Thursday, June 29, 2017

5 Strategies For Finding Under the Radar Books

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

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

1. Ignore popular feeds

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

2. Find and follow tiny indie presses

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

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

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

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

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

5. Search hashtags 

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

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me by Lorina Mapa

I love reading graphic novels, almost as much as I love reading memoirs, but putting them together is even better. Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me by Lorina Mapa is a graphic memoir about Lorina Mapa's experiences growing up in the 1980s during the People Power Revolution in the Philippines.

It was absolutely fascinating, and done so well. Mapa's starting point for her story is her father's death and her trip back to the Philippines for his funeral. While she tells the story of the aftermath of her father's death, she interweaves flashbacks of her time growing up. I sometimes find that hopping back and forth in time gets confusing, but Mapa does it flawlessly. The present day story line and the childhood story line perfectly transition into each other, in such a way that gives the other story line even more meaning and depth.

I also loved learning more about the People Power Revolution from the perspective of people directly involved. This is why I love memoirs - reading about events from the point of view of people who were there makes them come alive and helps me to realize just how the people involved were impacted and how it is meaningful to them. Mapa's own personal struggles and questioning of big life questions like culture, poverty and family made me think about how complicated history really is. This is my favourite way to learn about history: through the people that lived it.

Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me is a fascinating, well put together story that is narrated by a woman whose insight and questioning of her world makes this book an enjoyable and eye-opening read.

Check it out on:

Monday, June 12, 2017

Local Book Nook #2: Southern England, UK

Remember that blog series that I started almost two months ago to get people talking about their favourite local books? Well, today I have the first installment by someone other than myself! 

Local Book Nook, in case you forgot, is a blog series featuring readers from all over the world talking about their favourite local books and authors. Featured today is the lovely Lara

I found Lara's blog through the excellent blog event Disability Diaries 2017 that was run by a bunch of awesome teen bloggers. As you can tell from her post below, she has a great, fun (and funny) style and voice that is super enjoyable to read, and she is also passionate about things like diverse representation in books. So definitely go check out her blog after you're done here! Thanks Lara for participating.

Where are you from?

I'm from the UK. Southern England, if you want to be more specific.

Yes, I know. I'm being infuriatingly vague about it. But the mystery-loving, let's-keep-the-intrigue-going part of my brain is getting a little bit twitchy about revealing exactly where it is I live, so we're just going to go with that. Mostly because the amount of decent books from my tiny part of the country is so frustratingly near zero that I don't want to go there.

What I do want to do with this post is subvert some stereotypes.

You see, there's no way I'm anywhere near close to what the international community expects a British person to be like. I don't like tea. I love London, but I've never lived there (Yes, that photo was a trick. MWA HA HA). And, despite the fact that my family could be considered posher than some, there's no way I'm as posh as you think. (I am, however, ridiculously apologetic. That really is a cultural thing over here.)

So, I have some books and authors which I think will show you what modern Britain is really like. As much as a bunch of stories is capable of doing, anyway.

Wish me luck.

Web of Darkness is a deep, psychological thriller based on adults being kind of predatory towards children and causing them to commit suicide. I don't want you to think that is what Britain is like - but the main character and her friends are modern British teenagers. They're a great place to start when you still genuinely think we all wander around drinking tea with our corgis at heel. Not only that, but a lot of the plot circulates around the British schooling system. So you Americans and Canadians in particular get to understand the absolute joy that is school uniform.

I hope I managed to get across my intensely British sarcasm properly there.

You'll notice that I've also linked to Bali Rai's author page up above, which I don't often do, because - although Web of Darkness is the only one of his books I've actually read - he has an amazing reputation for portraying the multiculturalism of Britain, specifically the intricate cultures of its Asian communities. And I'm so, so keen to get across that modern Brits are not necessarily white. We don't all look like we belong in an Enid Blyton novel.

It'd be dull otherwise.

2. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Okay, so technically this is a cheat. Maureen Johnson is not British, and since as far as I can tell she does not live in Britain she's about as American as you can get.

But this series, especially the first book ... it's so darn British I can't even quantify. The whole plot is based on a bunch of Jack the Ripper style murders (gory Victorian history for the win, amiright?) and the antics that result from an American main character attempting to understand British life really do a great job of highlighting exactly what it's like. There's a lot of recent and not-so-recent history involved because of the ghostly aspect, including some Britpop related stuff (just Google it if you're not sure), and even the descriptions of Tube stations are nigh on perfect.

I also kind of like being able to laugh at Rory's complete inability to comprehend British culture - although if I ever end up living in a foreign country, I feel the bad karma will come back to bite me.

Ah, well.

This book has been included solely for the school element. If Web of Darkness was a taster of what British education is like, this is a full intensive guide. And it is worth noting that the school in this book is a very very posh private one. Most British schools are not as stuffed with rich folks.

But the popularity systems are the same - I feel it's important to realise that, despite our incredibly fortunate lack of cheerleaders and jocks, we still have a hierarchy. It's just a lot more subtle than you might think.

4. Margot and Me by Juno Dawson

Newsflash, my friends! There's more to England than London! And this will really blow your minds - THERE'S MORE TO BRITAIN THAN ENGLAND!

I can just feel you gasping.

I'm partway through this book right now, and what I'm absolutely loving about it thus far is its beautiful Welshness. It's technically set in the nineties, so life has obviously progressed a little since then, but it feels real - I hasten to add, however, that I am not Welsh. As far as I'm aware, it's a pretty accurate representation of life in a country which has a dragon on it's flag, and a good introduction to Welsh culture as seen from the outside. That said, if a Welshperson informs you that it is stereotypical, listen to them.

(Quick shoutout needed for all the lovely World War II evacuation sections - if any of you have been wondering, this is basically history lessons in every British primary school ever. I think I wrote a war diary from the point of view of an evacuee pretty much every year from the age of six to eleven. None of them were set in Wales and you can be rest assured it didn't get as racy as Margot's ...)

Lara Liz is a teenage procrastinator, blogger and reader who is passionate about diverse books, proudly disabled, and utterly obsessed with musical theatre of all kinds. She tweets @otherteenreader, blogs at ... and yes. She was named after Lara Croft.

If you would like to do a Local Book Nook guest post, contact me at asherlockwrites(at)gmail(dot)com. You can find some more information here.

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?


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