On My Shelf: Short Story Collections [Vlogmas Day 18]

The best part about short story collections is that you can spread them out as long as your want and pick it up a story at a time. And now that I've got visual proof of how many collections I own, I want to read them all right now!

Books Mentioned:
Interpreter of Maladies / Jhumpa Lahiri
Unaccustomed Earth / Jhumpa Lahiri
Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness / Kenzaburo Oe
Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone / Sequoia Nagamatsu
In Our Time / Ernest Hemingway
The Things They Carried / Tim O'Brien
Sightseeing / Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Battleborn / Claire Vaye Watkins
Welcome to the Monkey House / Kurt Vonnegut
Don't Bet on the Prince / Jack Zipes
The Garden Party & Other Stories / Katherine Mansfield
Families Among Us / Blake Kimzey
How to Breathe Underwater / Julie Orringer


The Tale of the Princess Kaguya [#YearofMiyazaki & Vlogmas Day 17]

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
directed by Isao Takahata
written by Isao Takahata & Riko Sakaguchi
originally release in 2013 as Kaguya-Hime no Monogatari

Classics to Read in the New Year [Vlogmas Day 16]

I used to read classics all the time, both for school and for fun. So next year, I'm really going to make an active effort to make time for some classics alongside all my other reading!

Books Mentioned:
Little Women / Louisa May Alcott
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass / Lewis Carroll
Anne of Green Gables / L.M. Montgomery
Northanger Abbey / Jane Austen
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall / Anne Brontë
Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë
The Scarlet Letter / Nathaniel Hawthorne
Our Mutual Friend / Charles Dickens


A Very Mini December Wrap Up [Vlogmas Day 15]

I really was hoping to have more to share in this wrap up, but like I say in the video, this month has been all about filming and editing! At least I know that I need to do way more prep if I decide to do this again next year!

Books Read:
Love Will Voltaire Us Apart / Julia Edelman
Sarong Party Girls / Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan


My Tolkien Collection [Vlogmas Day 14]

So, I might have a bit of a problem when it comes to The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Seriously, who needs four different copies and lusts over a fifth? But I guess that's what we do with our favorite authors and stories, hoard them for a rainy day when all we want to do is escape the real world for a little bit.

Are there any authors whose novels you collect?

Books Mentioned:
Harper Collins / The Hobbit Pocket Edition
HarperCollins / The Hobbit 75th Anniversary Paperback Edition
Mariner Books / The Hobbit
Houghton Mifflin / Lord of the Rings Box Set featuring art by Allen Lee
Houghton Mifflin / The Silmarillion
HarperCollins / The Children of Hurin
Random House / Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth
Tom Shippey / J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

Miscellaneous Collection Mentioned:
Sting Letter Opener
The Hobbit Moleskine
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition


5 Podcast Recommendations [Vlogmas Day 13]

The great thing about listening to podcasts is that there are so many to choose from. There's something for every interest, topic, fan, and perpetual student. However, this wide variety can also be a bit overwhelming; where do you even start? In the interest of helping you guys narrow down some podcasts that are actually worth listening to, I thought I'd share five shows that make my must-listen list.

Podcasts Mentioned

Podcast: Stuff Mom Never Told You
Topic: Gender & Feminism
> StuffMomNeverToldYou.com

Podcast: Myths & Legends
Topic: Folklore, Legends, and Mythical Creatures
> MythPodcast.com

Podcast: BBC Radio 4 Books and Authors
Topic: Publishing, Books, Author Interviews
> Books and Authors on BBC 5.

Podcast: Vintage Books
Topic: Publishing, Books, Author Interviews, Bookish Events
> Vintage Books on Soundcloud

Podcast: The Man Booker Prize
Topic: Books, Literary Prize, Author Interviews
> ManBookerPrize.com 


The Vlogmas Vlog [Vlogmas Day 11]

Maybe it wasn't the most exciting week and a half of my life, but the more I vlog the more I seem to really love capturing the little things. I hope you guys enjoyed this brief look at life in Southern California!


Project for Awesome 2016: Homeboy Industries [Vlogmas Day 10]

I know a lot of people use the Project for Awesome to talk about big charities and organizations reaching around the world. Personally, I am a big believer in "Fix yourself before you try and fix others," which is why I chose to highlight an amazing organization operating right here in Southern California.

I was first introduced to Homeboy Industries when I was in college and I remain a huge believer in their mission of love and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, voting for P4A videos has ended, but you can still:
> Donate to the P4A Indiegogo campaign,
> Check out Homeboy Industries and consider supporting them directly, or
> Watch more Project for Awesome videos and get inspired to make a difference!


Big Books on My TBR [Vlogmas Day 9]

I like big books and I cannot lie... Sorry, but it had to be said! And honestly, although I have quite a few unread, really big books on my to be read list, I seem to be really good at finding reasons to keep putting them off.

Books Mentioned
All Over Creation / Ruth Ozeki
The Casual Vacancy / J.K. Rowling
Tom Cringle's Log / Michael Scott
Middlesex / Jeffrey Eugenides
Deja Dead / Kathy Reichs
Outlander / Diana Gabaldon
The Bronze Horseman / Paullina Simons
The Crimson Petal and the White / Michel Faber
Hawaii / James Michener

From Up on Poppy Hill [#YearofMiyazaki & Vlogmas Day 8]

From Up on Poppy Hill
written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa
directed by Goro Miyazaki
originally released in 2011 as Kokuriko-zaka Kara


BookTube Shout Outs II [Vlogmas Day 7]

Time for another installment of BookTube Shout Outs! This time around I'm sharing three lovely ladies with strong discussion and review skills and who I really think you should check out.

1. Amanda / Amanda Center
> Recommended: one of her Angsty-Me Reads videos

2. Bree / Bree Hill
> Recommended: Ruler of Books Tag video

3. Victoria / Eve's Alexandria
> Recommended: Victoria's Winter TBR


My Bookmark Collection [Vlogmas Day 6]

After one failed attempt at uploading, I'm pretty happy with how this fun little video turned out. It's crazy how much editing goes into something so short! Clearly, I need to stop accepting free bookmarks.

Arrietty [#YearofMiyazaki & Vlogmas Day 5]

It was really only a matter of time before I missed a day. At least I managed to get the video up on time!

written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa
directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi
originally released in 2010 as Kari-gurashi no Arietti


On My Shelf: Poetry Edition [Vlogmas Day 4]

I'm really excited about today's video because it kind of marks a turning point in terms of my relationship with poetry. When I was younger, I never distinguished between prose fiction and poetry; they were just two different ways of telling a story. Like I mention in the video, I really lost my enthusiasm for the medium when it became just another thing to study and, unfortunately, I think this is an experience that a lot of people will relate to.

There are so many people who will tell you that you're wasting your time or rotting your brain spending time on the Internet. But I would completely reject that and say that it is through my time on the Internet in this amazing bookish community that I have discovered new interests, inspirations, and people who I can share all this with. Which is really just a grandiose, possibly overly dramatic way of saying that the Internet reintroduced me to poetry and I am so excited to further explore this new avenue of storytelling.

Richard Cabral's poetry
"Out the Box"
"Fighting Shadows"

Books Mentioned
Flower Fairies of the Spring / Cecily Mary Barton
A Light in the Attic / Shel Silverstein
Falling Up / Shel Silverstein
Robert Frost Everyman's Pocket Library Edition
The Poems of Emily Dickinson
The Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry
Song of Myself / Walt Whitman
The Palace of Contemplating Departure / Brynn Saito
Words for Empty Words for Full / Bob Hicock


#NonfictionNovember Wrap Up [Vlogmas Day 3]

I'm happy to report that I had a pretty great reading month in November. I just didn't end up making much of a dent in my nonfiction stack!

Books Read
The Sellout / Paul Beatty
One Hundred Shadows / Hwang Jungeun, translated by Jung Yewon
 > read the review
The Devil Within / Brian P. Levack

Currently Reading
American Exorcism / Michael W. Cuneo
Howl's Moving Castle / Diana Wynne Jones
Our Mutual Friend / Charles Dickens
Wives and Daughters / Elizabeth Gaskell




Nonfiction Recommendations [#NonfictionNovember]

If you asked me about nonfiction a few years ago, I would have said that I didn't read it. Thankfully, over the past couple of years I've discovered that nonfiction is just as varied as fiction and that there really is something out there for everyone. So hopefully you can find something of interest in this pretty wide range of nonfiction recommendations!

Books Mentioned:
Fun Home / Alison Bechdel
Are You My Mother / Alison Bechdel
My Beloved World / Sonya Sotomayor
Spinster / Kate Bolick
Not For Sale / David Batstone
Farewell to ManzanarJeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston
The Girls of Atomic City / Dennise Kiernan
Japanese Homes and LifestylesKazuya Inaba & Shigenobu Nakayama
A Brief History of England / Jane Austen
Love Will Voltaire Us Apart / Julia Edleman & Hallie Bateman


Q&A: The Answers

When I first put out a call for questions, I was slightly concerned I wouldn't get enough to actually make a video. Then when I finally got around to answering the questions I got, I talked for nearly an hour! So, to make a long story short, I tried to edit this down into an easily digestible little video and failed miserably.

Hope you enjoy anyways!


Howl's Moving Castle [#YearofMiyazaki]

Howl's Moving Castle
written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
originally released in 2004 as Haoru no Ogoku Shiro


Library Sale & Indie Publisher Book Haul

"I won't buy any more books until the end of the year." Yeah, right! Between some generous indie publishers and one fantastic library used book sale, I ended up picking up quite a bit of new reading material this month.

Books Mentioned:
One Hundred Shadows / Hwang Jungeun
The Scarlet Letter / Nathaniel Hawthorne
Surfacing / Margaret Atwood
Deja Dead / Kathy Reichs
Snow Falling on Cedars / David Guterson
The Hours / Michael Cunningham
The Crimson Petal and the White / Michel Faber
Middlesex / Jeffrey Eugenides
Under the Tuscan Sun / Frances Mayes
Families Among Us: Stories / Blake Kimzey
The Following Sea / Marcel Jolley


October Reading Wrap Up

After having such a good reading month in September, I was really hoping to keep that momentum going through October. Instead, I ended up discovering one of my least favorite reads of the year!

Books Read
The Girl on the Train / Paula Hawkins
Out / Natsuo Kirino
  > Check out my review of Out on AprilMag.com!

Currently Reading
The Sellout / Paul Beatty


Go-To Comfort Reads

To say that this week has been stressful and overwhelming would be a gross understatement. It's at times like these, when reality becomes a little too much, that being a reader is like having a super power that allows you to jump into alternate worlds and realities (can you tell I just saw Doctor Strange?). Returning to a favorite book is often the mental equivalent of wrapping yourself up in a cozy blanket, so today I thought I'd share my go-to comfort reads.

1. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
If I had rules for selected the perfect comfort read, the first rule would be to return to a childhood favorite. There's nothing like nostalgia to immediately block out whatever is going on in the real world and make you feel safe and untouchable. And for me, that describes Tolkien's The Hobbit perfectly. It was a book that was read aloud to me as a kid and always brings me back to the feeling of being completely enveloped in a story.

Meet Bilbo Baggins, the little Hobbit who joined a company of dwarves on a mission to reclaim the ancient dwarf kingdom of Erebor. Throw in an ancient wizard, huge spiders, an arrogant Elf-king, and a dragon and you've got one of the most iconic fantasy stories of all time. Looking to escape reality for a bit? There's no better place to go than Middle Earth.

2. Inkheart - Cornelia Funke
If you've followed my BookTube channel for a while, you probably already know that I have very strong feelings for the Cornelia Funke's Inkworld Trilogy. Although I was rather disappointed by its conclusion, Inkdeath, the first two books are amazing fantastical adventures. This is a series for book lovers of all ages about the magic of books.

Meggie has always shared a deep love of books and stories with her father Mo, a bookbinder, but wonders why he's never read aloud to her. Then one night, a character straight out of one of Meggie's books shows up on their doorstep and Meggie learns the truth about her father: he can read things out of books and into the "real" world.

Pulled into a world of magical readers, mystical creatures, and flame-throwing jugglers, Meggie soon learns that real danger isn't as exciting as it is within the pages of a book.

3. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen
I'm sure quite a few people would rank Jane Austen high on their comfort read list. There's just something cozy about the home life of her heroines, evenings entertaining the neighbors, letters shared between potential lovers.

Almost any Austen will do for this warm, cozy feeling, but I personally think Pride & Prejudice takes the cake. This is the story of the iconic Lizzie Bennet, a clever young woman who finds herself butting heads with the handsome and proud Mr. Darcy. If you want some witty social criticism about something other than our current political climate, I would definitely recommend Pride & Prejudice.

4. Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
This might seem like an odd choice for a comfort read, as there is little to no comforting subject matter in Never Let Me Go. All the same, it is one of those books that I return to all the time, for any reason at all: because I'm in a funk, because I don't know what else to read, because I've had a bad day and just want to return to a book I know and love.

In the remote English countryside, Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth grow up at an isolated boarding school surrounded by kids just like them, kids with no families or pasts. As they grow up, the friends struggle to figure out their place in the world and who they truly are.

These are some of my go-to comfort reads. What do you read when you need to escape reality for a while?


#NonfictionNovember2016 TBR

Although I wasn't initially planning on participating in this year's #NonfictionNovember readathon, I'm actually quite excited about the books I've picked to read. No, demonic possession isn't the most normal of reading topics, but hey, curiosity is curiosity! What do you plan on reading?

Books Mentioned:
Bird by Bird / Anne Lamott
The Devil Within / Brian P. Levack
American Exorcism / Michael W. Cuneo
Lucifer Ascending / Bill Ellis
Japanese Ghost Stories / Catrien Ross

Check out Olive's announcement video |  Check out Gemma's announcement video


The Cat Returns [#YearofMiyazaki]

The Cat Returns
written by Reiko Yoshida and directed by Hiroyuki Morita
originally released in 2002 as Neko no Ongaeshi


The Monster Mash Book Tag

I know, I know, Halloween was back on Monday! Better late than never, right?

The Questions:
1. I was working in the lab late one night. What’s a book that kept you up at night?
2. My eyes beheld and eerie sight. What is the weirdest or creepiest shit you’ve ever read in a book?
3. Get a jolt from my electrodes. Name a book that completely shocked or surprised you.
4. The guests included Wolfman, Dracula, and his son. Name your favorite monster or villain from a book.
5. Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist? Name a book that was super hyped when it came out, but no one talks about anymore.
6. They did the mash. Name your favorite book that is a mash up of two or more genres.
7. It was a graveyard smash. What is your favorite horror novel?
8. The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds: What’s your favorite song based on a book?
9. Tell them Boris sent you: What is your go-to book recommendation?
10. For you, the living, this mash was meant too: Who do you tag?

11. Bonus question: What is your favorite thing about Halloween?

Check out Bree Hill's video |  Check out The Restricted Section's original tag video


The Girl on the Train | Paula Hawkins

TITLE / The Girl on the Train

AUTHOR / Paula Hawkins

PUBLISHER / Riverhead


NO. OF PAGES / 336



The Villain vs Villain Tag

Seeing as Halloween is just a few days away, I thought this tag was rather seasonally appropriate! I was tagged by fellow Booktuber Peter from PeterClarkTheWriter and the Villain vs Villain Tag was originally created by Olive from HeyItsOlive.

The idea behind this tag is to gather up the names of a bunch of villains from books, tv shows, and movies. Put all these names in a hat and draw out two at a time for five random match-ups. I'm following the basic premise of the tag, pitting villains against villains, but I'm skipping the random match-ups for a few parings I thought would be interesting!

1. Captain Hook (Peter Pan) vs Long John Silver (Treasure Island)
This was (obviously) the first pairing that came to mind when I decided to do this tag. I've always thought it would be super cool to see two of the literature's most famous pirates go at it! And yes, I'm talking the literary characters, not the pirates of the many film adaptations. I think it would be a fairly even match at first, given that both pirates are fairly crafty. But I think that, in a fight to the death, Long John Silver would have the advantage. After all, Hook wasn't even able to take down a single magical boy!

2. Voldemort (Harry Potter) vs Sauron (The Lord of the Rings)
This is the other pairing that I've always wondered about and, to be honest, I'm not sure I have an answer. Voldemort is, of course, the infamous Harry Potter villain who has the deadliest of spells fueled by his endless hate for the rest of the world. Then there is Sauron, the dark lord of Middle Earth, who commands all the darkest creatures. If this was about comparing superiority complexes, they're a definite match made in heaven. But in a one on one fight, I'm really not sure! What do you guys think?

3. Count Dooku (Star Wars) vs Saruman (The Lord of the Rings)
I know, I know, I just did a Lord of the Rings villain, but this pairing was really too good to pass up! If you think about it, Dooku and Saruman are insanely well matched. They're both swordsmen and both have the ability to throw their opponents across the room with the power of their thoughts. Plus, we'd be watching Christopher Lee fight himself, so bonus points! Ultimately, I think Count Dooku might have the physical edge and reflexes to just beat out the ancient Saruman.

What do you think of these three pairings? What villains would you like to see go up against each other? As for who I think should do this tag next, I would love to see Phillipa Mary of the blog The Little Book Owl try this out!


2,000 Subscribers! [Q&A Announcement]

I haven't done a Q&A video since I reached my first 100 subscribers, so now that I've reached 2,000 I thought it was time for another! I would love to take any questions that you may have; they don't have to just be about reading. I've already started getting some fantastic questions and will wait a few weeks before filming my answers.

Do you have a question you'd like to ask me? Feel free to leave me a comment here, on the video, or on any of my other social media platforms!


Spirited Away [#YearofMiyazaki]

Spirited Away
written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
originally released in 2001 as Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi


The Autumn Reading Tag

There's really nothing quite like a good tag video! And this one is no exception: we talk cosy reads, hot drinks, and what I plan on reading this autumn.

The Questions:
1) Are there any books you plan on reading over the Autumn season?
2) September brings back to school memories: what book did you most enjoy studying? And what were your favourite and least favorite school subjects?
3) October means Halloween: do you enjoy scary books and films? If so what are some of your favorites?
4) With November it's time for bonfire night & firework displays. What's the most exciting book you've read that really kept you gripped?
5) What book is your favorite cosy comfort read?
6) Curled up with a good book, what is your hot drink of choice?
7) Any plans you're looking forward to over the next few months?

Watch the original tag video Watch Sabrina's video


On Being Biracial

Yesterday I put up one of the most personal videos I've made thus far, about my experience growing up as part of a multiracial family. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't the most popular video and I did experience a slight drop-off of subscribers and got my first dislike in a while. But I'm glad I did it, because I know how much of a difference it would have made for me growing up if I had known there were more mixed race people out there.

Thanks to those of you who have left really interesting, kind comments.


Reading Translations: Some Recommendations

If you missed my earlier post about how to get into reading translated books, then I'll just leave a sneaky little link right HERE. Today I wanted to share some translated titles to pick up if you have no idea where to get started! I've tried to gather a diverse range of titles here and hope to do another one of these master posts as I continue to explore more translations myself. Some of these have been previously featured in discussion and review posts, so I've provided links where relevant.

1. The Thief Lord - Cornelia Funke, translated by Oliver Latsch (The Chicken House, 2003)
I find the easiest way to ease into translated fiction is to start young. I discovered German author Cornelia Funke when I was a kid when I first read The Thief Lord. Set in the romantic city of Venice, Italy, it features two orphaned brothers befriended by a gang of street kids and their mysterious leader the Thief Lord. Add to that a bumbling police detective and a magical secret and the Thief Lord is an astonishing piece of middle grade fiction.

2. Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin (Vintage Books, 2000)
This was the book that brought me back to translated fiction after I read it in college. Meet Toru, a quiet, solitary, and overly serious young man attending college in Tokyo. After losing their mutual best friend in high school, Toru remains loyal to the beautiful Naoko. But as she slowly withdraws from life, Toru finds himself pulled in by a fiercely independent young woman. A story of coming of age and sexual awakening, Norwegian Wood is the perfect book to spark your interest in translated fiction.

3. The Vegetarian - Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (Hogarth, 2015)
The winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, The Vegetarian is a striking work of literary fiction. When Yeong-hye, a perfectly ordinary woman, suffers a nightmare and decides to stop eating meat, she throws her marriage and family into chaos. The object of her husband's disgust, her brother-in-law's lust, and her sister's pity, Yeong-hye is determined to regain control over her body even if that means giving up her own life. I read this earlier in the year and it still stands as one of my favorite books of the year so far. Fans of literary fiction will absolutely devour this tiny novel and I would especially recommend this to those particular to Haruki Murakami.
  > Read the review.

4. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness - Kenzaburo Oe, translated by John Nathan (Grove Press, 1977)
The only short story collection on this list, Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness is full of the twisted and grotesque. In one story, an overweight man believes he's the only connection between his mentally disabled son and the real world. In another, a young man is hired to be the companion of a young composer whose constant companion is the ghost of his dead baby. Although not necessarily for the translation-newbie, these stories will appeal to a warped sense of humor, an interest in father-son relationships, the act of seclusion, or what we inherit when we are born.
  > Read the review.

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2009)
If you're interested in trying translated fiction but are into the more literary stuff, crime fiction is an equally great place to start. Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist and magazine publisher, is riding out a libel conviction when he is approached by the head of one of Sweden's wealthiest families to look into a years old disappearance. Enter Lisbeth Salander, the pierced and tattooed lesbian hacker who Blomkvist hires as a research assistant. This is the first book in the world-famous Millennium Trilogy and if you like twisted, complicated plots set in the cold of the Swedish countryside, I can't imagine a better place to start with translated fiction.
  > Read the discussion.

6. Out - Natsuo Kirino, translated by Stephen Snyder (Vintage Books, 2005)
When a housewife and bento box factory worker snaps and strangles her husband to death while her children sleep in the next room, she turns to her colleagues for help. The women come together to help dispose of the body but as they sink deeper into Tokyo's gritty underbelly, the farther they drift apart. I just finished this book a few weeks ago and my first comment would be that this is not a book for the faint of heart, but a must-read for fans of gritty and slightly disturbing crime fiction.

7. The Lais of Marie de France, translated by Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby (Penguin Books, 1999)
This one might seem like an odd addition to the list, but bear with me. Marie de France is the earliest known female French poet who wrote her lais based on Breton tales of chivalry and romance. In "Lanval," she writes about a rather emasculated knight who surprisingly takes a fairy lover. In "Bisclavret," Marie offers her own take on one of the earliest stories associated with the werewolf myth. In short, if you're at all a fan of modern fantasy and want to see the origins of all of your favorite mythical creatures with a little knightly chivalry thrown in, I'd suggest checking this one out.

8. Candide, or Optimism - Voltaire, translated by Theo Cuffe (Penguin Books, 2005)
Part philosophical satire, part gallivanting adventure, Candide is like nothing else on this list. Candide has been taught by the ridiculous Dr. Pangloss that they live in the best of all possible worlds. The question is, can he hold onto that positive outlook on the world even when he begins experiencing loss and hardship for the first time? You might not think something written in the 18th century can be funny, but this one had me snorting with laughter in several places. The satire is spot on and still so relevant.

9. The Bookseller of Kabul - Asne Seierstad, translated by Ingrid Christophersen (Back Bay Books, 2004)
From a Norwegian reporter specializing in bringing us stories from the middle of war zones, The Bookseller of Kabul is an enlightening look at family life in violence-stricken Afghanistan. It tells the story of one man who risked his freedom and his family through three decades of repressive regimes to bring books to the people of Kabul. I think this is an important book to read in today's international climate, when we all think we know everything about the people of the Middle East.


My Neighbors the Yamadas [#YearofMiyazaki]

My Neighbors the Yamadas
written and directed by Isao Takahata
originally released in 1999 as Hohokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun


Tips for Reading Translations

I've been really getting into translated fiction over the past couple of years, but I realize it's a rather acquired skill. So after getting several questions about how I got into reading translations, I thought I'd share a few tips on how to start reading translated fiction yourself.

Are you interested in reading more works in translation? Stick around because later this week I'll be sharing some recommendations!


Reading vs Reviewing

Generally speaking, what I've always loved about the online book community is its honesty. I've always assumed that people sharing book reviews and discussions online are doing it out of a pure love of books and reading. But now, especially as so many of us online reviewers are getting opportunities with publishers and other media sources, I'm not so sure anymore.

I'd love to get your thoughts on reading books that you plan to review. Are you a skimmer or an obsessive annotater like me? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!


September Reading Wrap Up

After reading the amazing Do Not Say We Have Nothing (read my review for April Magazine HERE), I had quite a random reading month. The good news is, I enjoyed most of what I did manage to read!

Do Not Say We Have Nothing / Madeleine Thien
Samurai Warriors / David Miller
Avenue of Spies / Alex Kershaw
This One Summer / Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
Hawaii / James Michener


Avenue of Spies | Alex Kershaw

TITLE / Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris

AUTHOR / Alex Kershaw

PUBLISHER / Broadway Books

DATE OF PUBLICATION / August 2, 2016 (originally published August 2015)

NO. OF PAGES / 320


It was June 1940 when German tanks rolled into Paris and occupied the City of Light. Those who hadn't managed to get out in time hunkered down for what was to be a reign of violence, terror, and suspicion. In Avenue of Spies, Alex Kershaw brings us the story of Sumner Jackson, an American doctor stuck in Paris with his family as some of the highest ranking Nazi officers flooded into one of the most beautiful and culturally significant cities in the world. As he struggled to keep his hospital open, Sumner found himself entangled with the French resistance and soon became a major player in covert opposition to the Nazi occupation.

This is the perfect book for the history buff who is more interested in how the everyday person experienced some of history's biggest moments. Kershaw tells the story of Paris as a hub of violence, political turmoil, and espionage through several figures involved in the French Resistance to Nazi occupation. Those figures include French politicians, British spies, and American volunteers like Doctor Sumner and his family. It is incredibly easy reading, with short chapters that read like documentary commentary and illuminate a very interesting and lesser-known aspect of the fight for Paris during World War II.

So you might be wondering, then why did I only give this three stars? Well, I have to apologize to Mr. Kershaw because the fault I find with the book has nothing to do with his writing. The problem was the way the publisher chose to pitch it: as the experience of the Jackson family and their foray into wartime espionage.

Don't get me wrong, Kershaw does spend more time following the Jacksons than any other figures included in the book. He continues to check in with the different family members throughout the book, which helps to create a frame of reference for the reader. And yet I would argue that the book is really less about the Jacksons and more of a portrait of Paris during one of the darkest moments in its history. The entirety of the French Resistance figures more into the book than the acts of just the Jackson family alone.

Sadly, I felt a bit betrayed by the cover copy and promotional materials. I was expecting - and looking forward - to read a detailed account of how one family experienced the occupation of Paris. And while what I got instead was very interesting and illuminating, it wasn't what I was promised.

About Avenue of Spies | About Alex Kershaw

Disclaimer: I received this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid to review or feature this book and this review is my 100% honest opinion. This is not a sponsored post.


The Ruler of Books Tag

If you were the Ruler of Books…
1) What book would you make everyone read?
2) What would you abolish in book construction?
3) What author would you commission to write you any book?
4) What book would you demote to the library basement to make room for new books?
5) What cover artist would you commission to make a mural?
6) What characters face would you put on a coin?
7) What book would you award the “Ruler of Books” 2016 Prize to?

Watch Ariel's original video | Watch Bree's video