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?


JANUARY

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

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.

MARCH

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. 

APRIL

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!) 

MAY

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. 

JUNE




Oh, and my garden really started to grow! 

JULY



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 EpicReads.com. 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:
Goodreads
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca

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?

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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.


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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

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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.


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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

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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 ...)


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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 anotherteenreader.blogspot.co.uk ... 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

currently

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?

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! ;) )

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

5 Graphic Novel Recommendations

I love graphic novels (although after reading this article, not quite sure what to call them... comics novels? [also, there's a lot in that article that could just as easily be directed to those writing YA criticism. Fav line: "The most 'rampant bibliophiles' I know don’t dismiss a potentially great book just because of its format or genre."]) There's something about graphic novels that is really enjoyable, but at the same time they can delve into certain issues in a way that novels without illustrations can't.



Stitches by David Small

This was the book that started my fascination with graphic novels, and in particular memoirs. It's a memoir, about David Small's life and all the weird and terrible things that happen to him, including getting cancer and his messed up family. It's done so well, and perfectly depicts the intense emotions of the story. Since it's been a few years since I've read it, I don't really remember it well but I do remember how I felt reading it: completely caught up in a sort of disturbed fascination, and identifying completely with the utter bleakness the protagonist was feeling, conveyed largely through the art.



Nimona by Noelle Stevenson 

My book log review for this book has lots of exclamation points in it, so apparently I liked it!!! It was great - the characters were extremely well developed, it turned various tropes on their head multiple times, was humorous and tragic, and was also just a super fun fantasy story. All of my favourite things!



Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography by Chester Brown

I don't know why but for some reason it is way more appealing to me to read biographies or memoirs in graphic novel form. Maybe it's because it's easier to read? Or maybe the pictures can get across events or emotions in a more direct way than through words? Anyway, this was a great introduction to the strange character and personality that was Louis Riel. It also did really well at portraying the ambiguity and messiness of history, rather than presenting it as a straightforward narrative. This book also led me to Maggie Siggins' wonderful book Riel: A Life of Revolution, which is absolutely fascinating.







Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 

Another memoir! This is about the author growing up in Iran in the late 1970s and 80s. It was interesting because it was told through the perspective of a young girl trying to figure what was right when everyone around her had so many different views. It was interesting to see how her opinions changed throughout the book as she was exposed to different views through her parents’ friends and family, as well as her school. It was absolutely fascinating, and I definitely need to read the rest of the series (also I think there is a movie of it as well?) 



Lumberjanes by  Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters and Brooke A Allen

I think Lumberjanes would technically be categorized as comics, but I don't care what matters is that they are GREAT. I'm so jealous of all the little girls and teens that get to grow up with the Lumberjanes in their lives. The series is about a group of friends who spend a summer at camp (the Lumberjanes), and do normal camp things like collecting badges, but also run into a whole bunch of strange creatures like yetis, three-eyed wolves, and other insane creatures. The characters all great, and there is such a wide range of different kinds of girls in this series, and their friendship is at the centre of the series which of course I love. And the adventures they get into every volume are so entertaining. Everyone need these comics in their life.

What are your favourite graphic novels? What are your favourite comic memoirs or biographies? Recommend me some in the comments!

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