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

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
Goodreads 
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com

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:
Goodreads
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca

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:
Goodreads
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca

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?


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? ;)

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