Discussion · lists

My Favourite Books of 2016, Part 2

Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace
Atmospheric, sad, inevitable. There are many things I could say about this book but I reckon you should discover it for yourself.

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
This was the most adorable graphic novel I have read in ages. It tells a beautiful story filled with diverse characters and situations, full of humour and life.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories – Ken Liu
I’m still not over this one. I really am not.

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
This needs to be read in classrooms over North America.

The Wildings – Nilanjana Roy
For the longest time, I didn’t know if I liked this or was just weirded out by it but ultimately I spent so much time thinking about this book that it deserves a space on my best list because it’s the kind of book you will read, the kind that will entertain you and the kind you will think about for a long time after.

Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney
I will review this at when I reread it but suffice it to say that I really really liked it.

The Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Smarter people than me have spoken about how amazing this book is. Believe them.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
It blended fantasy and science in the best ways possible.

Booked by Kwame Alexander
I have read all of Alexander’s books so far and he keeps outdoing himself!

An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet
Now this is the kind of Canadian Kidlit we need.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers
It’s official. This is my favourite picturebook of the year and I have read quite a few.

Discussion · lists

My Favourite Books of 2016: Part 1

Note: To make things deliciously complicated, the books on this were not all released in 2016 but are those that I read this year. There are 21 books in this list. I will discuss the first 11 in this post and the rest in part 2.

Finnikin of the Rock – Melina Marchetta

I have read most of Melina Marchetta’s books to date(two in the Finnikin trilogy left) but for a long time, I resisted Finnikin because for some reason I thought it wouldn’t be good. Why I thought that, I don’t know. After Twitter friends gushed about its greatness, I finally took the plunge and boy, I kicked myself for waiting the time I did to read it because as with everything Marchetta writes, it is gold. Her characters are real flawed people and her stories are always grand in scope. This book made me feel all the feels which is the reason why it has a space on this list.

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

My love affair with Murakami is ongoing. I attempt to read two of his books/year but I only managed two in 2016. The Elephant Vanishes is such a perfect collection that even someone like me who doesn’t really like short stories fell for it. All stories are glimpses of worlds and lives and they don’t tell the entire story, they don’t even pretend to. They leave you wondering, thinking, wishing. I loved that.

Migritude by Shailja Patel

Migritude is perhaps my favourite book of the year. It made me cry and made me feel in the deepest of ways.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

I own many of Valente books and had not read any when I first read this one. I don’t know how I will fare with her adult offerings but this book was so amazing in so many ways. I know friends who dislike it intensely but for me, it captured the perfect blend of whimsy and tragedy.

Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington

Another book that surprised me in a very good way. I didn’t expect Sure Signs of Crazy to be as good as it turned out to be, as I am glad it turned out to be.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho

This novella was just so perfect in the way it told a story, the voice of the heroine, the characters and the plot. I adore it.

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

The Inconvenient Indian should be mandatory reading for kids in high school. There are so many things King talks about that I didn’t know or hadn’t even considered. What it means to be a member of one of the First Nations, what it means to live among people who murdered your ancestors and who continue murdering you. A sobering read.

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

The art in this one, you guys.

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Lai’s love for Vietnam is so obvious in this journey she takes us on. I was entranced and right there with her characters. A beautiful book.

Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan

One of those short books that unsettle you and make you think deeper about this world you live in.

Discussion · writing · Writing Diaries

On Writing: The Process and What it Does to the Writer

That is a very ambitious title for what I want to talk about and I have no confidence at all that I am going to be able to express myself with any clarity but…

what the heck… it is past midnight and clarity is optional on this side of the night.

Last autumn, I experienced autumn as if for the first time in a while. I crunched through the leaves and watched winter bloom and wane all as if I had skipped the previous year. Which was odd because I hadn’t gone anywhere.

Everything felt new to me. I felt more alert and more present in my own reality than I had been for a long time.

This made me realize what writing does to a person. Fiction writing specifically because it’s the only one I am familiar with. And okay, I am generalizing so this could totally be my experience alone. I’m sure other writers will pitch in if they read this.

I feel like to write somebody else’s story, you somehow have to thin yourself out so much that you exist as nothing but the pen which is doing the writing. Your you-ness is cast in shade and you become nothing but the reflecting lens for the characters whose stories you are writing.

And it’s bloody exhausting.

But in some ways this process of writing is deeply fascinating. I wonder if someone has compared the brains of writers with the brains of non-writers. What differences exist? How do our brains differ? Are the differences significant?

I should probably sleep. I always get into trouble when I think about things like these…like thinking about writing a book about writers writing books. Hah.

And you know, this also makes me understand how people married to writers suffer. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be married to someone who wrote if I wasn’t a writer myself because they’d always be selfish of their alone time which would differ from their thinking time and their writing time.

I should stop talking to myself now.


Nonfiction · review · Review Copy

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill


Hardcover, 307 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: Publisher

Have you ever wished you could live in an earlier, more romantic era?

Ladies, welcome to the 19th century, where there’s arsenic in your face cream, a pot of cold pee sits under your bed, and all of your underwear is crotchless. (Why? Shush, dear. A lady doesn’t question.)

UNMENTIONABLE is your hilarious, illustrated, scandalously honest (yet never crass) guide to the secrets of Victorian womanhood, giving you detailed advice on:

~ What to wear
~ Where to relieve yourself
~ How to conceal your loathsome addiction to menstruating
~ What to expect on your wedding night
~ How to be the perfect Victorian wife
~ Why masturbating will kill you
~ And more

Irresistibly charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and featuring nearly 200 images from Victorian publications, UNMENTIONABLE will inspire a whole new level of respect for Elizabeth Bennett, Scarlet O’Hara, Jane Eyre, and all of our great, great grandmothers.

(And it just might leave you feeling ecstatically grateful to live in an age of pants, super absorbency tampons, epidurals, anti-depressants, and not-dying-of-the-syphilis-your-husband-brought-home.)

Unmentionable brings to light all the things you may have wanted to know about the Victorian age but didn’t know who to ask or where to find your information from. I mean, Google is helpful but only to a certain extent.

As the back copy so explicitly points out, Unmentionable is a fount of information about things like keeping clean in a time when cleanliness is not really prized. A time when everyone stinks so you may as well too. I mean, I ‘m saying.

Frankly, it’s all horrifying and I am supremely happy I was born in the this time especially because imagine the discrimination I’d face in Victorian England….maybe a little more than I’d face now? Heh. Anyway, the book as wit and charm. The author obviously did her work and researched the heck out of the period as the works cited page will reveal.

One thing I do have to mention though is the use of the word “squaw” on page 132 of the ARC version of the book. I should think that all the research done for this novel would reveal that the term is derogatory and should not be used. I don’t know if the finished copy contains the word–I hope not.

As reference material, this book should be helpful–especially to those who are writing Victorian settings focusing on women.


Evolution as a Writer

I wish I could go back to my 22 year old self and be a little nicer to her. Give her a hug and tell her to save the unkind words for the people in her life who will constantly try to run her down with their hate.

I wish I could tell her that some day somewhere someone will believe in her. That her writing is beautiful and that she should continue doing it.

I cannot do that sadly. But I can show you what she wrote in her diaries.

Short Sips of a Long Drink

The night is drenched with
unfinished dreams.
There is a fat orange moon
holding dominion in the phantasmic sky.
And the stars shine in soft supplication to him.

A night flower blooms –

there is a chasm in the darkness
a deepening of the languor that
arrests my submissive soul –

I have to write you a story
of the third house on the left side of my street.
It’s protected fiercely by
azaleas and marigolds
and the grass boasts immaculate
chaos in the sunshine.
Sad, ragged curtains peek out timidly from
the unwashed windows on the first floor
the faded rose pattern on it speak pensively –

But I will save that for a molten afternoon and an acquiescent ear.

Forever demands a wrathful reckoning
and I have no truths to tell.
You are so glorious in your surety of the universe
So convinced that all doors have keys
what if I showed you one path that led past
destiny and settled somewhere behind a
door built for the entire purpose of remaining closed.

My streets are long stretches
of cobbled grandeur.
I stumble in the footsteps
of calamitous pirates
who stole the songs from the cowrie shells.

I sit cross legged on my downy sheets
enraptured by the night
Eolian kisses grace my inky fingers
I pour myself into you
through these words,
I gift you with slivers of my soul
they carol in the midst of the jangled syllables.

I am always saying goodbye
a farewell to you, beloved
That is my complaint to the universe.
I am composed entirely of goodbyes.

And so,
the emptiness spreads.

I spent the better part of my Sunday morning
in a teacup,
pondering the crevices in my battered heart
Weary and worn
an old leather shoe, with brown crease marks on the sides
and a scuffed tongue

My thoughts are a dusty china blue.

I am an afternoon under a mango tree
I am this and that too.

I wonder if butterflies ever wish to
return into their cocoons.


November Wrap Up

So November went by rapidly. I read as much as I wanted to but most of my attention, I confess, was on other things. Like writing. And um, the Orangopocalypse. Yep. That’s what I am calling it. The horror of that aside, here are the books I read last month:

  1. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil – Melina Marchetta
    5 stars.
  2. Hour of the Bees – Lindsay Eager
  3. Malice in Ovenland – Micheline Hess
  4. Spells of Blood and Ink – Claire Humphrey
  5. The Sleeping Partner – Madeleine E. Robins
  6. Gemina – Amie Kaufman
  7. Ms Marvel vol 3, 4, and 5 – G. Willow Wilson
  8. Unmentionable – Therese Oneill
  9. The Queen of Blood – Sarah Beth Durst
  10. Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho
  11. When the Sea Turned to Silver – Grace Lin
  12. The Palace Job – Patrick Weekes
  13. Gertie’s Leap to Greatness – Kate Beasley
  14. The Dark Days Pack – Alison Goodman
  15. Yesternight – Cat Winters
  16. If I Had A Gryphon – Vikki Vansickle
  17. A Child of Books – Oliver Jeffers
  18. We Found a Hat – Jon Klassen
  19. A Most Novel Revenge – Ashley Weaver

I received 13 books this month. 1 was a present from my mother. The others were all for review.