Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Favorite Holiday Books

The holidays are here, and it's time to chat about our favorite holiday books!  For me, my favorite holiday books tend to focus around reading with my children.  Therefore, they tend to be children's books.  For example, the ultimate classic by Dr. Suess . . .

Or, this beautiful story by Chris Van Allsburg . . .

Or, this fun-loving book about snowmen by Caralyn Buehner . . .

Or, this lesser known Christmas classic by Lawrence David . . .

And, you gotta love ALL the holiday scenes in the infamous Harry Potter books . . .

BUT, I know that there are so many wonderful holiday reads out there than these.  Tell us your personal favorites.  And, can you get a little more diverse in your recommendations than I have?  What about books for adults?  What about stories that involve something other than Christmas?  I will compile all your suggestions and share them with you later this month!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Reading and Diversity: 10 Ways to Read Your Way to France by Emma of Words and Peace

Thank you, Emma, for joining us today for our final guest post on diversity in books!

Reading and diversity:
10 ways to read your way to France

While talking recently about diversity in books, a blogger told me: “all the books I've read from French writers or that take place in France are pretty much historical fiction.  I would love to be able to diversify that.”

Following this wish, I propose you 10 ways to read your way to France, either through French authors, French topics, or books set in France. The following are recent books I have personally thoroughly enjoyed or about which I heard a lot of very good things.

And as November is nonfiction month for many book bloggers, I will start with nonfiction:

1.      History/Socio-economics:
France on the Brink: A Great Civilization in the New Century, by Jonathan Fenby (Skyhorse Publishing, August 2014): awesome analysis of the last 50 years in France, perfect to understand what’s going on right now there and go beyond touristy clichés.

For pure history/biography:
I highly recommend Marie-Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, And The Revolution, by Will Bashor (Lyons Press, October 2013): through the biography of Léonard Autié, Marie-Antoinette’s personal hairdresser, the author presents the panorama around the French Revolution from an original perspective.

2.      Travel essays:
If you feel travel guides always lack this je ne sais quoi, here is an amazing volume with great descriptions of places in France you may not even have heard of. The author adds her own personal experience and recommendations. You will learn a lot about the history, geography, and culture of the country as well: 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go, by Marcia DeSanctis (Travelers’ Tales, October 2014)

3.      Memoirs:
I could recommend you tons of books here, it seems these past months everyone has moved to France and is writing about their experience!
You have the hilarious and right on stories relating Vicki’s experience as an expat in France: Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, followed by Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer by Vicki Lesage (both books self-published in 2014).
In We’ll Always Have Paris (Sourcebooks, April 2014), Jennifer Coburn visits Paris with her teenage daughter.
And Samantha Vérant shares her amazing story of falling in love with a French man, ignoring his letters for decades, and finally reconnecting and ending up marrying him: Seven Letters from Paris (Sourcebooks, October 2014).
I can’t but talk to you about how this couple struggled to purchase and renovate their house of their dream on a tiny paradise-like island off the Western Coast of France. Their story of courage and perseverance, or call it foolishness and stubbornness if you wish is presented in The French House, by Don Wallace (Sourcebooks, June 2014).

4.      Literary fiction:
Comes to mind a book written by Grégoire Delacourt, a French author, quite present in the media right now: My Wish List (Penguin, March 2014): on what would you do if you won the lottery?
And one written by an American author, Adria J. Cimino: Paris, Rue des Martyrs (Agency Editions, Fenruary 2014): a beautiful narrative connecting different people living in the same street in the Montmartre neighborhood.

5.      Historical novel:
As the blogger I quoted above hinted at, no lack of choice here. One of the most recent I read is A Paris Apartment (St Martin’s Press, April 2014). Michelle Gable based her novel on the true story of an apartment in the 9th arrondisssement that had been abandoned just before WWII and never opened for 7o years.
Historical romance:
It’s really a historical novel, but the story told was a romance in real life. Heloise and Abelard are probably THE most famous French couple, even though they lived back in the 12th century. Unfortunately, they are no longer well known on this side of the ocean. So you really don’t want to miss this phenomenal opportunity to read about them, through A Sharp Hook of Love (Simon & Schuster, October 2014) written by Sherry Jones.

6.      Paranormal:
If you enjoy the mix historical fiction and paranormal, I have one name for you: M. J. Rose. Her last two books, Seduction - where you will meet Victor Hugo (Atria Books, May 2013) and The Collector of Dying Breaths - with Catherine de Medici and her perfumer (Atria Books, April 2014) are set in France as well as her upcoming novel: The Witch of Painted Sorrows, set in 1890 Belle Époque Paris (to be published in March 2015 by Atria Books).

7.      Romance:
If you prefer contemporary romance, Juliette Sobanet is THE author to follow, with her Paris series: Sleeping With Paris, Honeymoon in Paris, Kissed in Paris, Midnight Train to Paris, Dancing With Paris, One Night in Paris. Are you dreaming yet?

8.      LGBT:
I also have an author to recommend for this genre: Alyssa Linn Palmer and her series Le Chat Rouge. In which she invites you to take a walk on the darker side of Paris, and enter a jazz club on the Left Bank… See The Paris Game, and Moonlight & Love Songs.

9.      Mystery:
A very popular series in France, even adapted on T.V. is fortunately available in English translation, thanks to Le French Book. If you like the combo mystery + French wine, and really, who would not, you will love each of the volumes in the Winemaker Detective Stories by the duo Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen. The title says it all: Benjamin cooker is both a master winemaker and an astute detective. A few of the titles already available may inspire you, and not just to go open a bottle for yourself: Treachery in Bordeaux, Grand Cru Heist, Nightmare in Burgundy, and Cognac Conspiracies.

10.   Thriller:
Book Bloggers International recently published my post on The French Thrill, where I explained how French crime fiction is now making top of the list in front of Scandinavian authors. So I would like to end this list with a woman who really blew my mind, Frédérique Molay. She has received several awards in France. Her latest Crossing The Line starts with the super original idea of a message hidden in the tooth filling of a dead man. As a teaser, do you want to know what was written there? “I was murdered!” If this does not grab you…
The good news is that her next one, The City of Blood, comes out in January!

If you feel stuck in your reading program in the same old same old, this list should help you insert some fine diversity in your TBR, while making you travel to France and stroll in the City of Lights.

Thank you, Emma, for joining us today!  Leave a comment for Emma below!

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Lesson Learned: Diversity in Books by Nadia A. of A Bookish Way of Life

Please welcome back to the blog, Nadia, of A Bookish Way of Life!


Sandra Cisneros was my first reading experience with a Latina author.  I was nineteen, attending college, and majoring in English Literature.  I’d chosen Latinos in Literature as one of my courses, because it sounded interesting.  Mind you, I’m Latina and for some reason I found the idea of reading books about my own culture to be interesting.  My Mexican culture was a part of me that I didn’t really identify with.  Sure, I spoke Spanish, listened to my mom’s CDs by Gilberto Perez and Ramon Ayala, ate tacos and enchiladas - but that was extent of my Mexican cultural knowledge.  As for books, well all of mine were written by ‘dead white guys’ or whoever was topping the latest bestseller lists.  I grew up in a small town reading Christopher Pike, The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High – what did I know about diversity in books? 

The first day in my Latinos in Literature class, the professor gave us our syllabus filled with names I could pronounce, but didn’t recognize.  She spoke about the importance of Hispanic culture and how this class would open our eyes to a world of literature that was integral to American history and culture.  Her passion for this genre was so effusive and inspiring that I found myself eagerly opening up the first page to The House on Mango Street.  Reading about Esperanza’s life filled with rice sandwiches, Spanish phrases, and hardworking parents that woke up before the crack of dawn was like coming home.  I found myself within these pages, these words, these characters, and their stories.  I could speak the language, recognize the neighborhood, smell the food, wear the clothes and fit right in.  This story was my story.  Sandra Cisneros’ words represented my culture, my family, and me.  

As a result of reading this book, I began to seek out books by other Latino authors and immersed myself in stories that felt both familiar and foreign.  I also encouraged family and friends to diversify their reading repertoires as well.  This class was integral in teaching me the importance of reading diversely and it was a lesson that I’ve kept with me ever since.  By reading authors of color I’ve learned more about myself and the world at large.  I’ve found myself inspired, fulfilled, and excited about the different countries, cultures, and people I’ve read about.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featuring Zoe of When Zoe Reads

Today please welcome Zoe, who blogs at When Zoe Reads.

What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?
When Zoe Reads doesn't really mean anything because I randomly came up with that name in my mind when I was starting my blog. And my friends keep saying "When Zoe Reads... When Zoe Reads" so I kinda got my book blog name from it.

How long have you been blogging?
A few months and I've got great visitors!

What genres do you write about most, and why?
I usually write Young-Adult genres because it's my favourite genre and most of the book club I joined is based on YA genre.

What's one book you think everyone should read?
Forever Summer by Alyson Noël

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

What's your favorite place to read or blog?
My bedroom of course!

Do you judge a book by its cover, or its lover?
It's lover mostly... I've never judge a book by its cover!

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?
Listening to musics or watching movies

What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?
The Twilight Saga series

What is your reading personality? (via quiz at
Avid reader

Thank you for joining us today, Zoe! It's great to meet you! 

Remember to check out Zoe's blog, When Zoe Reads, and leave a comment or question.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Diversity in Books: Military by Chris of WildMooBooks

Please welcome back Chris of Wildmoo Books!  

Diversity in Books: Military 

The issue of diversity in books and reading books about diversity is once again a hot topic. I’m going to assume that anyone reading this article already understands and values the importance of diversity within novels as well as the importance of seeking out books that bridge social divides.

Most conversations about books & diversity seem to focus on race and gender, with some voices advocating for class, sexual orientation, cultural, and religious diversity.

There’s another divide that I’m concerned about that I think can begin to be bridged by reading and that’s the military-civilian divide.

Most 'first world' countries no longer have compulsory military service and now have a huge percentage of civilians with no connection to the military. This translates into voters, business leaders, and politicians who do not have a basic understanding of or interest in the military. The military machines of these countries are increasingly controlled by very small inner circles.
Some experts believe that the increased military actions of the U.S. may be due to having an all-volunteer force and a citizenry that has, to be blunt, no skin in the game. About 0.5 % of Americans serve in the military, down from 12% during WWII when it seemed like “everyone” was in the military or had a family member that served.

Here’s a link to an article on the topic that also contains links to some of the primary articles on the issue of the military-civilian divide.

On a personal level, I’m a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who identifies as a lesbian. More people have been shocked by my “coming out” as a veteran than as a lesbian, which I think speaks volumes about people’s experience with and/or awareness of these segments of society. I’ve recently had friends from two different families with zero military experience who had their worlds rocked when their teens announced they want to join the military.

Reading about the military can help people understand various aspects of the military beyond the stereotypes, headlines, and Hollywood glamorization. Granted, there are many books that glamorize the military or that are action-adventure tales bordering on fantasy. These books may be entertaining, but they do little to help bridge the military-civilian divide. In fact, some may even widen the gap. But there are, however, some thoughtful novels and memoirs written by veterans as well as thought-provoking nonfiction works by civilians.

Two of my recent favorites are Matternhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes and The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education by Craig Mullaney.

Two highly readable, nonfiction titles by civilians that I often recommend are Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point by Elizabeth D. Samet and Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow.

Two recent titles by women veterans are Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq by Jessica Goodell and Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer’s Combat Experience in Iraq by Jane Blair.

Two online resources for finding more military books:
Military Professional Reading Lists: Reading lists from each branch of the military.
War Through the Generations: Reading challenge & book reviews grouped by war.

To sum up: Why read about the military? I think the two primary reasons are:
1. To understand the service and sacrifice of your fellow citizens.

2. To understand what your government is doing or has done in the world or within its borders.

All of my reading recommendations concern the U.S. because that's my area of interest, but I’d love to hear recommendations from readers around the world. Thanks for reading!

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.