Friday, November 21, 2014

Diversity Guest Post: Autobiography Class by Nadia A. of A Bookish Way of Life

Please welcome to the blog, Nadia, from A Bookish Way of Life.

When I was in England studying for my degree in Women’s Studies, I decided to take a class about autobiographies written by women.   I thought it would be a great way to learn more about the art of autobiography within a literary context, especially as my thesis would expound on this genre.  I excitedly looked over the class syllabus and anticipated the discussions we’d be having over works by Maxine Hong Kingston, Maya Angelou, and Margery Kempe to name a few.  Imagine my surprise and disappointment when class began and my classmates declared that they couldn’t relate to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and therefore felt that they couldn’t contribute to the discussion.  

It didn’t make any sense to me why they didn’t want to dissect this book; after all, we were English majors and that was what we did.  The penny finally dropped when someone admitted that being “white” and “British” precluded them from talking about a book written by an African-American woman.  Race was the issue.  I couldn’t believe it.  Since when did you have to be African-American to understand a book by an African-American author?  Did this mean that my interpretation of Pride and Prejudice was invalid because I was Latina and not British?  Suffice it to say, that day in class was eye-opening for me.   Not only did I realize how my classmates perceived me as being “other” and “different”, but I quickly surmised how much they lacked in their understanding of the need for diversity in books.  

Authors of color are integral in helping to provide us with an array of opinions and perspectives about different cultures, races, and religions.  We need to read diversely in order to learn more about the world around us.  How else are we going to begin to relate to one another, if we can’t even connect on a literary level?  Books are the perfect means for encouraging and promoting diversity.  After all, isn’t the point of reading to escape from our own insular world and read about someone else’s?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Featured Blogger: Sophia from Ravens and Writing Desks

sophia from ravens and writing desksToday please welcome Sophia, who blogs at Ravens and Writing Desks.

What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

It comes from the immortal question "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The author himself didn't give it an answer in the book, but numerous fan-made ones have been proposed, such as "Because Poe wrote on both," or "Because both have inky quills."

I chose it as my blog name because I liked the sound of it, it had a literary backstory, and because it implied ramblings about a variety of nonsense. I do ramble a lot about anything to do with literature and writing, so it sort of fit.

How long have you been blogging?

I've been blogging for one and a half years. I started in May of 2013.

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

My book blog covers a lot of bases. I review all styles of books, from classics to YA, but I also talk about my adventures as a writer. There's something for everyone!

What genres do you write about most, and why?

I used to write entirely about classics - they were my first love, and still hold a special place in my heart. But this past year I was introduced into the wonders of YA and other, more contemporary reads, and so I've spread out into that area more lately.

Every blogger feels pressure at some point. What's something you feel pressured to do or not do on your blog? How do you deal with it?

Mostly, my largest pressure is from posting frequently. I really try to post at least twice a week - ideally three - but sometimes this ends up not working out. If not, I just shrug and blame college homework.

What's one book you think everyone should read?

Les Miserables. It has something for everyone - history, philosophy, action, mystery, and EXCELLENT characterization.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

Fiction books - never. Ever.
Textbooks - always. In pencil though.

What's your favorite place to read or blog?

I really do it everywhere. I've read on a snowy bus stop without issue, because I was so engrossed in the story. Though I do prefer my front-room couch or my screened in porch (weather permitting).

What have you learned from other bloggers or your readers?

I've learned to not be so academic-sounding in my reviews.

I've learned to let my voice shine through in my posts.

I've learned to read non-classics - and enjoy them, too!

I've learned that the book blogging community is infinitely larger than I ever thought. And I love it with my whole heart.

To DNF or not to DNF?

I generally don't DNF, just because I'm the kind of person who needs to finish what I started. I've only DNF'ed Dickens (not all Dickens, but some). Does that say something about me as a reader (or Dickens as a writer)?

What's one book that intimidates you?

If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I write.
I play piano.
I catch up on homework.
I blog.
I hang out with my sister.
I sing.
I dance.
I travel.
I daydream.
I plot.
I sleep.

Thank you for joining us today, Sophia! Remember to check out 's blog, Ravens and Writing Desks, and leave a comment or question.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The French Thrill

Today, please welcome Emma, who blogs at Words and Peace and also runs France Book Tours. She's here to tell us about the next big thing—French thrillers!

Scandinavian countries used to be at the top for crime fiction, detective fiction or mysteries, but now the big thrill is coming from France!

alex pierre lemaitre
Even the British think so: the French Fred Vargas and Pierre Lemaitre recently won the International Dagger Award. British readers love Fred so much they have actually given her this award four times already.
In France itself, Pierre Lemaitre won the prestigious award Prix Goncourt in 2013, proof that the genre is indeed in great shape. His thriller Alex, translated in English, is soon to be a movie.

Each year more than 16 million thrillers and crime novels are sold in France, that is 25% of sales in bookstores. Over 1,500 new books in that genre are published in France every year.

So, what’s so special about French crime fiction?

According to The Independent, the French have the perfect combination, with real writers who are also masters at storytelling.

I would like to highlight here a few examples:

Plots are often based on specifics pertaining to France:

jean-francois parot
Its history. Jean-François Parot is a good example with his series of historical mysteries featuring Nicolas Le Floch, an XVIIIth century policeman. Gallic Press has been publishing them in English.
For more recent history, there’s Le dernier tigre rouge, just published by Jérémie Guez (born in 1988), on the French Foreign Legion.

moon in a dead eye pascal garnier
New social realities. Pascal Garnier comes to mind here. He died a few years ago, but his novels are still popular and are being translated, also by Gallic Press whose mission is to offer the best of French in English. Moon in a Dead Eye takes place in a gated community for senior citizens. His detailed and atmospheric descriptions seem to me quite characteristic of the French literary genius that gave birth to its great classics.

There’s also the very recent Aux animaux la guerre, by Nicolas Mathieu, with an unfortunately common situation these days: a factory closes in France, hundreds of workers are unemployed, and they are ready to do anything to express their hatred of a vanishing world.
 And La faux soyeuse by Eric Maravelias, in a Paris suburb struggling with violence and AIDS!

treachery in bordeaux
Cultural elements. One of the most popular icon of French culture is certainly wine. And here one big name comes out: The Winemaker Detective series by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Alain Noël Balen. Le French Book, which does a fantastic job at making French fiction better known to the English speaking world, has just translated and published 4 volumes.

crossing the line frederique molay
New kinds of murderers, new place given to technology. I’m thinking here of another great French woman author of thrillers: Frédérique Molay. Her latest novel, Crossing The Line (Le French Book), shows a mastery in the procedural genre, combined with a very original inspiration. Her style is also extremely visual, probably a trait common to many works in this new wave of French thrillers.

Some other current names in this genre called roman policier or polar in French are Dominique Manotti (don’t tell me the French don’t have women writers!), Caryl Férey, Michaël Mention, or DOA (for Dead On Arrival!), among others.

Because of its success, publishers naturally turn to crime fiction, and several have just started new collections. For instance:

  • «Crimes gourmands», (Fayard) this time on food and chefs!
  • «Suspense» (Héloïse d'Ormesson) for psychological thrillers written by women
  • «Crimes et monuments» (Éditions du Patrimoine) for historical thrillers

It sounds like the perfect time has come to encourage English translators, or best, for you to learn French!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Favorite Books Set in India by Tanya M. of Mom's Small Victories

Photo credit: Taj Mahal on Wikipedia
Photo credit: Taj Mahal on Wikipedia
As co-host of the set your own rules Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge, it's no secret that I love to read about different countries and cultures. Reading is the easiest and most frugal way to travel the world until we save up the money and find the time to get there in person. Since my family is from India and my chronic illness prevents me from visiting, I have been immersing myself in books set in India. These books bring me a sense of comfort like only family can and growing up in America, a real sense of what living in India might be like. Today, I'm sharing with you my favorite books set in India so you can travel to this beautiful, vibrant and socially diverse country yourself.

If You Like Historical Fiction and Forbidden Love, Read Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen....

Under the Jeweled Sky   Under the Jeweled Sky is a breathtakingly beautiful story about Sophie, the daughter of an affluent British doctor, and Jag, an Indian servant to the Maharaja. From different social classes and different cultures, being seen together would be disastrous. Yet Sophie and Jag find ways to be together and the story that transpires is full of intense first love and drama. Set during India's independence from the British empire, I learned about what was a joyous time for many also that threw many into utter poverty, destitution or even death. I could not put this book down and it made me want to read more about this time during India's history. See my full review of Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen for more details on why I loved and learned so much from this magnificent book.

If You Like Indian Food and Strong Female Characters, Read The Forgotten Daughter by Renita D'Silva...

contemporary-fiction-set-in-india Be warned, don't read The Forgotten Daughter by Renita D'Silva on an empty stomach if you like Indian food. Each chapter from mom Shilpa's point of view starts with a mouth-watering recipe and food plays an integral part of the story. As Shilpa says in the book, "every food has a feeling, a memory. Every important milestone in my life has a food associated with it. That is why this diary couldn’t just be for recipes. That is why I am narrating the story of my life via food.” Growing up, the kitchen was the heart of our home, where we spent the most time together enjoying good food, each other’s company and a whole lot of good times. Not only is The Forgotten Daughter delicious, it's an emotional journey and story about self-discovery, forgiveness and testing the limits of mothers’ love. A great pick for the foodie reader who enjoys a deep emotional drama. See my full review of The Forgotten Daughter by Renita D'Silva for how this book made me feel and what it made me remember.

If You Like Stories About International Adoption, Read The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda...

secret daughter I credit The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda for kickstarting my obsession with reading 2 years ago. Never before had I encountered a book that made my heart ache for my grandparents in India and the last time I saw them so many years ago. A book I was so enamored with, I could not put it down and felt compelled to share it's greatness with my readers in my first book review. The Secret Daughter is about Kavita, a poor Indian woman who gave birth to a girl in a place where only sons were wanted. Kavita has no choice but to give her daughter away in order to save her life but she yearns for her everyday and feels guilty about the choice she made. Asha is adopted by an American wife and an Indian husband who live in the US. Asha's adopted mother, Somer, struggles with raising a daughter who wants to learn about her culture and find her birth mother. Somer wonders if her bond with her daughter is strong enough to overcome whatever it is Asha discovers in India. Another dramatic read that highlights the differences between growing up in America and India for a girl, the pain of infertility and loss, and the undying hope mothers have for their children. See my full review of The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.

If You Like Nonfiction About Growing Up In India, Read First Darling of the Morning by Thrity Umrigar

first darling of the morning Thirty Umrigar is one of my favorite Indian authors. She moved me with the story of 4 Indian friends reuniting after a terminal cancer diagnosis in The World We Found and brought the topic of suicide to the forefront in The Story Hour just when Robin Williams committed suicide. She's a talented writer who writes heartwrenching dramas but I was most intrigued by the story of her childhood, quite a drama in itself. In First Darling of the Morning, Thrity shows us how she is caught in the middle between an abusive mother and a doting father. Thrity's life was full of simple joys and difficult realizations about the culture and country where she lived. An India full of dichotomies, the oppressively poor living among the privileged; the squalor amidst the splendor; the forgotten among the revered. This book took me back to India the one trip I remember. To those hungry faces impossible to forget and the same feeling not understanding why we could not help the hungry children begging for food. See my full review of First Darling of the Morning by Thrity Umrigar for more about Thrity's life and what it made me remember and long for in my last trip to India. Thanks Book Bloggers International for allowing me to share some of my favorite books set in India, a country dear to my heart. Don't forget to stop by and sign up for our Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge anytime and check out our book reviews by continent linkups to get great book recommendations from around the world. What books have you enjoyed set in India? What books bring back wonderful childhood memories for you? Where would you like to travel to in real life or in books? I'd love to hear from you!

About Tanya from Mom's Small Victories

tanya-moms-small-victories Writer and owner behind Mom's Small Victories. I'm a A SAHM of 3 crazy boys and wife to Superhubby. I cope with Rheumatoid Arthritis, by focusing on things I love and celebrating my small victories in everyday life. I am obsessed with reading, love to cook my family delicious meals, travel and share tips on staying positive with a chronic illness. Let me know what small victories you celebrate today, life is short, let's treasure it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Now Featuring Deborah from Book Barmy!

Today please welcome Deborah, who blogs at Book Barmy.

What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

BARMY: British • informal
1. marked by spirited enjoyment
2. informal or slang term for mentally irregular Origin late 15th century

I am "barmy" about books, want to be surrounded by them, want to read everything, love all things bookish.

How long have you been blogging?

Just starting out.

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

I'm trying to capture the pure delight of reading a book and then talking about it.

My reviews are informal and chatty.
I hope to make other bookish friends through my blog and share reading experiences.

What genres do you write about most, and why?

Fiction and literature are my main reading, I adore being swept into a story, falling in deep into the characters, and experience different time periods and settings.
I'm a sucker for epistolary novels and anything based on diaries real or imagined, must be the voyeur in me.
In the same vein, I read memoirs - as a way to step into someone's life and view it through their eyes.
I'm a anglophile and will read anything British or based in the UK.

Every blogger feels pressure at some point. What's something you feel pressured to do or not do on your blog? How do you deal with it?

I've started to received advance reading copies both hard-copy and electronic.
I feel the pressure to read and review those books.
My policy is I will read and review only what I want. Even if I request an ARC, and find I just can't get into the book, I won't feel obligated to read it!

What's one book you think everyone should read?

Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road
A book about the love of books and literature. Letters between a bookseller in London and a play writer in NYC - what's not to love? One of my favorites.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

Very lightly in pencil - especially if I'm passing the book on to a specific friend or family member. Special passages that have meaning to both of us.

What's your favorite place to read or blog?

My reading nook (aka my happy place). 

Is the evil empire? Discuss.

I believe getting books into peoples hands and hearts is key - no matter the method - libraries, independent bookstores, big box stores, and Amazon all have their proper place and can survive together.

See my local independent bookstore - Green Apple - editorial in The Atlantic (

I must admit Amazon's treatment of Hatchette was very shabby and left a bad taste in my mouth.

What have you learned from other bloggers or your readers?

I'm an avid follower of many book blogs and when the blogger's personal voice comes through in his/her reviews - the more I enjoy it!

Do you judge a book by its cover, or its lover?

Oh yes, it's shallow but I often choose books by their cover. The Hundred Foot Journey, The Goldfinch, Louise Penny's books - all beautiful covers.

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?

Time and Again, by Jack Finney.

I have foisted this wonderful time travel novel on many people and few have responded with the delight I had hoped.

To DNF or not to DNF?

DNF - I give a book 50 to 75 pages audition, sometimes less. Life is too short and there are so many excellent books awaiting me.

What's one book that intimidates you?

Les Misérables - always wanted to read it, have tried many times and my eyes glaze over.
Maybe with time.

I am proud to say I finally read The Odyssey a few years ago after many attempts. 

If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?

Hay on Wye, Wales UK
Their literature festival is in May/June every year - some year I will go.

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I'm early-retired. So I am fortunate to have the time for my hobbies. I grow old/heritage roses (bred before 1864), have a small vegetable garden, love music of all sorts, entertaining, cooking, and traveling with my husband.

What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?

Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Great book - horrid film adaptation. 

What are 3 favorite posts or reviews you've read by other book bloggers?

Cornflower Books
My Porch
The Age of Uncertainty 

What is your reading personality? (via quiz at

The All Arounder

Thank you for joining us today, Deborah! Remember to check out 's blog, Book Barmy, and leave a comment or question.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Jazz Up Your Mystery/Thriller Reading with Chris

Please welcome Chris of Wildmoobooks to Book Bloggers Intl.!

Do you love mysteries and thrillers but feel a bit burnt out by them, as if you’re reading the same book with a different setting over and over? Or have you read all your favorite series and now wait around for the next release, randomly picking up other books like filler? Or have you never really read much in the genre and want to start, but don’t know where?

Try alternating a new release with a classic or significant back list title. Mix it up further by cycling in subgenres that you haven’t yet tried: cozy, hard boiled, medical, legal, western, LGBT, espionage, supernatural, etc.

The beauty of reading this way is that you stay in touch with what’s current, yet learn about the history of the genre and subgenres. You’ll expose yourself to new-to-you authors and may discover that a subgenre you’ve avoided actually interests you. Through reading older titles you’ll come to have a deeper appreciation for newer releases because you’ll understand the tradition from which they’ve grown. You’ll be able to see when a new release does something original. Or how, perhaps, it fails to live up to the demands of the genre or subgenre.

This approach works well for independent reading or for book groups. I used it in a past book group and my current group is using it. This month we read Tana French’s new release, The Secret Place. Next month we’re going back to 1868 for The Moonstone by Willie Collins which is considered the first mystery novel. After that we’ll read Still Life by Louise Penny (2006) and then Cover Her Face by P.D. James (1962). We’ll discuss the merits and pitfalls of each novel in and of itself (the mystery, plot, characters, etc), and then also discuss which subgenre(s) it fits into and how well.

There is no right or wrong to reading this way.

But crime fiction is such a huge category, so where to begin? Your local librarian can certainly point you in the right direction. Or a simple internet search for “mystery subgenres” or “history of mystery” will pull up helpful information from which you can begin creating your own reading list. There are even books and lists of the top 50 or 100 mystery/thrillers everyone should read.

Another option is to check out the websites of organizations like The Mystery Writers of America, the Crime Writers’ Association, or International Thriller Writers. Compare their lists of award winning books. Look at the Agatha Award list for the best cozies or the Shamus Award list for the best PI novels.

After a while you see the same titles showing up across various lists and will feel the need to read that book.

If you enjoy audiobooks there’s a course from The Modern Scholar series that your library may carry or be able to get for you called Detective Fiction: From Victorian Sleuths to the Present by Professor M. Lee Alexander which explores the origins of the genre, significant eras, subgenres, and trends. You can download the course booklet from the website linked above. It’s an excellent resource.

I hope this method jazzes up your mystery/thriller reading or gets you started. I’d love hear about what strategy you use to read around in this vast and diverse genre.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why Nancy Drew Rocks!

Today, please welcome Tamara from Traveling with T. Tamar's here to talk about Nancy Drew, the original mystery gal.

Holy throwback post, Batman! Nancy Drew- is there a gal on Earth who does not know who Nancy Drew is? (I sincerely hope not!) Here’s the thing about good ole Nancy- mystery solver extraordinaire- she spoke to girls. She was a role model. And considering that Nancy has been around since the 30’s- well, that speaks volumes right there. Girls need books where a gal uses her smarts to solve a mystery- where she follows the clues and makes sense of them.

How did I begin reading Nancy Drew? Well, readers sit back and let’s talk: It was the summer of 1988 and my mom went to the library in search of some books for me (I had not met the BabySitters Club books yet!) Seeing a Nancy Drew book, she picked it up for me- remembering how much she dearly loved Nancy back in the day. A week later, when she told me she was going to library to return her books and needed my Nancy Drew back- I threw myself down on the bed and hollered ‘How am I going to solve the mystery now?” Luckily for me, my mom simply re-checked the book out and all was good again.

My real love affair with Nancy Drew came in the winter of 1989. Santa dropped off a set of Nancy Drew Case Files (1-5) and boy, was I hooked. This Nancy was more modern (my momma hadn’t read those stories so I felt infinitely cooler!) The Nancy in the Case Files drove a Mustang, had fashion sense out the wazoo, and just screamed sophistication to my 9 year old mind. The mysteries were edgier, there was romance (might we trace my love for a good ole romantic suspense storyline back to Nancy Drew Case Files?) Basically, this was a Nancy for my generation.

Why did I love Nancy so much? Part of it was the fact that she was smart AND had a boyfriend. I was getting to that tender age where I was beginning to see that boys didn’t like smart girls- and Nancy was proof that they did. She was pretty. She had unmistakable hair- her hair in the Case Files was always a mention. But mainly I loved her for the sense of adventure I felt when reading. For sharpening my case-solving skills.

For me, October is the perfect time to read a mystery. The spooky-atmosphere makes sitting down with a mystery very appealing. Might I suggest sitting down with some classic Nancy Drew and doing some nostalgia reading? Or perhaps introducing another generation to the fabulousness that is Nancy Drew- the original mystery gal?