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.