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!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

TBR Tuesday

Since I talk about books that I'm reading and/or have read already most of the time, I thought today I'd talk about some books that I would like to read. So here are some books that are currently on my TBR that I have not gotten around to reading quite yet:

1. Queen of the Clueless and Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra. These are the sequels to the first book, Interim Goddess of Love, which was recommended by Chachic. I kind of thought I'd read books like this before with humans-turned-goddesses, but it didn't go in the direction I expected and was super cute. The MC is also fairly sure of herself and has a super fun voice. But it was way too short! I need to read the sequels yesterday.

2. mitewacimowina: Indigenous Science Fiction and Speculative Storytelling by Neal Mcleod is an anthology of short science fiction written by Indigenous authors. It sounds fascinating, and I have yet to read any Indigenous sci-fi so I'm curious to see what it's like. It's also not a very popular genre as far as I can tell at the moment.

3. Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson. I've had this on my TBR list for awhile, but this review of Eden Robinson's work by a blogger I like further convinced me that I should read some of her work.

4. The Abominable Mr. Seabrook by Joe Ollman, which I found on one of 49thshelf's amazing lists. I love graphic novels, but what I love even MORE is graphic novel memoirs or biographies, which is what this is. It sounds so cool.

5. Unbuttoned by Christoper Dummitt, which is a history of a former prime minister of Canada, Mackenzie King, and his "secret life." He sounds like an interesting guy, so I would be interested to read more about him. (This book I also found via 49thshelf.)

6. Glass Beads by Dawn Dumont. I loved Nobody Cries at Bingo, so I'm definitely going to put her next book, out in April, on my TBR.

7. Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand. I put this on my TBR after reading about it on Laura's blog, and now I keep hearing more and more good things about this author. Also it's MG, which I haven't read much of for awhile now, and I miss it!

8. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I think I saw someone recommend this on Tumblr, and they said it was unexpectedly amazing and had great characters, so since I love good characters, I was of course hooked.

 9. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. This has been on my TBR since it was called something else, because I am a sucker for alternating POV romances. It comes out in May!

10. The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis. I loved The First Third, so I definitely want to read Will Kostakis' next book. I wasn't able to get my hands on this for awhile because I couldn't find a way to get it in Canada, but since it's being published in the U.S. I think I can find a way now!

So, these are just 10 of the books on my TBR. I have at least four and a half more pages of books I'd like to read, but I won't bore you by talking about all of them.

Which book should I read first? What books are on your TBR? 


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