November 22, 2014

Nonfiction November: Week 3 Wrap-Up

Thanks, everyone, for writing some FANTASTIC posts on Nonfiction and diversity.  You came up with some amazing recommendations.  You had some really great insight into what diversity means to you, as well.  I mean, terrific reading!  

Recapping your thoughts on diversity was not an easy task - you all had lots to say!  So I summarized as best I could, though none of the summaries do the original posts justice - please take a look at them all! :)

JulzReads discusses how reading nonfiction leads to discovering more subjects of interest.

Heather @ Based on a True Story analyzes her NF reads and is looking for recs by authors of color.

Trisha @ eclectic/eccentric discusses how challenging writing about diversity is and what reading diversely means to her.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, and Insanity recommends some great memoirs and is looking for some more to read.

Monika @ A Lovely Bookshelf created a Transgender NF Book List.

Beth @ Too Fond loves reading about Africa and Asia and would like some more recs for Africa NF to read.

Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness gives recs on cultures from the Middle East and is looking for recs for Africa and authors of color.

Jess @ Confessions of a Book Hoarder is planning on using a spreadsheet to help her keep better track of her reads in diversity.

Ana @ things mean a lot recommends 10 authors of diversity for your reading pleasure.

Jay @ Bibliophilopolis shares three favorite NF reads that are diverse in location but all share a concept that he is familiar with.

Shannon @ River City Reading discusses her love of reading history and the importance of ensuring diverse books continue to be published.

Jancee @ Jancee Reads shares my love of Egyptian culture!  She is also looking for recs for NF in Europe.

Lu @ Regular Ruminations makes the great point that you can't just talk about diversity, you have to walk the walk!

Amelia @ Little Thoughts About Books makes a great point about how it only takes one book to diversify your reading!

Sarah @ The Everyday Reader lends her cultural anthropology studies to the discussion of diversity in nonfiction, creating an interesting post.

If you haven't tried out the cool Book Map that Guiltless Reading has to track reading diversely, be sure to check it out.

The Well-Read Redhead has a great description of what reading diversely means to her personally.  Plus, she is looking for recs from two countries she's visited and loved.

Holly @ Gun in Act One shares how fiction sparks her interest in reading nonfiction books.

TJ @ My Book Strings is looking for books set in South America.  Can you recommend something?

Melissa Firman shares the Nonfiction books that have helped expand her horizon and appreciate other cultures.

Feminist Texican Reads shares some of her favorite diverse nonfiction.

Caroline @ More Thoughts, Vicar shares her thoughts on diversity and shares some of her recent diverse reads.

Carrie @ Other Women's Stories shares her love of books in a diversity of subjects.

Travis @ shares what his way of reading diversely looks like.

Bex @ Armchair By the Sea shares how reading diversely for her has not been as diversed as hoped.  Help her out with recommendations!

Leah @ Books Speak Volumes sums up diverse reading really well and has a recommendation of diverse nonfiction for everyone to read!

Wendy @ Wensend is studying Arabic and is interested in nonfiction books about the area!

Olduvai Reads shares how reading Southeast Asian books for a Southeast Asian can still be diverse.

Reviews Added This Week:

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson (The Emerald City Book Review)

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristen Newman (I'm Lost in Books)

The News Sorority by Sheila Weller (Based on a True Story)

A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester (Olduvai Reads)

Seven Years in Tiber by Heinrich Harrer (JulzReads)

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (River City Reading)

The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (Love, Laughter, and Insanity)

Bossypants by Tina Fey (An Armchair by the Sea)

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward (Olduvai Reads)

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (Sarah's Book Shelves)

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (Doing Dewey)

Be sure to check out Katie @ Doing Dewey on Monday for the final week of Nonfiction November!

November 21, 2014

Blogger Shout-Outs, Baby!!! Edition #18

Lots of interesting posts in the blogosphere this week! 
Fairytale Feasts, Culture-Filled Cookbooks, Book Signing Disappointments, lots of Holiday Events, and more!

Tell me! What is your favorite shout-out this week?


1. Tif's review of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

2. Ryan reviews a really awesome cookbook called In Her Kitchen by Gabriele Galimberti that I really, really want!

3. The review of The Forgotten Presidents by Heather on The Maiden's Court.

4. Review of Compulsion by Martina Boone @ Jenn's Bookshelves

5. Review @ The Little Reader Library of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

6. Mel U's review for German Literature Month, "The Seamstress" by Rainer Maria Rilke.

7. Books with Cass' review of The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood.



1. Leah becomes the expert on the Jazz Age for Nonfiction November.

2. Tamara discusses Book Signings Gone Wrong.  You'll see her point.

3. Trisha wrote a great post about diversity and nonfiction for the #NonficNov event.

4. Bookfoolery discusses Book Covers v. the stories they tell.

5. The interview with author of Secret of a Thousand Beauties, Mingnei Yip, over @ Savvy Verse and Wit.

6. About to Read has started the cutest new feature on her blog - A Tale of Treats.  Check out her Fairytale Feast, complete with video.

7. When Book Blogger Besties Finally Meet!  @ Books of Amber  - Prepare with tissues!



1. Katie from Words for Worms is hosting another Fellowship of the Worms Readalong, this time for Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.

2. Andi, Tamara, and Tanya are hosting A Month of Favorites during the month of December.

3. The Christmas Spirit Blog is hosting a reading challenge starting next week.

 photo ThankfullyReading_zps031c0cce.jpg

4. Thankfully Reading Weekend is coming up!  Don't forget!

5. Starting Monday here on I'm Lost in Books is the Holiday Extravaganza Event.  Tons of Guest Posts and Tons of Giveaways for 27 Days.  Hope you will join us!


1. Gratitude Giveaway @ Stuck in Books as part of a hop.

2. Win a copy of Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly and Matching Nail Polish @ The Hiding Spot.

3. Win 3 Surprise Books! @ Luxury Reading.

4. Giveaway of My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni @ red headed book child.

These are in no particular order.  Leaderboard is below.

1. Trisha Dandurand
2. Jennine G. 
3. Guiltless Reading
4. Emma @ Words and Peace
5. jmutford
6. Melissa Beck
7. olduvai
8. Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves)
9. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review
10. Tasha B.
11. Bermudaonion(Kathy)
12. readersrespite
13. Shelleyrae
14. Leila @ Readers' Oasis
15. The Book Vixen
16. Kim Ukura
17. Michelle Miller
18. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes
19. Syrie James
20. Jenna Sauber
21. Zed
22. Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf
23. C.p. Sandu
24. Jess - A Book Hoarder
25. Lea
26. Savvy Working Gal
27. hootowl1978
28. Freda Mans
29. Jay
30. Shaina
31. Anji
32. Carrie @ Other Women's Stories
33. Holly @ guninactone
34. Serena (Savvy Verse and Wit)
35. Tanya M.
36. Shannon @ River City Reading
37. lulu_bella
38. Caryl Kane
39. amanda
40. Melissa
41. Donna Cimorelli
42. Sushma P.
43. Schilds
44. Jean Patton
45. Amelia
46. hokiecoyote
47. Loriann
48. Janelle
49. LaGina Keisha Hagerman Reese 
50. Deborah
51. Vesper Meikle
52. Luisa
53. anne
54. Susan M. Heim
55. Mia Sutton
56. debnance
57. Jo's Daughter
58. Jane Thompson
59. Andrea B. Brooks
60. Denise Duvall


*I will be thanking the top 6 commenters with some bookish swag at the end of the year!*

1. Bermudaonion (Kathy)
2. Tanya M.
3. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes
4. Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves)
5. Tasha B.
6. Emma @ Words and Peace

YOU! Could be on this list. So many so close!
Leave comments, win prizes as thanks!

November 19, 2014

Nonfiction November: Readalong Discussion for Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Welcome to the Nonfiction November Readalong Discussion for Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff!  My co-host for the discussion is the wonderful Katie of Doing Dewey.  We sat down last night and discussed Cleopatra and came up with a question-and-answer format for the discussion.  Cause we've got QUESTIONS and we want to ask you what you think about them!

Katie: I'm not sure where to start... I guess with the beginning. Personally, I could tell I was going to like this book right away because the author started by saying she'd be clear about what was factual. I really like when nonfiction authors do that. What were your first impressions?

Becca: Same here.  I felt like she was very clear she wanted to be objective and factual.  Every time she quoted someone, like another biographer, she would say if she thought that it was a subjective finding by the person. I thought this led some credibility to her work, though it was sometimes distracting.  I also thought the book was kind of overwhelming sometimes because there was SO much information packed in there.  I sometimes had to put the book down to absorb the info before continuing.  I liked it a lot, but, like someone else said on Twitter, I couldn't really devour the book like I wanted to. Did you feel like that at all?

Katie: Oh yes! It was readable. I really liked the author's "voice", which I found very engaging. But sometimes it seemed as though every sentence had several pieces of information about Cleopatra's Egypt and I knew I'd never remember them all.  I did feel like I learned a lot though. In particular, I got a very different view of Cleopatra and her motives than what was in my head from pop culture representations. Right from the first meeting with Caesar, I thought the author presented a less sexed up and more believable version of Cleopatra's story than I've seen before. What did you think of the way Cleopatra came across in the book? Was there anything that particularly surprised you?

Becca: I was thinking, too, about the sexualized versions of Cleopatra's story versus Cleopatra as, basically, a strong female leader who had a lot of political ambition.  It reminds me of modern politics, really.  Look at, for example, Hilary Clinton.  It is more about if a "grandmother" can run the country than about her political strategies and objectives.  If she were a man, I doubt they would use the word "manipulative".  Like Schiff, they would say she was strategic and cunning and intelligent, you know?  She found a way to work the system, yes, but like Schiff said, it is impossible to know if she seduced them or the other way around.  

Katie: I agree! For all we know Caesar was bored during the siege right after he met Cleopatra and when he made a move, she decided to take one for the team and just go with it. To compare her to her contemporaries(ish), I've never heard Caesar, Ptolemy, or Alexander the Great described as manipulative. I also don't think there are many male rulers who are sexualized in the way that Cleopatra is and even today, it does seem that female politicians come under much greater scrutiny for their looks. I'm also kind of curious why Cleopatra is the member of the Ptolemy dynasty we remember. It seems as though murder, incest, and intrigue were par for the course in her family. Is it because she was the last pharaoh or again because she's a woman? It's hard to say.

Becca: Good point.  Probably both.  I think that's interesting - why has she captivated us for so long?  Schiff even says at the beginning of the book that "Caesar became history, but Cleopatra became legend."  It's really interesting to consider.  I wonder how Cleopatra would feel if she knew that her bedding two Romans would be the thing most remembered about her.  I'm guessing pretty upset!  Another quote that hits on this, "Cleopatra was every bit Caesar's equal as a coolheaded, clear-eyed pragmatist, though what passed on his part as strategy would be remembered on hers as manipulation."

I found interesting was that Cleopatra and her four siblings all met violent ends, but Cleopatra was the only one that controlled hers.  She planned it for a year.  She knew it was coming and she made sure her destiny was on her terms.  That's pretty impressive.  

I remember being surprised there was cursive writing and hydraulic lifts.  It never ceases to amaze me just how advanced Alexandria was, and I often wonder how much we lost in the infamous library fire.

Katie:  I didn't know they had hydraulic lifts either! I don't know why this is, but I do imagine the Romans having such things, just not the Egyptians. Perhaps just because my history lessons covered an earlier time period in Egypt and a later time period in Rome.

I was actually really surprised by the rights women had at the time. I recently read The Woman Who Would be King and it's clear that Hatshepsut only managed to rule by slowly morphing her public image into that of a man. I expected Cleopatra to also be an anomaly, but it seems as though she was highly educated, came from a long line of powerful women, and would probably fit right in with the property-owning, alimony-receiving women of her day.

How do you feel about the author including her own thoughts on how Cleopatra was remembered, as in the two quotes you share? Although I think you can argue that she's objectively right and although I think she's doing a good thing setting the record straight, I also sometimes felt like she had an agenda, which bothered me a little. The Woman Who Would be King was the same way, actually.

Becca: I felt the same way about the quotes.  It felt like she was fixing the subjectiveness but also kind of putting those biographers down for filling in the gaps that history has left.  Lots of biographers have written that way.  I'm not saying it is right, but it was kind of snobby the way it came across. 

I loved how the women were equals in Alexandrian society.  I wonder why it then disappeared for thousands of years.  Another loss of the fire?  Technology, scientific discoveries, literature, and women's rights?  

Katie: I agree, it didn't always come across the way I think she probably meant it. Is there anything else we should chat about?  Or do you have any last thoughts? Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was a bit dense, but I thought the author did a great job being descriptive despite trying to stick to the facts. I think my favorite thing about it is that I came away with a completely different view of Cleopatra and I think it's a more accurate, nuanced, interesting view than the one found in pop culture. 

Becca: I agree wholeheartedly.  I now think of Cleopatra as more of a role model for power, intelligence, and feminism in the ancient world, while before I still had the idea of her as a woman who used her sexuality to influence government, instead of following in the Ptolemy footsteps of murder and war. She is, clearly, so much more than just a woman using her gender to her advantage! She was just as intelligent and cunning and strategic as Caesar and any of her male contemporaries.  I appreciated the view Schiff brought to Cleopatra.  I can't wait to read what others thought of the book, too!

Discussion Questions - Pick and choose a few!

~What did you think of the book overall?

~Did you have an impression of what Cleopatra was like before reading the book and is it different now?  How?

~In nonfiction, is it important to you that an author make it clear when their speculating or when there is ambiguity? Do you mind if an author speculates if the author lets you know that they're speculating?

~Cleopatra, despite her many achievements, is mainly remembered as a manipulative seductress while Caesar is remembered historically as a strategic ruler.  What do you think about this distinction?  

~Cleopatra's story is often sexualized in pop culture versions.  Do you think women in positions of power are still sexualized in the media?  

~Were you surprised by anything in the book?  Anything you didn't know that jumped out at you in particular?

Link up your readalong posts here:

November 18, 2014

Guest Post and Jane Austen-Inspired Giveaway with Syrie James

Wacky Parlor Games in the Georgian Era
By Syrie James

What did people do at evening parties in England in the Georgia era? After dinner was over, the gentlemen had smoked their cigars, and then joined the ladies to drink tea in the drawing room, they often played cards or games likes charades—but not all “parlor games,” as they were called, were quite so familiar…or civilized!
In my novel Jane Austen’s First Love, Jane and members of her family spend three weeks at Goodnestone Park in Kent, the estate of the Bridges family, to celebrate the engagement of her brother Edward to one of the Bridges sisters. While plotting the novel, which takes place in the summer of 1791, I researched the sorts of amusements and activities that were popular in the Georgian era. I learned about two parlor games that I think are very strange—Bullet Pudding and Snapdragon—games which were so popular, they were still being played many decades later.
Jane Austen’s niece Fanny Knight (daughter of Jane’s brother Edward) described how to play Bullet Pudding in a letter sent to a friend in 1804:

“You must have a large pewter dish filled with flour which you must pile up into a sort of pudding with a peek at top. You must then lay a bullet at top and everybody cuts a slice of it, and the person that is cutting it when it falls must poke about with their noses and chins till they find it and then take it out with their mouths of which makes them strange figures all covered with flour but the worst is that you must not laugh for fear of the flour getting up your nose and mouth and choking you: You must not use your hands in taking the Bullet out.”

How weird is that! This illustration by Francis Hayman shows a group  playing the game, with one young lady bent over the table, taking the bullet into her mouth.

Snapdragon (also known as Flapdragon) was a popular parlor game from the 16th to the 19th centuries. To play the game, a wide, shallow bowl of heated brandy was placed in the middle of a table. Raisins were placed in the brandy, which was set on fire. The goal of the game was to pluck the raisins out of the flaming brandy with one’s fingers, then drop them into one’s mouth (and eat them) to extinguish the flames, all at the risk of being burnt. All the candles in the room were usually extinguished to add to the eerie effect of the blue flames playing across the liquor.
An article in Richard Steele’s Tatler magazine at the time explained, “the wantonness of the thing was to see each other look like a demon, as we burnt ourselves, and snatched out the fruit.” The game was usually played during the winter, particularly on Christmas Eve. I found the idea of the game so fascinating that I included it in my novel, when Jane and her companions are looking for something to do on a cold, rainy afternoon. Just imagine it: snatching burning raisins from a flaming cauldron and eating them. Totally wacky!


In the summer of 1791, fifteen-year-old Miss Jane Austen is determined to accomplish three things: to do something useful, write something worthy, and fall madly in love. While visiting at Goodnestone Park in Kent for a month of festivities in honor of her brother's engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets the boy-next-door—the wealthy, worldly, and devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons Park, and hopefully her heart! Like many of Jane’s future heroes and heroines, she soon realizes that there are obstacles—social, financial, and otherwise—blocking her path to love and marriage, one of them personified by her beautiful and sweet tempered rival, Charlotte Payler.

Unsure of her own budding romance, but confident in her powers of observation, Jane distracts herself by attempting to maneuver the affections of three other young couples. But when her well-intentioned matchmaking efforts turn into blundering misalliance, Jane must choose between following her own happily-ever-after, or repairing those relationships which, based on erroneous first impressions, she has misaligned.

Publisher: Berkley (Penguin Group USA)


Syrie James, hailed as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings” by Los Angeles Magazine, is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels that have been translated into 18 languages. Her books have been awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor’s Picks by Library Journal, named a Discover Great New Writer’s Selection by Barnes and Noble, a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine. Syrie is a member of the WGA and lives in Los Angeles. Please visit her at syriejames.comFacebook or say hello on Twitter @SyrieJames


Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Five Fabulous Jane Austen-inspired Prize Packages

To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen's First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any of the blog stops on the Jane Austen's First Love Holiday Blog Tour.

Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie's unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!

November 17, 2014

Nonfiction November: Diversity and Nonfiction

How is everyone enjoying Nonfiction November so far?  I am having a lot of fun and learning a lot, too!

This week it is my turn to host the weekly discussion for Nonfiction November!  Here's the topic:

Diversity and Nonfiction: What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different cultures do you think of as books of diversity?

Diversity is a topic close to my heart. I like to read stories created from all over the world, about all over the world. I want to read Japanese and Kenyan and Greek authors and I want to read stories that take place in Japan, Kenya, and Greece. I love it. I read a lot of diverse books, but I always want to read more and more and I never feel like I read as much as I want to.

However, to me, diversity isn't just about diverse cultures and ethnicities. Diversity is about diverse genders, sexual orientations, ages, socioeconomic classes, life experiences. Books like Sweet Tooth by Tim Anderson, the memoir of a diabetic, gay teen in ultra-conservative 1980s North Carolina (a great book, by the way), or Fire and Forget: Short Stories of the Long War by Colum McCann, revealing soldiers' stories during the decade long war in the Middle East following 9/11 - an experience I will never have (this is also an intriguing read.) To me, these books are just as diverse as reading about Princess Masako of Japan or Cuba's greatest abolitionist in history. Diversity is about varying experiences of all kinds.

I tend to read and enjoy books from East Asia, South Asia, and the Near East the most in both fiction and nonfiction. I find these parts of the world fascinating. But I have also read a lot about Egypt as well, particularly Ancient Egypt, which I am, admittedly, moderately obsessed with. 

I would like to branch out though and read more from other corners of the world. I recently updated my list of books read by countries/cultures and found that Europe and Asia are overly represented, while the rest of the world is looking pretty sparse. I want to branch out more in the coming year. I have a couple of books on my bookshelf waiting to be read that would expand my horizons::


In April of 1994, the government of Rwanda called on everyone in the Hutu majority to kill everyone in the Tutsi minority. Over the next three months, 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler's war against the Jews. Philip Gourevitch's haunting work is an anatomy of the killings in Rwanda, a vivid history of the genocide's background, and an unforgettable account of what it means to survive in its aftermath.


This is the powerful autobiography of Mary Brave Bird, who grew up in the misery of a South Dakota reservation. Rebelling against the violence and hopelessness of reservation life, she joined the tribal pride movement in an effort to bring about much-needed changes.


The Color of Water tells the remarkable story of Ruth McBride Jordan, the two good men she married, and the 12 good children she raised. Jordan, born Rachel Shilsky, a Polish Jew, immigrated to America soon after birth; as an adult she moved to New York City, leaving her family and faith behind in Virginia. Jordan met and married a black man, making her isolation even more profound. The book is a success story, a testament to one woman's true heart, solid values, and indomitable will. Ruth Jordan battled not only racism but also poverty to raise her children and, despite being sorely tested, never wavered. In telling her story--along with her son's--The Color of Wateraddresses racial identity with compassion, insight, and realism. It is, in a word, inspiring, and you will finish it with unalloyed admiration for a flawed but remarkable individual. And, perhaps, a little more faith in us all.

I would love some recs for diverse nonfiction about the Inuit peoples.  What can you recommend?

Discuss Diversity and Nonfiction and then leave your link below!