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.

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?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

When Mysteries / Thrillers Cease to Surprise by Sarah from Sarah's Book Shelves

Today, please welcome Sarah from Sarah's Book Shelves, who's here to discuss unthrilling thrillers and unmysterious mysteries. Welcome, Sarah!

*Warning: There are spoilers for We Were Liars and Big Little Lies in this post!

This year, I've read more mysteries / thrillers than ever before. I'm not sure why...I didn't purposely seek out this genre, it just happened that a lot of the books that sparked my interest were thrillers! I actually found myself reading so many in a row that I got a little genre burn-out, if there is such a thing.

In fact, I got to a point where I'd read so many thrillers back to back that the plot twists all started running together and failed to stand out anymore...

Have you ever read so many thrillers that they cease to surprise you?

I remember reading Gone Girl when it first came out...before all the media hype and before people (I mean the general public, not book bloggers) were talking about the huge twist. I also wasn't reading a lot of mysteries / thrillers at that point. And, I was SHOCKED by the plot twist...I think because mysteries / thrillers were a pretty fresh genre for me and I went into the book blind to the fact that there even was a big twist. What I loved about Gone Girl's twist was that, though it was completely shocking to me, all the details still made sense even with my new, post-twist perspective.

Following Gone Girl's success, there were the copycat thrillers. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison, in particular, was marketed as "the next Gone Girl". Sadly, The Silent Wife's plot twists and overall "screwed up people in a screwed up marriage" theme felt completely warmed over. However, I probably would have loved it had I not read Gone Girl first, thus alerting me to what was probably going on in The Silent Wife's marriage.

Warning: Spoiler for We Were Liars (by E. Lockhart) ahead

Fast forward to this summer's We Were Liars, which I read in the midst of my mystery/thriller binge. I did not go into this book entirely blind. I knew there was a big plot twist, I just didn't know what it was. Weirdly enough, I didn't even try to guess the twist (lazy reader!). When all was revealed, I smacked myself in the head and said "duh...this is 'The Sixth Sense' all over again". I was mentally berating myself for not guessing the twist in advance. And, although I did really like We Were Liars and recommended it on my blog, I was a bit annoyed that the central plot twist had already been done in a big way.

Warning: Spoiler for Big Little Lies (by Liane Moriarty) ahead

Though Big Little Lies isn't technically a thriller (I don't think?!), it relies on surprise to hook readers, so I'm going to bring it into this discussion. I listened to Big Little Lies during my second mystery / thriller binge of the year and it was the fifth in a string of eight thrillers for me. And, guess what?! I wasn't surprised at all by the ending. As soon as Perry was painted as the perfect husband (which was early in the story), I suspected it was a facade. And, the reveal that Perry and Celeste had an abusive marriage happened so early in the book that it erased any remaining doubt that he was the one who would meet his end at the school trivia night.

Mystery / thriller authors ride a thin line of having to surprise their readers in a unique way over and over again. But, if they go too far, they run the risk of "jumping the shark". In TV terms, this is when a show's writers run low on material and resort to something completely bizarre that makes no sense within the context of the show. Remember the "Melrose Place" moment when Dr. Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross) miraculously rose from a coma to pull off her wig, revealing her stubby hair and vicious scar from the car accident that almost killed her?! That show was never the same again! Mystery / thriller writers face the same dilemma...plot twists have to shock and awe, but still make sense in hindsight to be truly effective.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Scary Books to Movies from Mari at Marireads

Today please welcome Mari from Marireads! She's here to give us some recommendations on scary books that are also scary-good movies.

Looking for something a little scary to read or to watch? How about both?

This time of year, when the ghosts and goblins are in the air, it is always fun to read a good mystery or thriller, or horror if they don’t frighten you too much.  And a movie is always fun- something to give you a little fright before bed.

Well, this year I thought I would read something that has a movie adaptation. Start the month with a book and end it with the movie.

There really are some great movies/books to choose from so I had a really hard time deciding.

First I thought something by Stephen King would be good.

The Shining. Love the book. Love the movie. It’s not been that long since the last time I read and watched, though.

Carrie. Don't think I have read this one before, but I have seen the movie. This was definitely high on my list.

There are just so many great King books to choose from, so many more than just these two. It just seemed too obvious a choice.

Then I thought, what about a classic?

The gothic horrors of Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker are perfect October reads, but the Frankenstein movie was only so-so and Dracula I have already seen so many times.

Gary Oldman, though. Hard to say no.



What I really needed was something a little more contemporary. Something I hadn’t already read or seen…

Luckily for me, I had recently won an audiobook copy of World War Z and have now been listening to it as often as I can. A zombie apocalypse is a perfect book and movie combo for October! I haven’t seen the movie yet, but am excited to watch it as soon as I am done with the audiobook.

So what would you choose? Is there a favorite book/movie adaptation you would suggest for October enjoyment?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featuring: Arya of Arya the Fangirl

Today please welcome Arya, who blogs at Arya the Fangirl.

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

In my webpage class in high school we had code names so our work could be published without other students being able to judge an individual based on their skill level. Mine happened to be Arya. I added fangirl because I am proud of that title. If I love something everyone is going to know it!

How long have you been blogging?
I have been blogging on my current blog for 3 months now!

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?
I think my book blog is unique because I read a large variety of books. My blog reflects my reading taste and I try to read and enjoy as many genres and topics as I can. I post on books from Middle Grade to Adult.

What genres do you write about most, and why?
The most written about topic on my blog is romance. :P What can I say I am a hopeless romantic! 
Besides romance I also love books that deal with real life issues.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?
I don't write in books that are for enjoyment. I have and will continue to write in textbooks for school. It happens to be so much help for me!

What have you learned from other bloggers or your readers?
Community and comments are the best things ever! Everyone has been so nice and I love hearing from everyone! Share The Love!!!

Do you judge a book by its cover, or its lover?
I have friends who love to read if they recommend a book to me than I will for sure at least try to read it.
If I see an eye catching cover than I am drawn to pick it up and at least read the blurb. I've never bought a book just because of the cover!

What's one book that intimidates you?
War and Peace! The concept is something I know I would be in to but its so long and there is never enough time in the world!

If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?
Hmm! Is Hogwarts too cliche?

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?
I am a t.v. series junkie! If I'm not reading than I am binge watching a show! I recently also found Gimp and I love making blog buttons and banners and other assortments of creations.

Thank you for joining us today, Arya! Remember to check out Arya's blog, Arya the Fangirl, and leave a comment or question below!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Favorite Thriller Reads I've Read This Year by Wesley from Library Educated

Today please welcome Wesley from Library Educated. He's here to recommend a few mysteries and thrillers for your fall reading!

If you’ve been around the blog lately you might have seen that I’m not one for scary, Halloween-y reads. However, when I want a pulse racing read there are still books for someone like me! Suspense and thrillers provide the excitement, twists and turns without the overtly scary imagery that makes nightmare fodder for me. The only suspense books I can’t get into are spy novels. I have tried “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” a few times and can’t get past the first few pages. Sorry John le Carre!
I’ve read a couple of good thrillers lately, and one I’m really looking forward to reading and I want to share them with you!

a man came out of a door in the mountain adrianne harun
“A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain” by Adrianne Harun
On the surface, this book is about a group of teenage friends living in a small Canadian town. The town is pretty miserable; poverty, addiction, abuse and worse are the norm here. There’s also a string of disappearances of native, teenage girls along the local highway, so that’s also bad. Then the Devil comes to town (yeah, THE Devil). He appears in different forms to different people in this already fragile community. Things disintegrate quickly! I love when a book has a pretty normal setting but then there’s a subtle supernatural twist that can surprise you. This book does that so well!

the string diaries stephen lloyd jones
“The String Diaries” by Stephen Lloyd Jones
This book starts with a bang: a woman names Hannah is speeding through the nighttime English countryside with her daughter asleep in the backseat while her husband bleeds profusely in the passenger seat next to her. They are on the run from a dangerous enemy that has stalked her family for a very long time. The story takes us back in time and all around Europe as Hannah does everything she can to protect and save her family members. I found myself holding my breath as I was reading this book. The story is face paced and taut, the characters complex but relatable. I can’t believe this is the author’s debut novel!

hold the dark william giraldi
“Hold the Dark” by William Giraldi
This book is on the tippy top of my to-be read list! I forget where I heard about it (I can never remember!) but I knew I had to read it when I read the “blurb”! The story takes place in a tiny, remote Alaskan village. Wolves have begun sneaking into the village and snapping up children. A wolf and nature expert whose life is in ruins, a father of a missing child and his childhood friend set out to see if they can find the wolves and end the village’s terror. But instead of answers about the wolves they find out something much worse…Doesn’t that sound exciting? I’m pumped for it!

Do you have any favorite thrillers to recommend?