Sunday, May 31, 2015

Challenges and goals update: How did I do in May?

Well, another month gone. It was a fairly busy one but I don't think it showed as much in this blog. I was in charge of this month's Book Bloggers International event, for Canadian Book Bloggers, and boy that was fun but more time consuming than I expected and hence, as may have noticed I wasn't that active around here. I did however finish 10 books, and I want to catch up with reviews as soon as possible. Now let's see about those challenges

Diversifying 2015:

Of the 10 books I read 5 have POC authors with 4 of those books also haddiverse main characters. Only one of the books had an tertiary LGBTQ character.

Read Harder:

I only ticked off the "Guilty Pleasure" one with Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia, but I've already checked 13 items on this challenge, so I'm not stressed yet.

My goals:

Read at least 1 POC author per month
: As I mentioned I read 5 POC authors this month with Black Milk by Elif Shafak, En el tiempo de las Mariposas by Julia Alvarez, Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz , The Emperor of all Maladies by , and Thorn by Intisar Khanani. This last one was an ARC and I shall be reviewing it soon.

Read at least 1 book in Spanish per month: Only 1 this month with En el Tiempo de las Mariposas.

Read one CanLit book per month: Bone & Bread, it was a beautiful book.

Read at least 1 book of nonfiction per month: The Emperor of all Maladies.

Finished series:
I finished The Caster Chronicles with Beautiful Redemption.. I thought I had finished Magic 2.0 too but I think with the end of the third book that they might be some more coming our way.

Read more already owned books: Of the 10 books only 3 weren't mine. Once again I am happy with this part.

Read the picks of the month for each book club: For S&L we read The Sword of Rihannon by Leigh was ok. And for Hello Hemlock we read Bone & Bread.

So there you have it; that was my month in books. How was your?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Armchair BEA: Visual Expressions

There are so many ways to tell stories. Whether it's comic books, graphic novels, visual novels, webcomics, etc, there are quite a lot of other mediums to tell a story. On this day, we will be talking about those books and formats that move beyond just words and use other ways to experience a story.
Until this year, I didn't really count any comics I was reading on my "reading year". And it had nothing to do with me thinking that they weren't real books, it just happened. Thanks to sites like Panels and of course Book Riot I became more aware of how much I read and enjoy this different format.

Let me tell you what I've been reading in this realm.

I was already reading PhD Comics, Girls with Slingshots and Dumbing of Age as webcomics, and Andi from Estella's Revenge introduced me to Rutabaga. We also got a Comixology account with A (my bf) and we both love Lumberjanes. I've also been reading Rat Queens, Bitch Planet and Sex Criminals. And on paper we have started collecting Ms Marvel, since we got volume 1 with my Book Riot Quarterly Box.

If those are my "adult" comics as in, the ones I got into as an adult, my child/teen comics are still and always will be with me. I love, LOVE Mafalda, and last time I was in Colombia I got myself the full collection (bit pricey, but every time I read it I am happy). We have almost all of the Tintin collection, and most of Asterix.

As you might have note by now, in general I tend to go for the "cute" drawing. With big eyes, a bit caricature-like, big thick lines. But then you have RQ, BP, SC and MM, all of them with very different art but more importantly with a very different content. In general I've realized I tend to lean (at least on new comics) toward female characters, the stronger the better. And while sometimes BP's subjects are so real that they are hard to stomach, I think that's exactly what makes me like that one so much, even though I am not crazy about the art...then again, only that angular, hard and sharp lines, type of art would fit the same subjects.

These 2 "worlds", the cute drawing and the hard subject merge for me on the Paul series. Never had a graphic novel made me cry as Paul à la Pêche. With beautiful, simple lines Rabagliati tells such a vivid, heart breaking story.

I am no expert on comics/graphic novels. I don't know much of canon on the big names associated with the world. But I do know one thing. I enjoy reading them and I love having yet another format to move my brain and heart so deeply.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Canada's Literary Regions with Caro

This was originally posted at Book Bloggers International for the Canadian Book Bloggers event.
Map of Canada
"Political map of Canada" by E Pluribus Anthony, transferred to Wikimedia Commons by Kaveh (log), optimized by Andrew pmk. - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Common
Hi everyone, this is Caro from BBI and A Girl that Likes Books.  Well, I don't know about you, but it has certainly been a fun month here at Book Bloggers International. One of the reasons I was so excited by this month's subject, is that even though it has been 6 years since I first moved to Canada, there is a lot of things to learn from people in other regions. And it's precisely the topic of the different regions in Canada that got me to write this post. 

Talking to other bloggers, I realized that a lot of terminology that I've become used to, might not be that obvious, so here I am trying to explain the different regions. Please keep in mind that I am doing this based on my own knowledge (with the help of our friend, Internet) and that some parts might be off. Please feel free to point out things I missed out or that I got wrong. Just be polite doing so ;).

Canada is divided in 13 provinces and territories: British Columbia (BC), Alberta (AB), Saskatchewan (SK), Manitoba (MB), Ontario (ON), Quebec (QC), New Brunswick (NB), Prince Edward Island (PEI), Nova Scotia (NS), Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), Yukon (YT), the Northwest Territories (NT) and Nunavut (NU). Now, I won't talk about the political (senate related) divisions, because honestly I don't know how influential these divisions are into a literary level, but I would rather start with the 6 region model, since it comprises one of the terms that made me write this post.

On the 6 region model, BC becomes Pacific Canada; AB, SK and MB are called the Prairies; ON and QC remain the same; while PEI, NS and NL are put together as Atlantic Canada and finally YT, NT and NU are grouped as Northern Canada. As you can see, this division has a lot to do with geography and more importantly to the main landscape of each region. In the case of The Prairies, it refers to the great amount of grasslands in the area. Inevitably this type of division has a big influence on the literature coming out or being placed on each area. Recently I read As for me and My House by Sinclair Ross and while I didn't love the book completely, I gather it's another great example of the type of landscape you can find on SK, and hence the Prairies. If you are looking for contrast, I would suggest Runaway by Alice Munro, since these short stories are placed on both ON and BC and it might give you another view of these different areas.  

Then we have language division. As you might know, Canada has influences from both France and England. Documents from the government are issued in both English (59.3% of the population consider themselves Anglophone) and French (22.7% Francophone). Allophones, or non official language speakers (such as yours truly) comprise 17.6% of the population. You can imagine how language influences literary productions. Most of the Canadian authors that are known outside (or even inside Canada) are anglophone and I have to admit, that even though I live in Montréal, the only Québecois author I've read is Michel Rabagliati author of the fantastic series of graphic novels with Paul as the main character. I know other authors, such as Michel Tremblay, but I haven't read any of his books. His books are written in "joual" which is Québécois sociolect (jargon or dialect, of which you can find up to 9 different French-Canadian ones) and it's still hard for me to read it. 

But coming back to the differences in literature in English and French here in Canada; QC is a francophone province with 80% of the population being native Francophones and 95% being able to speak it as 1st or 2nd language. NB is a bilingual province and has the Acadian dialect. It is important to know that you can find Francophones all over the country, but only these 2 provinces recognize French as their official language. 

Canada has a very high immigration rate (20,6% of population being consider an immigrant in 2011), and hence a very varied population. From Statistics Canada site:
"Of the immigrants who had a single mother tongue, close to one-quarter (23.8%) reported English as their mother tongue and 3.4% reported French. Among those whose mother tongue was other than Canada's two official languages, Chinese languages were most common, followed by Tagalog, a language of the Philippines, Spanish and Punjabi"
So it is no wonder that the literary production is also influenced by so many cultures converging here. Proof of that are the two last books that I've read with the Hello Hemlock book club (which by the way, if you are looking forward to expanding your CanLit horizons, go ahead and join) Moving forward sideways like a crab by Shani Mootoo and Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz. I haven't finished the latter, but it's building up to be at least a 4/5 for me. 

There you have it, the big Literary Regions or divisions that I can differentiate so far. Once again, I am sure there are things I am missing, so please, share with us!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

23165077Format: ebook

Pages: 669

Series: NA

Source: Library (OverDrive)

Genres: General Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication date: March 10th, 2015

: It took me a long time to sit down and write the review for this one. You see, it has been a long time since a book made me cry so much and so earnestly.

The book tells the story of 4 college friends: JB, Jude, Malcolm and Willem. We see them as time passes by, from their college dorm, through their careers and all that growing up might entail. They are not picture perfect characters, all with as much baggage as you can imagine (some more than others). All in need of love and friendship which, eventually is clear, can be the same thing.

First let's talk about the parts that weren't sad. The way the author presents their friendship, so full of flaws and hence so perfectly beautiful. The way Yanagihara shows the city of New York is also a thing of praise. You would think this city has been used so much that it cannot be shown with different eyes, and yet, the streets and the environments presented in A Little Life felt absolutely different for me. The mental picture of the city going in along with the feeling of whichever character we were listening too...and yes, I will say listening since their voices were so strongly jumping out of the pages into my head.

We could argue about whether there are four main characters or just two (some can even say that it's the story of Jude mostly) but for me their lives are so intertwined that I feel I could not answer to this argument. Their friendship, with so many ups and downs for the four of them, is at the end what carries all the emotions for me. It's the feelings between them: when they are happy, when they fight, when they I'm writing, flashes of the story keep coming back and my heart contracts once again. I cannot say how Yanagihara did this, but I can tell you that I know this book will be with me for a long time.

You might be scared of such a big book. I know I was. When I saw that it was almost 700 pages, and knowing ahead that there were a lot of heart crushing moments (it was impossible not to gather that from people talking about the book around me) I hesitated a bit, afraid the book would've been too much. But the truth is that Yanagihara's language is so absorbing I didn't notice the time passing by. It is not through big words that she does this, just very poignant, on point phrases that catch you and won't let you go.

It's not a happy book. Far from it. There are extremely happy moments in the story, that's for sure; moments that made me so happy that I chocked a bit with them. But the thing is that through the story you go so high and so low that sometimes I had to put the book down and force me to do something else, for it felt like too much to take.

Some people have pointed out that all these ups and downs, the intensity of every feeling depicted in the book is exaggerated, and I agree. They are heightened for sure. But in the world of the story they didn't felt out of place and I realize as I am writing this that it might not make sense for a lot of people, but it did for me. And that's why I gave it a full 5, because as a whole everything fitted for me which is also why it got me so hard.

At the same time I don't know who I would recommend this book to, just because knowing how I felt all through the reading, I feel awful telling someone to put themselves in the same position, even if I feel that it was worth it at the end. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mini Galley reviews

The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright

23946072Format: eGalley

Pages: 336

Series: NA

Source: NetGalley

Genres: General Fiction

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication date: Expected on May 19th, 2015

I asked and received this book through NetGalley for free. This review is not sponsored nor influenced in anyway. Thanks to Gallery Books.

Thoughts: I asked for this book right after I finished A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, hoping for a lighter subject, a nice "sherbet" book as I call them, since A Little Life was so emotionally charged. The book delivered exactly what I was the point that was extremely predictable.

The book tells the stories of 9 women that are doing a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Canterbury. In the spirit of Chaucer, through their journey each woman will tell a story of love and at the end there will be a winner declared. The main character, Che, has just lost her mother and to make things worst her boyfriend brakes up with her through a letter. Her joining the pilgrimage was a last minute decision trying to fulfill the last promise she made to her mom. Now, I don't have a problem with books like this being predictable, but I expect them to at least do their research properly. 1) In the first page there's the explanation of the main characters "Che", saying that it was related to the "Cuban" revolutionary. Ernesto "Che" Guevara was Argentinean, and while he got the Cuban citizen at a certain point, before dying he refused it, dying as an Argentinean. At least mention both facts? 2) Someone referenced in the book moves to a country South America: "ColUmbia I think?". You can probably say that this was an innocent typo, but for the record the country is ColOmbia, with an O. 3) Girl lost her phone, that apparently has no password whatsoever, even though she has all her info there. She is worried someone might use her cards...yet she never calls her bank or does ANYTHING to prevent possible fraud.

I wished the book would've more solidity to compensate for things like this, but since the story felt so typical, instead of being immersed by the story I kept being attracted to details like those, making it a just ok book for me. 

Mama Cried by Talia Haven

Format: PDF

Pages: 12

Series: NA

Source: Author

Genres: General Fiction

Publisher: Sheehan and Haven

Publication date: January 7th, 2015

I was asked to review this book by Deborah DeVore.

I was contacted directly to read and review this book and considering it was 12 pages I figured why not. Indeed it was a short read...and I am still trying to figure out what exactly the meaning of it is. It's the story of Jenny, a little girl that will have to make a very big decision in order to move on. I can't tell you more, without spoiling it, and I realize that is not much, but remember, it is only 12 pages. But they were 12 very confusing pages. There are a lot of holes in the story and while I think I got what the background story was, I am still trying to figure out what the message of the book was.

Monday, May 4, 2015

What am I reading this month: May

Hello everyone! The weather is nice outside (finally) and this weekend I officially started reading on my terrace: Reading life is good. Let's take a look on what I'm planning to read during the month of May.

For my Diversifying 2015 challenge (you can sign up here) and reading more in Spanish goal: En el tiempo de las Mariposas (In the Time of the Butterflies) by Julia Alvarez

For the Sword and Laser Book Club, we will be reading The Sword of Rhiannon by Leigh Brackett

For my "reading more CanLit" goal, the Hello Hemlock book club will be reading Bone and Bread.

On nonfiction, I am reading 2 books this month: Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood and  the Harem Within by Elif Shafak and The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Muckerjee.

I will finish the Beautiful Creatures series with Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia and I will continue the Grisha Trilogy with Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. They are also my picks for this month for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

Out of those 6 books, I own 4 of them, so I am also working on my "reading more of the books I already own" goal. As you can see there is a lot of diversity in this month, both in authors and subjects.
As always, this is not a definitive list, it might change (and grow) as the month passes by

What are you reading this month? Let me know in the comments and have a nice week.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Once Upon a Time IX: Mini Reviews

As you might remember towards the end of March I joined the Once Upon a Time "challenge". Here I want to share my thoughts on the first 2 entries I have for my Quest the First.

Off to be the wizard by Scott Meyer

Off to Be the Wizard | [Scott Meyer]Format: Audio
Time: 389
Source: Own (Audible)
Narrated by:Luke Daniels
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher:Brilliance Audio
Thoughts: I listened to this one because my boyfriend got it (we share your Audible credits) and I decided to give a try. First of all let me say that I really like Luke Daniels as a narrator. He did the Brilliance saga and I think he does a great job pairing voices with characters. The story made me think a bit of a A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court with some elements from The Matrix. Martin is a regular guy who happens to discover that he manipulate reality since, it turns out, it is nothing but a computer program. When things got out of hand, he flees the present to Medieval England, only to learn he is not the first one to try this escape route. As funny as the story was, it felt predictable. Sure, it was entertaining, but you can tell what's going to happen from the beginning. And there is only one girl in the whole story! This, I realize, might not bother a lot of people but it bothered me. We still got the rest of the series since it was on sale, and again, I really like Luke Daniels. Apparently things get better on the second one, so we will see.

Wyrd Sisters by Sir Terry Pratchett

833423Format: Paperback
Pages: 332
Source: Lybrary
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Corgi (Random House)
Thoughts: This was the April pick for the Sword and Laser Book Club. I was hesitant at first to enter Discworld in the 6th book. But their arguments were quite convincing and here we are. The story follows 3 witches, a dead king, a duke going crazy of guilt, a fool and a lost son. As you can probably tell by that, the book makes a lot of references to Shakespeare's theater plays. Reading this I found all the elements I so enjoyed when I read Good Omens: it was fun, it was witty and it was very, very entertaining. The 3 witches, as different as they are from each other are just hilarious. Even if you haven't read Shakespeare (I haven't) most of the references have become such a big part of the popular culture that you see right thought them. However I know from the discussion afterwards that there were several things I missed. Even so, this did not tempered my enjoyment of the story. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Challenges and goals update: How did I do in April?

April was a fun month. We had the Read-a-Thon, the weather improved...and A became a PhD. I know, I know it has nothing to do with books, but I am so proud you guys! I read 10 books this month...ok, ok, 9 and ¾ because I am not done with The Tin Drum, but I am ¾ in and should finish it today, so you know.

Diversifying 2015:

Of the 10 books I read on April 3 of them where by a nonwhite author (30% total in the year), and 4 books had POCs as main characters (19% in the year). A Little Life also dealt with sexual diversity (So far, 8% of my reading has dealt with this). 6 of the books were written by women.

Read Harder:

This month I only checked one item of the list, being #2: A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 with The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro.

My goals:

Read at least 1 POC author per month: 3 books as I mentioned: L'oubli que nous serons by Héctor Abad, Inéd del Alma mía by Isabel Allende and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Read at least 1 book in Spanish per month: Inés del Alma mía by Isabel Allende

Read CanLit book per month: The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro.

Read at least 1 book of nonfiction per month: 2 books this month: How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran and L'oubli que nous serons by Héctor Abad

Finished series: Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer was the last installment in the Southern Reach Trilogy. I did a review here.

Read more already owned books: 5 of the books I read this month are mine. I had 3 from the library and 2 e-galleys

Read the picks of the month for each book club: No pick for Hello Hemlock this month, but Wyrd Sisters was the pick for The Sword and Laser book club.

It was a great thing the Read-a-Thon, because by then (25th of April) I was a bit behind on my "planned" reading. This was because A Little Life took a lot more time and mostly energy than I expected, but in a good way. I haven't gotten around to writing that review, but soon enough. Unfortunately, this wasn't the best month in galleys, but hey, you win a little you lose a little, am I right?
You will notice that I am not counting comics here, even though I've been reading a fair amount of them. But since I only started reading comics this year, I want to keep those stats separately.

So there you have it; that was my month in books. How was yours?