failed my blog-post-every-week goal. But I think it's pretty good that it took me this long. So what have I been doing that I haven't been able to write a blog post since June 29? Mostly I've just been doing a lot of summery things like strawberry picking or going to the beach or biking around town, and I've also been doing a bunch of writing. I even finished a second draft yesterday (woohoo!) It's the second draft of the book I finished the first draft of in December. I think this might be the fastest I've written a draft.

So what else have I done in the past almost seven months, besides finishing a draft?


2017 started! I made some reading goals. I think I'm actually doing pretty good with most of them, although right now I've gotten distracted rereading Harry Potter. This reread has been interesting, and I'd like to share more about the rereading experience, but I think I will leave that for another post.
I wrote one of my favourite posts of this year, 5 Things To Remember When Looking For Diverse Books. The reminders still help me. :)

I discovered the talented Dawn Dumont and wrote a review of her book Nobody Cries at Bingo. I have since read her most recent release, Glass Beads, which is such a good book with an awesome cover. I think Dawn Dumont deserves to be "that one Canadian author that everyone is talking about", her writing is so good and relevant. 


February I went to Vancouver on reading week and had no inspiration for writing bookish posts, apparently. The curse of committing to once a week blog posts. But you can see what my room looked like when it was clean, which also includes a picture of my cat.


My favourite posts in March were my post on J.K. Rowling, Megan Whalen Turner, and Authorial Intent, about the different ways that authors exert authority over their books and what the effect is, and my post on the 7 Lies I Believed About Writing. 


I finished my fourth and second last year of university, started my summer job full time, and started my blog series Local Book Nook (which I'd still love more participants for, by the way!) 


I turned 23, read and did a review of the fun cross-genre sci-fi novel Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro.  The fifth Queen's Thief book, Thick as Thieves, also came out and I had a fun time putting together a nerdy release party with one of my friends. 


Oh, and my garden really started to grow! 


I survived working on Canada Day weekend, enjoyed some especially spectacular fireworks and time with my family and other Canadians, thought about what I've learned about being Canadian from all the books I've read in the past year. 
I started rereading Harry Potter, learned a lot of things at work, was exhausted most of the time, finished registering for classes for my final year of university, enjoyed doing summer things with friends, and finished the second draft of my book!! 

And now we're all caught up! Hopefully I pointed out some posts you missed. How is your summer going? How are your reading goals going?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

5 Strategies For Finding Under the Radar Books

If you spend any time in the online book community, you've probably noticed that often the same books get talked about over and over again. There are just those books that you can't seem to stop seeing on Twitter, other people's blogs, the NYT Bestseller list, EVERYWHERE. (And also people constantly tweeting screenshots of that book on the NYT Bestseller list.)

I have nothing against really popular books, they're some of my favourites! But if you only pay attention to the hyped books, you are missing out on a ton of great, unique reads. Unfortunately, because smaller titles and under the radar books have less hype, they are harder to find. But don't worry! I'm here to help you out today by sharing some strategies that I use to find under the radar books, and improve your quality of life (or at least your reading life) in the process.

1. Ignore popular feeds

If you want to find under the radar books, you should probably stay away from the big sites and lists like the New York Times bestseller list or Even their "books you may not have heard of" lists are read by hundreds of thousands of people.

2. Find and follow tiny indie presses

Indie presses are awesome, and publish some of the best and most interesting books I've read! Like Terri Favro's Sputnik's Children from ECW Press, Dawn Dumont's Nobody Cries at Bingo from Thistledown Press, or Victoria Jason's Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak from Turnstone Press. I'm sure there are tons of lists of indie presses on the web that you could find somewhere. It's really easy to suddenly have a bunch of lesser known books recommended on your Twitter feed if you follow some indie presses on Twitter!

3. Find and follow blogs that promote and review under the radar books

Unfortunately, these are harder to find because usually the cycle is that the more popular books you review, the more popular your blog becomes. But there are some good ones out there! Some of my favourite bloggers at the moment are Casey, Shvaugn and Laura. I am always finding new books that I'd never heard of on their blogs, and all of three of them pick the books they read purposefully and analyze them thoughtfully. I'm always challenged by their reviews to look at the world and the books I read differently. 

4. Go to the library and pick books randomly off shelves

The old-fashioned route! If you really want to find books you and nobody else has ever heard of, go for the older, weirder looking books. You can also find a lot of random books at used book sales or in Little Free Libraries if there's any in your neighbourhood.

5. Search hashtags 

There are a few hashtags dedicated to finding under the radar books, such as #quietYA and #undertheradarYA. I haven't heard of any hashtags for under the radar adult books, but please comment below if you know of any!

These are just a few of the ways that I've found some great lesser known books. It's a bit more work than just putting whatever book you see most often on your TBR list. But it is soo worth it. It's worth it to know that you're supporting an author that likely doesn't get as much as support as big titles from big publishing houses do. It's worth it when you get to the be the first one telling someone else about this awesome book you've read. And it's worth it because there are so many more cool books out there to read, you just have to find them!

How do you find under the radar books to read? Who are your favourite bloggers that promote smaller titles? I need recommendations!

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.


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