Share Stuff Saturday: Math is Important

I was just reading through yesterday's edition of Five Star Friday, and happened across this blog post from Centre of the Universe - The Dreaming.  It breaks down the cost of publishing a book (in Canada).  Just in case any of you (and by "any of you" I mean "me") forgot what it takes to make it in this industry, here's some interesting reading that should jog your memory.  I am definitely never going to complain about retail prices ever again...at least, not in Canada.  I also learned that publishers are pushing more and more for their printers to use "greener" paper stock -- but of course, this insistence to do the world good is still coming at its explosively high price, since a lot of printers don't keep this stock on the floor.  How Catch-22 of everything.  Anyway.  Enjoy.

http://www.cenobyte.ca/words/2009/12/math-lesson-about-books.html

Teaser Tuesday!

 We had our first snow this week!  Perfect weather for curling up with a good book.  Or, for doing a teaser!
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. Share the title and author of the book, so we can investigate on our own if we like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**Quantity of sentences may vary, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!


I'm feeling Christmasy all of a sudden (Haul out the holly!), and I'm pretty disappointed I'm not going to be able to afford a Christmas tree this year after all.  So, to cheer me up, this week's teaser comes from my most favorite Christmas book of all time.  My grandma bought it for me at a garage sale one summer, and for Christmas two years later she made me a rag doll just like the one on the cover.  The book is called The Christmas Dolls: A Butterfield Square Story, and it's by Carol Beach York.  I lurve it.


Snowflakes flew in their faces, and melted on Florabelle's green glass-button eyes.  Everything looked wet to her after that, as if she were looking at the world under water.

Thanks once again, MizB, for your wonderful meme!  I'm off to decorate the rest of the house!

REVIEW: 'The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods' by Kate Inglis

Sorry I'm late, everyone.

Charming.  Fresh.  Enticing.  Original.  Slug-smackin' good time.




When my copy of The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods by Kate Inglis finally arrived, I put down Jane Eyre and delved into this new treat immediately.  I have to say: this is a marvelous first novel.  I have commenced picketing for the movie.

She really did a phenomenal job setting the tone of the book with the diction, and from the very first line of the prologue.  I loved how each character, from Missy to Joe to Willie to Hector, all had their own spin on the quaint language of New Germany.  So entertaining, just how you'd want pirates to talk -- not expect them to -- want them to talk.

In fact, what I did expect was more elusiveness on the part of the pirates.  The back of the book hints at Eric's story, tracking them through the woods, using clues they've dropped from their Barrow along the way.  But in fact, you get to know the pirates (and Grandpa Joe) much more intimately than you ever do Eric.  And these pirates, elusive?  Getting the Stewarts' peacocks and goats to get along would be an easier task.  But that is what makes this book a pleasure.  "Honey lessons."  So perfect.

What I loved most about this book was its accessibility.  It was so hard to pin down an age group for it, which in the end, who cares?  That means it's great for any age, and I think that's going to lend to its success.  Children, adults, and tweens can all enjoy it.  I imagined my mom reading it to me when I was little.  The excitment in the storyline, plus the well-developed plot, plus its length (not too short, not too long!) will also make it a great re-read for me as an adult -- something I can read while I eat a bowl of soup, or vacation, or just plain need a break from real life.

I hope there will be a sequel, but this book stands on its own.  Congratulations, Kate, and thanks again for sharing the launch of your tremendous accomplishment with me.

Next Up: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (for real this time)

There Are Two Sides...

From what I'm reading, everyone loves their Kindle.  From the first DX model to the second-generation Kindle 2, the e-book reader by Amazon appears sleeker, lighter, more user-friendly, and more versatile than the competing brands by Sony or Barnes & Noble.  You can even use it internationally now.  My personal favorite function of the Kindle 2 (if I had one) would be the built-in dictionary.  I think I would use that for every "page."

The Kindle has been hailed as the "future of reading."  By whom, I'm not sure.  I can't find the exact quote anywhere online.  I'm sure the Amazon marketing people could.

The Kindle is supposed to be the beginning of a brand new culture of book-lovers.  One where we do all of our reading on computerized screens...but we're no longer limited to cords and outlets and CPUs.  We can take our electronic reading devices anywhere, and buy books whenever we want.  I'm not necessarily for that type of culture, exactly, but if that's where the world is headed, I don't know if I'd be unmovable.  I like new ideas, and I've been kind of interested in this whole green technology thing lately.  I mean, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, would it?  To have books stored in an electronic device rather than on our bookshelves?

Ok, maybe it would be.  Thinking of my house without actual books in it makes me a little shaky and my heart rate goes up.  I also don't think I'd want to take any kind of e-reader to a beach, even though the girl in the Amazon ad portrays that as a completely normal Kindle 2 activity.  What do you do when you get sand in the minuscule cracks where it's put together?  I can't even get sand out of my bathing suit, let alone a Kindle.  And then there's this:

I was sitting in the cafeteria at work today, eating lunch with friends, when one of them brought up something I had never even thought to consider.  Amazon's e-book reader is called the Kindle.  The Kindle.  "Yeah," I said.  "You know...it, like, sparks your imagination.  Ignites education and creativity! [And sales.]"

Wrong.

The Kindle.

According to my friend, it turns out the hottest tech toy of 2009 is actually some well-laid subliminal plot to get all us consumers to ditch paper books forever.  FOREVER.  The Kindle.  Kindling.  Book burning.  The figurative book burning of a culture of readers, to be exact.  My culture.  And it will probably go down in history as the biggest, most successful book burning of all.  Why?  Because I can't even see the Kindle for its own name.  We're so enthralled with the concept, we're missing the consequences.  And its name.

As I stated in a past post, book burning is viewed as a form of violence against a culture; it serves a demonstrative purpose, as a way for an oppressive power to force its influence onto a group of people.  I just bought three CDs from Amazon today.  Am I feeding the fire?  Should Amazon be viewed as a brutal regime, out to quash my appreciation for "real" books? 

Or is Amazon a friend to the forests, and the Kindle just a vehicle for expression?  Is their purpose simply to keep us all up-to-date, current with not only the trends in reading and technology, but in business, and with communication tools, too?

And on top of all of this, to properly sort things out, you then have to ask the question: "What makes a book?"  Is it really the paper and binding?  Or is it the words?  Is it the message?  Or a combination of all of it?  When did reading get this complicated?

So do you have a Kindle, or another e-book reader?  Whose side are you on?  Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

And where are we going now?

Teaser Tuesday!

Props to MizB at Should Be Reading for giving us readers this fun meme.  Too bad I forgot to post this earlier and we're now officially twenty-two minutes into Wednesday.  But here goes...I give you: "Whodunit Wednesday" (what? It was the only "w" synonym for teaser on Thesaurus.com):
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. Share the title and author of the book, so we can investigate on our own if we like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**Quantity of sentences may vary, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!


This week's teaser showcases... ::drum roll! buhduhduhduhduhduhduh::

The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods by Kate Inglis!  I was fortunate enough to win this book through a giveaway on Kate's web site, Kate...Tells Stories (and for those looking for more of her writing, she also runs the blog sweet|salty).  It finally arrived on my doorstep yesterday, and I just started reading it, but we're off to a good start!  I didn't even open the book at random for the teaser this time because I wanted to share how much I absolutely love the first sentence of Chapter 1. (Sorry, rule-sticklers, but I think if you've already made peace with Whodunit Wednesday, you'll also be ok with me not following Normal Teaser Procedure -- or NTP, as we in the biz like to say)

"The boy was never seen without his backpack, although naturally, no one knew what it was for, because a pirate tracker is only a pirate tracker if that pirate tracker is so in secret."

If you're into YA (or pirates), you should pick this one up!  I'm so excited I could squeal.


Books for the Holidays

I started doing my Christmas shopping last weekend, but it was nearly impossible because I don't have anyone's list yet (yes, the family goes by lists, we take all the fun out of everything, blah, blah, blah.  I tend to end my list with "And lots of surprises!"...just to mix it up a little).

Anyway, I stumbled across this web site called Buy Books for the Holidays a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share it with you, as we'll all soon be struggling to claw ourselves out from the hellish pit more popularly known as the holiday shopping season. I think the concept of buying people books for the holidays is pretty cool, for two reasons: A) it will relieve me from the humdrum, mindless shopping fueled by THE CHRISTMAS LIST; and B) who doesn't like "lots of surprises"?  Everyone's list should end with lots of surprises.  The web site is really cool, giving new gift ideas every week, which are often organized by age group or trend.  The site also features some great bookish charities, reminding us that giving, the biggest hallmark of the season, extends beyond the close circle of family and friends.

I think what I like most about this idea is that it actually forces you to really think about the person you're buying for.  Books are very personal, very intimate items.  It's very hard for one person to comprehend another's taste.  I feel like even if the person you're buying for has been your best friend since you were three years old, you still have a pretty good chance of f*ing it up.  That's why I always asked for gift cards to Borders or Barnes & Noble.  Not even Santa Claus knew what I liked to read...and he knew it all.

I'll bet it's because books are our great escape.  We read when we want to get away from the world we're in...or to draw us closer to a part we don't yet know much about.  Even when we read a book for the familiarity of its topic we're escaping, in a sense, because we're withdrawing deeper into a part of ourselves.  To make things more complicated, our fantasy destination is always changing.  For instance: sometimes I'll be in the mood for a lighthearted YA novel, sometimes I'll be in the mood for symbolic literature, sometimes I'll be in the mood for girly chick lit...sometimes I'll just feel like learning something.  And sometimes -- not often -- I'll even feel like reading nothing but the funnies.  Hell, yesterday all I felt like doing was finishing a crossword puzzle.  That's the kind of book I needed.  That's the kind of escape I was craving.

So how do you buy books for someone, when your theories on what they will and will not enjoy have a 96.8% chance of blowing up in your astonished but good-intentioned face?

Here's how I plan to do it:
  1. Don't think too much.  Let the ideas come naturally; let them spark in your mind.  (I'm convincing myself this provision is necessary, despite how worrisome it makes me...the Dec. 25th deadline and all.)
  2. Take a lot of time to browse.  Plan a day if you have to.  You won't know what to buy if you don't know what's out there.
  3. Don't set limits, especially on things like "year published."  Some of the best books I've ever read were at least 5 years off the presses.  This does not mean throw all caution to the wind.  For example, if you're going to buy a history book or a book about science, pay attention.  Some genres will be best read if the information is up-to-date.
  4. Know what you like to read, but don't use your preferences as a defense for buying the same book for someone else.  You and your friends or family may have similar interests when it comes to reading, but you may not enjoy the same authors.  I feel that the holidays are not a time to be making recommendations, because I often get the impression that recommendations are just another way of saying, "Hey, I love this book.  Everyone else should also love this book.  Here, read this book, because I love it."
  5. Look through old journals or old photo albums, watch old videos.  It may jog your memory and give you an idea by reminding you about the person you love...and what they love.
  6. Pay attention.  Take a real interest in your conversations with the giftee and see if you can't transform it into a book.  If your Secret Santa loves knitting, there's a sweet-looking murder mystery series out that has knitting as a central theme.  Could be by Maggie Sefton?  I can't remember.  Anyway, get creative.  Just because she likes knitting doesn't mean you have to buy her a how-to book.
And that's all I got!  I know the list makes it look like I've done this a million times and really have my shit together, but I am just as lost as you.

But it's fun to get lost among books, isn't it?

Teaser Tuesday!

This novel-writing thing is a bitch and a half.  I am so far behind I think I might puke.  Again.  Because I was home sick for three days last week, and my queasiness followed me into the weekend, too, so needless to say...writing was not the number one thing on my mind.  Finding the toilet at the right time took some precedence there.  And what the hell am I going to do about the rest of November?  November = Thanksgiving.  November = scrambling to start Christmas shopping.  November = decorating the house.  I am thinking about taking another night off from writing in order to put together a scathing petition to the NaNoWriMo bosses.  Can't we change the month to May?  To February?  To some other month that doesn't occupy my time so completely already?  How do real writers do it?  I'm already bored with my storyline.

You'll have to excuse my bitching.  I'm being really juvenile just trying to get into character.  Writers are moody, right?  With glasses and berets?  (That's another thing.  I HAVE NO BERET.  How can I even hope to succeed?  I must be a giant fool, because I'm still not giving up.)



This is pathetic.

Anyway, it's Teaser Tuesday again!  Live it up:
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. Share the title and author of the book, so we can investigate on our own if we like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**Quantity of sentences may vary, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!


This week's teaser showcases Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr.   I've had this series on my mind lately, so what better way to memorialize it than to take a teaser from the first of the books?


"And in a while," the master went on, "she'll die to that other world and be born again to this one.  I can't know if your paths will ever cross again."


Thanks to MizB at Should Be Reading for providing the meme.  Until next time, everybody!  ::Reading Rainbow theme song::

Ohio for Libraries!

I have not been feeling well recently, and so did not get out to vote this week...but seeing this article has revived my spirit, if not my physical health:

Library Levy Landslides Make History in Ohio

I'm especially excited for Hamilton County in Cincinnati, which is where I'm originally from.  I hope the favorite "Don't Trash the 'Nati" slogan was appropriately expanded to apply to this campaign.  Whatever they did, it worked.

Let's also keep our hopes up for Paulding County Carnegie Library, who is going through a recount.  Power of bookworms, unite!

My Own Little Pep Talk

I have finished writing my required 1,667 words for the night.  After uploading my current word count to the NaNoWriMo web site, I discovered that Cleveland, OH has collectively written over 384,000 words in the past three days.  That is amazing.

I'm all aflush and proud to be part of this.  And I'm actually not hating my work so far.  Bonus!

Teaser Tuesday!

Brought to you by MizB at Should Be Reading.

And we're off!
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. Share the title and author of the book, so we can investigate on our own if we like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**Quantity of sentences may vary, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!


This week's teaser showcases Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  My first(?) honest-to-goodness classic!

"She shut her book and slowly looked up; her hat-brim partially shaded her face, yet I could see, as she raised it, that it was a strange one.  It looked all brown and black: elf-locks bristled out from beneath a white band which passed under her chin, and came half over her cheeks, or rather jaws; her eye confronted me at once, with a bold and direct gaze."


Shivers.  I'm definitely not that far into the book, but I am pretty excited about getting there!

Happy Tuesday. 

(Got your own teaser?  Post this meme on your own blog and leave a link in the comments here...or just add your teaser to a comment by itself.) 

REVIEW: 'Free Food for Millionaires' by Min Jin Lee

This book definitely surprised me.  In a good way.

Let me paint the story for you in the nuttiest of nutshells: Casey Han, a young Korean-American woman, has just graduated from Princeton.  So begins her journey to identity.

About a fourth of the way through the book, I started calling it my "Sex and the City with Ethnicity."  The lives of the characters were certainly drawn to this angle -- the rich, enviable Wall Street brokers, and Casey's taste for high fashion were certainly reminiscent of the popular collection of essays.  But there was a humbleness and familiarity to Lee's writing, where Sex and the City left me feeling cold and distant when I read it.  The only part of Lee's book I truly struggled with was the dialogue.  At times, she seemed to be writing too "fairy tale" -- some of the dialogue didn't seem genuine to me.  On the other hand: I couldn't get over how well-rounded Lee is, how well she did her research.  Everything she wrote about Wall Street, about golf, about music, about the hierarchies of business and dare I say life...it all made sense.  I couldn't count how many subjects she broached and how believable she made it all.  Lee truly has a gift.

The novel was definitely a unique read; for me, it was especially different in its narrator's 3rd-person omniscience.  I don't know about you, but I think the last time I read a book written from that perspective was in the 6th grade.  It was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, getting used to being in every character's head at some point, no matter their role, major or minor.  But I loved it in the end because it created a better sense of the world they lived in.  It made them all real, and no one was completely evil or completely good (except maybe Ella, whose character proved a good foil to many of the others).  It was an especially helpful aid in the theme of assimilation I found throughout the novel.  You could see each character working to be something, attaching a certain importance to their goals...and you learned what took precedence, where their lines were.  And then there was Casey, without goals, without lines, floating in the middle of it all.  It was a very interesting way to read.  I was amazed at how much having no mystery in terms of the characters' thoughts actually lent itself to the overall mystery of the plot.  What was going to happen next?  Where is she going with this? I often found myself asking.

Just now, while writing this review, I learned that Middlemarch is also written in the 3rd person omniscient point of view.  I don't want to give too much away, but I find that very interesting because Casey Han's character is always re-reading Middlemarch.  It makes me respect Lee a great deal more, the way she incorporated that sort of subtle detail into her storytelling.  And really, I'll bet a lot more of the book is the same way -- meticulously planned, but effortlessly executed.

Above all, I liked the book because you were on the journey with the characters.  The scenes were well-drawn, and each action cleanly and realistically led to an appropriate, if socially unacceptable, reaction.  I will admit I was a bit baffled by the ending.  But, c'est la vie.  It's not the ending that matters.  It's what happens along the way.





Next up:   Not sure yet.  Most likely: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

NaNoWriMo

The acronym for this event reminds me of the Nano Babies that were popular in gradeschool.  Actually, the Tamagotchis were the popular toy, Nano Babies were for those of us who couldn't afford the more stylish electronic pet.  Anyway.

November is National Novel Writing Month.  Fifty thousand words in 30 days.  As you may have already guessed, I signed up to participate last  week.

I am not in any shape to begin writing a novel today (who came up with Halloween, anyway?), but I must.  I signed up to participate and I like to think of myself as a non-welsher.  I have to complete 1,667 words per day to stay on track for the assignment.  For me, the hardest part of the whole exercise will be rule #2:

Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it's hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn't. Every book you've ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.

At least I have an idea for my story this time.  It's so hard for me to come up with ideas for my writing.  This one I actually thought I'd use for a short story, but since I do have such an awful time thinking up plots, I am going to see if I can't expand it into a novel.  Don't worry, I'm not cheating -- I have not started writing this story yet, I only have the idea.

So what say you?  Will you be joining me in this quest for authorship?  I've always wanted to write a novel, but never felt it was the right time.  But I've come to realize it's like having a Nano Baby: it's never the right time.  So I'm starting now.

Sorry, Guys

I know, it's been what, 4 days?  Five days?  I know I missed at least one Teaser in there.  Who's counting anymore.  I feel like ass.

I've been up late and running around all week, hand-sewing stripes on an over-sized orange sweatshirt, so my boyfriend and I can be completely without-a-doubt secured to win the prize for the greatest Halloween costume of 2009: none other than Calvin and Hobbes.  A boy and his tiger.  Of course, since I know how to thread a needle, I am going as Hobbes.

(And I just wrote "sewing" as "sweing" three times in a row.)

So now all the pressure is getting to me and I have come down with some variation of swine flu, or maybe it's just the common cold.  I am taking Zicam and drinking tea.  I bought some soup.  I will not miss Halloween.  However, I still need to sew (count 4 for "swe") all the stripes onto the back of my costume.  I have till 6pm EDT tomorrow, right?  Right.  Stickin' to it.

Anyhow, I decided to catch up on my blog reading while I sip ginseng tea from this gigantic mug, and found a link at Turtlehead leading me back to a link at Kate...Tells Stories with a pretty sweet bookish meme all about "stories that stick."  You see, Kate is an author, who just finished a book called The Dread Crew, and you even have a chance to win a copy of her new book if you fill out the meme!  Of course I totally filled out the meme.

Holy crap, and I just hit Publish Post without even being ready to Publish Post.  Ok, one meme and I am going to bed.

Without further ado..."Stories That Stick":

1) You are facing an epic journey. You may choose one companion, one tool and one vehicle from any book or film to accompany you. Or just one of the three. It's up to you. What do you choose?

Companion: I would pick Charlotte from Charlotte's Web, because she is sensible, smart, has lots of common sense, and is kind and encouraging.  However, she is a spider, and will probably not live for more than a year.  So I choose Jill from Katharine Kerr's Deverry Series...she is all those things, plus she is human.  And she has magic.

Tool:  Probably Harry Potter's wand.  (Turtlehead: How about I filled out my own answers before I read yours...we are so in sync. ;) )

Vehicle:  Elphaba's broom.  Why not Harry Potter's broom?  Who can say.  Or maybe I would borrow Rhodry Maelwaedd's dragon for awhile.

2) You can escape to the insides of any book. Where do you go, and why?

I'm pretty much a wimp, so I don't think I'd go anywhere too ridiculous or dangerous.  In fact, I think I'd like to hang out near Elizabeth Gilbert's stomping grounds in Eat, Pray, Love.  Italy, India, Indonesia.  Sounds like a vacation to me!  Oh man, or in Ramona Quimby's house.  I always wondered what her parents said when she wasn't around.

3) You can bring one literary character into your current life. Who do you choose, and why?

Tough.  I'd choose Brett Ashley from The Sun Also Rises.  She's strong, and I think I'd love listening to her stories.

4) __The Outsiders__ is my go-to book. I could read that book fifty-seven times in a row without a break for food or a pee and not be remotely bored. In fact I've already done that but it wasn't fifty-seven times. It was sixty-four.

5) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most enviable?

Enviable, huh?  I have to say I did envy Claudia Kishi from The Baby-sitter's Club series.  She was beautiful, smart (although she did have trouble in school), cool, had some great fashion taste, and she was artsy.  Everything I wanted to be growing up.  My favorite book in the series was Claudia and the Clue in the Photograph.  It was such a great plot, and that's where I learned the word "facade."

6) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most frightening?

Who was scary?  I don't know if any character in a book or movie ever really frightened me as a kid.  Everything always worked out in the end, like I could predict it would.  If it didn't work out, it would at least resolve.  Certain scenes were scary, maybe.  What happened was that I got a lot of nightmares as I got older and started reading more sophisticated, real stuff...like D.M. Thomas's The White Hotel.  That book gave me the worst case of the creeps.

7) Every time I read _America's Women_, I see something in it that I haven't seen before.

8)  It is imperative that ____The BFG_____ be made into a movie. Now. I am already picketing Hollywood for this-but if they cast ____Robin Williams_____ as __the BFG___, I will not be happy. I will, however, be appeased if they cast __James Cromwell___.

9) __The Devil Wears Prada__ is a book that should never be made (or should have never been made) into a film.

Ok, this is only half true.  I thought the book was spectacular, and I was so excited to see the movie after I finished it.  The visuals were so good, it seemed perfect for the big screen.  But the movie just...sucked.  The book was worlds away.  So much was left out of the film...and it was the first book I read that actually seemed like it was also MADE for film.  I realize they were shooting for 90 minutes, but it could have been executed so differently...and better.

10) After all these years, the __refugee boat__ scene in the book/movie ___Children of the River__ still manages to give me the queebs.

11) After all these years, the ___last sentence where you finally see the frame story___ scene in the book/movie ___The Outsiders___ still manages to give me a thrill.  (sorry to use this book twice, but I LOVE it.)

12) If I could corner the author ___K.A. Applegate___, here's what I'd say to them one minute or less about their book, __the Animorphs Series__:

"Your books got me so interested in fantasy and science fiction writing.  I laughed, I cried, so thank you so much for introducing me to a genre I never knew I could love."

13) The coolest non-fiction book I've ever read is __To Full Term__. Every time I flip through it, it makes me want to __either jump up and down (seriously) or just sit down and read it cover to cover.  It makes me want to recommend it___.


And there you have it!  My version of the Stories That Stick meme.  Have fun filling in your own!

Shout Out

Just wanted to send a quick note of congrats to my friend at Fickle Words, who successfully completed Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon this evening.  Way to go, girl!  I doubt I'd be able to avoid falling asleep, even for books.  Could be a nice goal for next time, though, thanks for sharing!  I'll be sure to mark the web page.

Nice job!

Classically Challenged

It has recently been preying on my mind that I am not very familiar with "the classics," especially the ones written by popular female writers.  You know -- the books that are categorized as the novels "Every Girl Should Read."  They seem to be popping up everywhere, in the most peculiar forms.  From Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to the movie I just rented, The Jane Austen Book Club (cute, in that chick-flick, straight to TBS sort of way), "the classics" are pervading my every thought lately when it comes to books.  I tried reading Sense and Sensibility and Wuthering Heights when I was in gradeschool, but couldn't wade my way through.  Now that almost a decade has passed since then, I've decided it's high time I get around to reading these beautiful works by their beautiful authors.  In high school, our substitute AP English teacher told us we'd never make it through college without reading Jane Eyre.  Well, I made it.  Or did I?  No wonder Wide Sargasso Sea never made any sense.

Anyway, that's what I'd like to find out.  Did I really make it, having skipped these so-called "life-changers"?

Next on my list of books to read: A Classic.

Get Ready

November is going to be a wild ride for all of us.  I have one week to get over myself and suck it up.

(Why am I being so mysterioso?  Because it's fun!  But if you're really impatient for surprises, like I am -- I couldn't even wait 9 days to turn this post into something more transparent and sensical -- click around a little.  There's a big clue somewhere close-ish.)

These People are Serious

Browsing Google Reader today turned up a post at myliblog, which happened to mention nothing other than a good ol' fashioned, annual Halloween book burning.  Annual.

The North Carolina Baptist church, Amazing Grace, will be hosting a book burning/barbeque (who knew that spiritual cleansing could double as the social event of the season?) on October 31 to destrroy what the congregation believes to be the works of Satan and the perversions of God's Word.  That allows for any religious books or works that are not the old version of the King James Bible...meaning the new version of the King James Bible is gonna be choking on smoke.  The believers will also burn samples of most genres of music, including contemporary Christian and Southern gospel.

Now, I am not writing this post to criticize these people's beliefs (although I really do have to openly and respectfully disagree with their position.  I don't believe burning the offensive material is really accomplishing anything, especially in 2009, when probably 3,000,000 more copies of the "perversions" have already been distributed by the time you've dug the fire pit.  But, I guess it's the principle of the thing).  I was really just sort of surprised that people are still out there burning books.  Like really, truly, burning them.  I mean, who does that?  I've never been to any kind of burning, not even a bra burning.  Should I have met people like this by this point in my life?  So I'm more intrigued by the idea of book burnings and the history behind them.  It's very Farhenheit 451.  Time to consult my dear friend Wikipedia.  And Google, too.  There's always room for you, Google.

Amazing Grace claims their tradition is just that -- a Christian tradition.  They quote Acts 19:18-20 as their basis.  Wikipedia says:

Book burning (a category of biblioclasm, or book destruction) is the practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, one or more copies of a book or other written material. In modern times, other forms of media, such as phonograph records, video tapes, and CDs have also been ceremoniously burned, torched, or shredded. The practice, usually carried out in public, is generally motivated by moral, religious, or political objections to the material.

(Really, I can't stand it with the hyper-hyperlinking.  Why did we ever give up on books?  I long for a simpler time.)

Apparently there have been a great many traumatic book burnings throughout history.  Wikipedia cites several major book burnings that have happened over the course of centuries, the most famous probably being the Nazi book burnings (these were carried out by chapters of the German Student Association, which I did not realize).  All citations refer to book burnings as horrific acts of war, as forms of violence against a people and culture, and "emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime."  They are efforts to suppress a viewpoint that challenges the prevailing order.

The earliest reference Wikipedia has to a book burning is from 367 AD, commissioned by the bishop of Alexandria.  How many years ago was that?  And we're still lighting matches.

Anthony Comstock founded The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1873, and boasted the destruction of "15 tons of books, 284,000 pounds of plates for printing such 'objectionable' books, and nearly 4,000,000 pictures."  His reasoning?  They were lewd.

In 1842, early books coded with braille were burned in Paris, France.  At the city's school for the blind.  

In 2001, a church in New Mexico invited its congregation to a book burning party.  The guest of honor?  Harry Potter.  And God.  The pastor hadn't read even one of J.K. Rowling's books.


What is it that gives books such power that we are so motivated to destroy them?  They have to have power, because power is what makes us feel threatened.  And what makes us so eager to blame the books?  Why are the books the first thing we seek out when we're looking to quash ideas?  I personally think it's because they are the physical manifestation of a person's opinions, theories, and maybe sometimes facts.  Pieces of knowledge we don't agree with.  And a book burning has got to be the easiest way to hurt and humiliate an author.  Even today, it's not enough for people to just speak their minds.  Humans are a species of action.  We have to get as close as we can to destroying our perversions at their source.

But I guess author burning would be illegal.

Teaser Tuesday!

Thanks again to MizB at Should Be Reading for coming up with this meme.  And thanks to ShabbyBlogs.com for providing me with the sweet new background!

Ready?  Go!
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. Share the title and author of the book, so we can investigate on our own if we like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**Quantity of sentences may vary, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!


This week's Teaser Tuesday showcases Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (a book I started, but never finished...and hope to someday pick up again):

Mrs. O'Dowd said that her 'Glorvina was not afraid of any man alive, let alone a Frenchman,' and tossed off a glass of beer with a wink which expressed her liking for the beverage.

And how cool is this?  As I was flipping through my copy of this book, I came across two pictures of me with each of my parents.  I love these pictures because we are all cracking up in them.  I thought they'd been lost for 2 years.  Literary classics to the rescue!





You'll have to excuse the poor positioning...these pictures were taken long before the digital age...and time is still standing in B.S. at my house (Before Scanners).

EmbarrASSed

I was watching an episode of Sex & the City today -- "Cover Girl."  The girls are in a bookstore, helping Carrie research ideas for her new book cover while they browse for their own purchases.  Charlotte is looking for a copy of Starting Over Yet Again, while Miranda searches for a book with a title like "How to Lose That Baby Fat While Sitting on Your Ass."  Miranda settles on From Fat to Fit, but then decides against buying it when the sales clerk advises her to start Weight Watchers instead.  Charlotte, nervous about being seen in the Self-Help section, decides to order her book online.

The episode got me thinking: we've all read something to make us feel uncomfortable.  What books have I been embarrassed about reading in public?  And why?

In college, my roommate and I took an LGBT-awareness class.  Our first assignment was to buy Brian McNaught's Now That I'm Out, What Do I Do? somewhere other than the campus bookstore.  The purpose was to put us in a place outside of our comfort zone, so we could understand what the LGBT community, their parents, and their friends go through when they go to buy the same books.  My roommate shared with me that she did in fact feel a little embarrassed walking around the bookstore with it.  She felt like she was being looked at differently.  I remember being proud of myself for getting through the assignment with little to no feelings of shame.  Now that I look back, I know I should have tried harder to put myself in others' shoes.

For me, the most recent book I can think of makes me ashamed to even bring up the story.  Not because of the book itself, but because of the very fact that I was embarrassed to be seen with it.  I am embarrassed for my embarrassment.  Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, by Ellen Chesler, should not have caused these feelings to bubble up in me.  I usually have no problem admitting to anyone, even strangers, that I consider myself a feminist.  Yet there I was, keeping the book huddled against my chest every morning as I made the walk from the parking garage to my workplace.

It's amazing how once you're out of the safety of a college campus, all your ideals have to become...private.  Inoffensive.  The issue with me this time had to do with exactly that -- offensiveness.  It was the abortion topic...or at least, that's how I was perceiving people perceiving me.

Honestly, my thinking was in line with Margaret's.  I believe women should have a choice when it comes to their bodies, which is why I was so excited to find this book on the shelf.  I was enthralled with Margaret Sanger and her story when I learned about her in my Philosophy of Women class.  Her movement spoke to me.  Her struggle to make birth control accessible and normalized for all women was something I could really look up to.  Reading her biography, which promised to be just as accessible, would be like icing on the cake.

But reading the book about Margaret soon became my own struggle.  The book was not as "readable" as the cover proclaimed.  But not only that, I was finding out a lot about Ms. Sanger that was spoiling my idea of her.  Who knew that role models could be human?

Anyway, it wasn't so much Margaret's personality that made me duck the book under my armpit as I walked the streets of Cleveland.  I may be a feminist, but I know Margaret Sanger is an obscure enough name that no one would be offended by that alone.  No, it was the rest of the title that I was hiding: The Birth Control Movement in America. 

But why?  Why did I care?  I still can't explain it.  Maybe it was the stereotypes.  Maybe it was my own self-righteous opinion of myself.  I did not want people to see me as a baby killer.  Because I know that's not what pro-choice means.  But the simple people on the street, they didn't.  I am such an ass!  I can't believe myself.

I stopped reading Woman of Valor.  Not because of the embarrassment.  It truly was just too hard to get through.  The writing was too elevated.  But the shame I feel now when realizing how embarrassed I was for reading that book is still going on.

I sort of meant to make this post more light-hearted.  You know, talk about the trashy romance novels I also take care to hide in my purse when making the commute to the office.  Or the fantasy fiction novels I enjoy with the dragons on the cover.  But I think it was more important to make this other, more serious point to myself.


They say that if you assume something, you make an ass out of you and me.  I found that it's true...and to be embarrassed about my reading choices just makes an ass out of, em, me.

BookCrossing.com: Releasing Your Books into the Wild...or, The Blogger Who Loved Parentheses

I stumbled upon this online "book club" today at Should Be Reading. The idea of the site, BookCrossing.com, intrigued me, although I'm not quite sure how comfortable I am with the idea of following through. But then I said screw it, and I signed up. Can't hurt, right? (Right. I was made even more uncomfortable by the fact that I was forced to enter my home address to fully register. Now these potential book-loving Internet stalkers know where I live. No. I must get over my paranoia. For the love of books.)

The basis of the club is "releasing your books into the wild." It's organic, and promotes such a wonderful, communal sentiment. You register a book you own (aka, do not use library books) into your "shelf," at which point the site generates for it its own unique BCID (BookCrossing ID) number. You write the BCID number in ink on the inside cover of your book, and make a corresponding journal entry on BookCrossing.com. If you'd prefer to make labeling more official, the BookCrossing online store offers a selection of merchandise, including labels with the BookCrossing logo. Then, you quite literally set the book free. It's for good karma or something.

The site advocates leaving the book almost anywhere to be discovered, never to be seen by you again...but, thanks to the BCID number, the book can now be used as a roadmap back to the BookCrossing web site. Finders with your BCID can post their own journal entries about the books that are traveling the world. The cornerstone of this site is the "journey."

Being myself, I am full of both apprehension and delightful anticipation. Fueling my anticipation: How cool would it be to actually find a book like this on the side of the road one day? And then it's yours. For keeps. And how cool would it be to see a book you released be discovered by another book lover? Who loved your book? Warm, gushy feelings.

But fueling my apprehension: here's what I don't get. The site advertises itself as earth friendly, what with all the recycling and sharing of books that goes on. Supposedly. MizB from Should Be Reading admitted her books were not being found --or found and written about -- as often as she'd hoped would happen.

As I think more about this, if I did see a random book lying somewhere, like a coffee house or in a restaurant booth (hey, these are good ideas -- chalk 2 more up to delightful anticipation, I guess)...anyway, would I really be morally able to pick them up and claim them as my own? I was raised not to touch things that aren't mine, and definitely thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt turn in lost items at the Lost & Found. Thou shalt leave that alone, that's not yours. Shrug. Maybe I've got the world all wrong. Maybe everyone is just a thieving, greedy bibliophile.

But back to earth friendly. Granted, books are made out of paper, and paper is biodegradable...but ew, what if it rains? No one is going to pick up an abandoned, wet book. Except -- in this scenario only -- maybe me. Abandoned, rained-on books would probably evoke much sympathy on my part, and I would lovingly pick it up, dust it off, and tell it how lucky we both were for me to have found it.

BookCrossing does defend its convictions on its FAQ page:



Q(11): Hey, wait just a minute... aren't you promoting littering here, by suggesting that everyone just leave books lying around all over the place? You should be ashamed!

A: Aw, come on. Books promote literacy, enable the transfer of knowledge and can bring inspiration, hope and joy. Is that bad?
Hopefully, nobody considers books "litter". And BookCrossing provides all that by just giving away books to someone who is lucky enough to find one in the wild. Consider it a gift that can change your life for the better.
Also, it's nearly impossible to throw a book away; it's just one of those objects with some special kind of intrinsic value that tells you it's to be saved, to be treasured.

So lighten up! What's the worst that could happen... you might see a few books on park benches, or bus seats, or diner tables? Make the world one big library! Or take the safer, more conventional route, and give your books to friends, or to charities, or trade them in at a used book store, or whatever... just pass them on so they can touch more lives.

I am not sure how to handle that response. I have bad feelings associated with the "lighten up" jab...of course, I've never before heard it used when referring to a worldwide book sharing program. Also, I wouldn't be so quick to agree with the argument that the probability of people throwing books away is "nearly impossible." Just ask Half Price Books about that.  Then you've got books waiting in a landfill.  Biodegrading.  Wishing they were home.  ::Sob!::

All skepticism aside, I've decided to give this a whirl. The biggest problem will be finding a book to give up. It's like Sophie's Choice up in here. I really do get some sick sort of joy out of seeing all my paperbacks lined up neatly on their shelves.

I'll let you know how it goes...and if you're feeling adventurous yourself, be sure to let me know how it goes for you, too.

Leaving books behind on purpose. So deliciously(?) taboo!

Celebrity Book Sighting

So I'm sitting and watching the Parks and Recreation episode I missed two weeks ago while I began the first long drive of my vacation. It's Episode # 203, entitled "Beauty Pageant." The plot in brief: Leslie Knope, Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation, serves as a judge for the local Pawnee beauty pageant. The subplot thickens as she discovers the police officer who is interested in dating her is not quite familiar with her real-life female role models -- specifically, Madeleine Albright.

It's the last scene of the episode, and I almost closed my full screen view so I could push on to view The Office episode I also missed, when...could it really be? Yes! It is! What do I spy in the background but a copy of Gail Collins's America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines! My favorite history book of all time!

America's Women on Leslie Knope's bookshelf:



America's Women on my own bookshelf:




I love this book with all my heart. It was the first book I ever read, at the ripe old age of 22, to really get me interested in, and sometimes fascinated with, history. From the era of the very first colonists up to the 21st century, Gail Collins, an editor at the New York Times, explores the common life, struggles, victories, failures, political activism, and overall history of American women. She includes many races, backgrounds, and classes in one of the largest compilations of diary entries, articles, books, and journals I've ever seen. According to Amazon, "...some of these women -- from the justly famous, like Clara Barton and Harriet Tubman, to the undeservedly obscure, like Elizabeth Eckford and Senator Margaret Chase Smith -- will not only make any woman proud to be a woman, they will make any American proud to be American."

I am absolutely smitten with this book. Admittedly, it took me a whole summer and then some to get through it...the amount of content is just so vast, and I'll confess that not all of the stories held my attention equally. At first, it's even a little befuddling. I thought I'd try to take notes in the margins, but there are so many stories about so many women, I'd already lost track by the 3rd chapter. I had to learn to let some 'characters' go, because they rarely turned up again later. You kind of have to let what stands out to you really stand alone, and let the rest fall where it may. Let me clarify. It's all so interesting; so many of the stories felt...inherent...to me. But I think it qualifies as a great re-read because I'd bet you'd learn something new every time. Really, you have no idea how much she fit into this little 608-page book (yes, 608 pages will seem ridiculously minuscule when you think about how much she probably didn't include).

The book was such an important discovery for me. It really did make me feel closer to my heritage as an American, and as an American woman. When I saw it in the background of last week's Parks and Recreation, I was so ecstatic. I feel driven to share how much I love this book every time I think about it. I'm surprised this whole blog hasn't had at least one mention of it by now. Well, I'm finally saying something. Go pick up a copy of America's Women by Gail Collins, and learn. Endorsed by Leslie Knope.* It's what it was written for.


*Not an actual endorsement.

Teaser Tuesday!

Time to play!

Here's how:
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. Share the title and author of the book, so we can investigate on our own if we like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**Quantity of sentences may vary, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!


This week's Teaser Tuesday showcases Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee (my current read):

"Listen," he said.
"I don't have to listen to you. You're a fucking clown."

Gotta love the swears. Tune in next week for another Teaser Tuesday!

Do this on your own blog, and leave a link in the comments here...or just leave a comment with your own teasers and titles! Super fun.

Meme courtesy of MizB at Should Be Reading.

REVIEW: 'The Forever War,' by Dexter Filkins



When my good friend left for the war in Iraq, I hadn’t really done any reading about the situation over there. I did not know what to expect when he left, what the climate was across the sea, or even how to approach him without making a joke. Dexter Filkins’s book, The Forever War, has finally given me some small perspective on the war…and especially on the people who live through it every day. As Filkins mentions at the end of his book, I now know enough to realize I will never be able to truly understand the war unless I have been to Iraq or Afghanistan. But Filkins’ writing has at least paved the way for a tiny beam of essential illumination.

It is still hard for me to believe that some of these things are going on in 2009. I feel like the American government has done a tremendous job of keeping the war distant from us civilians at home. Filkins’s narrative changes all of that. His reporting is honest and for the most part unbiased. Most of the narrative is taken from his published articles, but is rewritten in a different form for the book. The most enlightening realization for me seems to be that the war isn't between just American and Iraqi anymore. It's American vs. Iraqi vs. Iraqi vs. Palestinian vs...everyone. There are a thousand smaller wars, civil wars, going on over there. We just umbrella them under "The Iraq War."

Filkins is a correspondent for The New York Times, and his reports of the people are what impacted me most. The divisiveness of everyone, American and Iraqi, Iraqi and Iraqi, American and American, was astounding. In a kind of Tim O'Brien-turned-reporter style, Filkins excellently documents the sentiment of everyone he interviews. And everyone’s sentiment is so different. From the American corporal who refuses to throw Iraqis in the Tigris river; to the woman who spits at Filkins, “I voted in order to prevent my country from being destroyed by its enemies...you”; to the woman who cried, “I love you, I love you,” as she fled Baghdad; to the American soldiers who make decisions between letting women and children live, or killing the insurgents who attack them every day; to the officers who will do anything you could think of to protect their fellow soldiers from the media; to the soldiers who die playing a part in helping the media tell their story; this book is one large contradiction. But it’s not supposed to make sense. My professor, the Hemingway scholar, would say (as I believe did another soldier from the book): “It’s war.” What are you supposed to do?

Filkins made me realize that nothing is black and white, no matter how much you think it should be, or could be if we tried to make it that way. Nothing is black and white. Especially in wartime. I appreciated his recording both the stories of the American soldiers, and the Iraqi civilians, soldiers, and government officials. It certainly helped highlight the theme.

I got to see my soldier friend and his wife today before I came home. He is home for 10 days before he goes back overseas. We got to eat at Skyline, and ride in a Volkswagen. I thought about this book while I was talking to him, and whether I should bring it up or not. Maybe I’ll mention it in my next letter to him. I’m sure that any spare time he gets for reading he likes to dedicate to the letters from his family and friends anyway. He doesn’t need the book, he’s living The Forever War. But we do. We need it to remind us. And maybe to teach us something, too.


Next up: Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

October is a Busy Month

Just a short post here, as I need to get back to my book!! and the Internet connection in this beach house is sketchy.

President Obama named October 2009 National Information Literacy Awareness Month. I could dedicate this whole post to covering why I'm going to add "Holiday/Month Namer" to my list of dream jobs (following Street Namer and Menu Writer), but I'll focus on the positive here instead.

The long title really did help me break down what the month will be all about, however. This is no ordinary war on illiteracy. Drawing awareness to the issue of illiteracy in the United States is a great step forward, and one we can all support. There is no downside. But extending support for information literacy (and for now I'll just umbrella that under "evaluating Internet technology," because even I need to bone up on my information) really knocked into me how much the world is changing.

When I was in first grade, we had the Book-It! program. What do kids today have? How are they learning to succeed, and what tools are going to be more useful to them? The ALA is encouraging Americans (and I'm encouraging everyone) to visit their local libraries and really reap the benefits of the information services provided there. I have always been one to live in the past, but it is so important that we all know how to navigate through the jargon. With the growth of the Information Age, we need to adapt our literacy skills, no matter what our age. Please read the President's statement, linked above, and let's commit ourselves to learning...no matter the shape, form, or variety.

Teaser Tuesday!

I got this idea from my good friend, who writes a blog called Fickle Words; she got the idea from MizB at Should Be Reading. The premise is cute, kind of like a meme, and definitely an interesting way to make book recommendations -- so I hope to make this my own Dog-Eared regular.

Here's how to play:
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your teaser from...that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**I will probably cheat sometimes, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!


Here's a teaser from my current read, The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins:

"In an odd but real way, my five-mile runs up Abu Nawas Street made me wonder what the war in Iraq was about. All day long reporting in the country I encountered hostility and chaos, which was intense and growing and real. And yet at night when I hit the streets, in the fall of 2003, I could not find a trace of it."

Wow, I don't know about you, but if I wasn't already reading it, I'd be totally roped in.

Do this on your own blog, and leave a link in the comments here...or just leave a comment with your own teasers and titles! Interactive and educational. Ta da!

Patience is a Virtue, Unless You're Waiting Around for a Blog Post

Just a quick note to prepare you:

1) I'm going on vacation starting Thursday night, so the posts here will become scarce, if they pop up at all, until Oct. 12 or 13 when I drag myself back from the beach.

2) I'll be honest. Now that it's Monday night, and the weekend was much busier than I realized it could be, and taking into consideration the fact that I'm still sitting here writing/reading blog posts, doing laundry, making dinner and cleaning house instead of reading my book, I'm going to make an educated guess and say that I won't be finished with The Forever War by tomorrow or Wednesday, as originally scheduled. The good news is our vacation spot should have free wireless Internet access, so when I do finish it, I'll be able update you right away instead of keeping you waiting...Then again, I don't want to make any promises, because we all know vacations are vacations and sometimes it's just so nice not to have to deal with a computer screen.

Wow, I turned out to be a pretty disappointing blog host. Never fear. I shall return relaxed, refreshed, rested, and ready to write! I have lots of ideas piling up on my desktop, and I can't wait to finally take some time to develop them. Don't forget to pick up a banned book this week! Keep on truckin'.

More on Banned Books Week

I just wanted to draw a little more attention to the response letter I linked to in my previous post. It's from July of 2008, but still very relevant. After giving it a thorough read, I think it's important to give the letter its due, as it neutrally addresses several key points about this week's purpose. The library director from Douglas County, CO really did a fantastic job putting together his argument. It reads logically and professionally. I am also very grateful he addressed every issue the parent brought up. It shows he really does care about his work, and the concerns of his library's patrons.

These two passages especially resonated with me; I think they sort of reiterate what I was trying to say in my previous post:

"How then, can we claim that the founders would support the restriction of access to a book that really is just about an idea, to be accepted or rejected as you choose? What harm has this book done to anyone? Your seven year old told you, 'Boys are not supposed to marry.' In other words, you have taught her your values, and those values have taken hold. That's what parents are supposed to do, and clearly, exposure to this book, or several, doesn't just overthrow that parental influence. It does, of course, provide evidence that not everybody agrees with each other; but that's true, isn't it?...

"Finally, then, I conclude that 'Uncle Bobby's Wedding' is a children's book, appropriately categorized and shelved in our children's picture book area. I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won't agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don't imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life."

Happy Banned Books Week, everyone!

Banned Books Week

Today marked the first day of Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the freedom to read. Every year, books are challenged by individuals or groups in an attempt to secure a ban on the material. According to the ALA (American Library Association), a challenge is "an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group"; a banning is "the removal of those materials." It is important to understand that challenges are not just expressions of different points of view. They are courses of action taken against teaching the reading material, and a conscious effort to remove the material from libraries and schools. It is my personal belief that this is a direct encroachment on our freedom of speech as Americans, and on our choice as readers.

Banned Books Week, held every year during the last week of September, is dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of free access, as well as the harms of censorship. The efforts of teachers, librarians, booksellers, and communities have all come together each year to help prevent bannings, no matter what the material. The cornerstone of BBW is the freedom to express and allow access to ideas (especially ideas in print), no matter how "unorthodox" or "unpopular" those ideas are.

From ALA's web site:

Over the past eight years, American libraries were faced with 3,736 challenges.

  • 1,225 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;
  • 1,008 challenges due to “offensive language”;
  • 720 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;
  • 458 challenges due to “violence”
  • 269 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and

Further, 103 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 233 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”


1,176 of these challenges (approximately 31%) were in classrooms; 37% were in school libraries; 24% (or 909) took place in public libraries. There were less than 75 challenges to college classes; and only 36 to academic libraries. There are isolated cases of challenges to materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and student groups. The majority of challenges were initiated by parents (almost exactly 51%), while patrons and administrators followed behind (10% and 8% respectively).


I just can't fathom any reason why anyone would go to such lengths to keep books away from the public. The public. People they don't know. My mom wouldn't let me read books with boys and girls on the cover when I was a kid (this amounted to at least half of The Babysitters Club series), but she never told other people's children what was or wasn't good for them. She never once, in front of us, told our teachers how to do their jobs (granted, I guess we were enrolled in Catholic school for the majority of our lives -- essentially, an extenion of our home belief system). Still, she knew she couldn't control every aspect of our lives. I think she definitely wanted to know, and had a right to know, what we were being taught in school, but she knew it wasn't ultimately up to her to decide what information came to us and what was rejected. Instead, it was her role to teach us how to deal with our own perception of that information, and to help us understand our choices. This is not to say she didn't try her darnedest to instill her own values in us. She fought us pretty hard on a lot of things. But she was always so proud of me for loving books, and loving to read, loving to learn, loving to weigh different ideas. She was confident enough in her parenting that she trusted me to make the right decision about my beliefs. She had to be. And she loved books. She wanted my brother and me to become our own person, and she knew that what we read wasn't going to be the one deciding factor in how we turned out.

In fact, I think I turned out pretty good. And I read all the smut I can get my hands on. Like Harry Potter. Loved me some Harry Potter. Or The Golden Compass. Because I always look to the fantasy genre as a solid substitute for church. Or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Because I learn some good words in books, and once I learn a word, there's no stopping my mouth from repeating it. Or Captain Underpants. ...Really? Captain Underpants??? COME ON.

For more information on Banned Books Week, including events, please visit www.bannedbooksweek.org, or contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220, or bbw@ala.org.

(Upon reviewing the most recent lists, I've decided I absolutely HAVE TO HAVE this challenged book. Same-sex guinea pigs? It's like a dream come true! Read the Douglas County, Colorado library director's response here.)

I Did It!

Proof! I did it. I signed up for my very own library card. Luckily, I remembered to bring my utility bill. Cleveland librarians are steadfast bitches. Good reason, I suppose. At least now they know I am responsible enough to rent a place with electricity.

The good news (yes, more good news!): I was able to unload all the books I've been hoarding in my car. The maintenance man there assured me they do not throw away books. If they can't use them, they find a place to donate them. I was so relieved. And I told him I'd be back with more. He looked pretty astounded.

The bad news: I waited until a half hour before my hair appointment to drive to the library, so I did not get a chance to look around and browse and check out books as I'd originally planned. What I did see I was impressed with. The inside is bright and clean, and the walls are painted in nice, crisp colors. I am going to go back tomorrow to see more. (They can't stop me now! I'm a member!) And the smell was so good. I love books.

I wish I had a more exciting story, maybe about all the death-defying feats I had to accomplish in order to get my library card. But aside from the whole prove-where-you-live thing, it was remarkably easy. People should know that. We card holders should make it our duty to spread the power. "Why don't you have a library card, June? It's so easy to get one." Hell, it's easier than walking into Blockbuster and signing up for an account there. Talk about a hassle. And millions of people have Blockbuster accounts. Hey, Blockbuster Accounters -- you can get DVDs at the library, too! AND IT'S FREE. IT'S FREE, DUMBASSES. So why don't you get a library card? I used to be a dumbass like you. But now I have a library card. I have access to books, movies, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias...you name it! And I PAY NOTHING!!! I AM LIBERATED!!! LIBRARIES RULE!!!


Just an FYI

Fidel Castro's sister, Juanita, is coming out with a book about her brothers. This is of special interest to me because my French teacher in high school was a very proud Cuban woman (can you imagine the effect a Spanish accent has on the French language? Pretty cool. It's like an uber romantic language).

My teacher would always talk about how special her homeland was to her, and how much she hated hated hated Castro for how he chose to run the country. My memory is a bit foggy, but I believe his government was ultimately the reason behind her move to America, and away from her family. Despite everything, though, she loved Cuba so much; and it will be interesting to see the perspective of another Cuban woman, also exiled from her country, regarding the long-time rule of Fidel. I would love to compare the feelings and memories of Juanita to the stories told to us by my proud, Cuban French teacher. I wonder if she would pick up a copy.

Where are All Those Reviews??

I know, I promised haughty opinions and pretentious analyses. Don't worry, I'm about halfway through The Forever War, so it shouldn't be too much longer before you see all that goodness posted all up in here. I need to finish reading it by September 29 or 30, because I want to start a new book before my beach vacation in October. Something a little less...heavy.

To tide you over, here is a story about my favorite literary term:

le mot juste: the right word.

I became fascinated with this expression my sophomore year of college, in a class called "The Lost Generation." We studied the expatriates: people like Sylvia Beach, who helped make salons famous, but we also looked at the authors who were writing from the Left Bank of Paris -- Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald...and most importantly, Ernest Hemingway.

My professor, a Hemingway scholar, would use the term le mot juste at least once a class. "Hemingway was always searching for le mot juste," he'd say.

"He was never satisfied until he found le mot juste."
"Without le mot juste, you can completely miss the meaning, wrong the tone, or smother the attitude of a sentence!"
"Did you know Hemingway wouldn't touch a drop of alcohol while he was writing, because he knew it would distract him from finding le mot juste?"

The guy had an (admirable) obsession.

I took all of his stories to heart. Even if it seemed the Hemingway anecdotes were more tall tale than truth, that class really taught me something about writing. "Advanced Composition" and The Sense of Structure only nurtured the seed that was planted during my hours spent in "The Lost Generation."

Now, whenever I write, I painstakingly read back every sentence, edit them one at a time, to make sure my meaning is clear and accurate. (See, accurate. I went back and forth for 3 minutes on that. I almost used genuine there, but I wanted le mot juste -- the right word. And the meaning does change, doesn't it? Even if it's just in what you feel when you see it.) That is why I'm so passionate about the written word. In my own search for le mot juste, I am finding out so much more about me.

Sidebar: Here's something else kind of fun. I found this URL while looking up things to include in this mot juste post: http://www.etymonline.com

Blogs are Reading, Too!

...and they give you cool stuff sometimes!

My last post mentioned a good old-fashioned Schmutzie contest, and you're in luck, because another giveaway is here! This time we're vying for an 18x24" rolled poster print from DigitalRoom.com. I totally encourage your entering, because not only does Digital Room make their prints using vegetable-based inks, they also recycle all their paper scraps...which we in the book world absolutely love. (Since I do not yet own a Kindle, I'm constantly purchasing its dear paper product counterparts for my own amusement; I try to balance that out by recycling whatever else I can...and definitely by supporting others, like Digital Room, who do the same.)

So sign up! Win! Hurry! She's drawing the champion on September 26!

Having Fun Isn't Hard When You've Got a Library Card

I must admit I'm more of a bookstore geek than a library-goer. (No, it's not because of the coffee.) Lakewood's library has a very beautiful facade, though, so I think this weekend I'll have to finally go exploring and see if the inside is as pretty as the outside. Pretty with good books. How perfect, considering September is National Library Card Sign-up Month. The last time I tried to get a library card in Strongsville, they needed a form of ID with my current address on it. Unfortunately, my driver's license said Cincy, my checks said Dayton, and my gas bills did say Strongsville, but they had the wrong apartment number. It's sad to think I let that stop me. Of course my boyfriend walks in, says he just moved here (liar) and gets a card no problem. I say I just moved here and they want my life story and probably a credit check.

My main dig with libraries has always really been a dig with myself. I am selfish, and I hate returning the books. Especially if they're good books. I also have this awful condition called irresponsibility...usually by the time I've finished a good book, it's in shambles. There is soup splashed on page 149, every 10 pages have dog-ears, and the cover is dingy if not torn or bent. So libraries will be a new thing to get used to.

My mom used to take me to the library all the time as a kid, where I could sit for hours, reading all the picture books; and then we'd take them all home to read again. Sometimes my mom had to put a limit on what we checked out. I wanted them all. Now that I'm all grown up, I still love the children's section best. And I still love the sound of a librarian moving a plastic-jacketed book from one pile to another as she scans the card inside each cover. Swfft...beep!...puhp...Swfft...beep!...puhp. (This may have planted the seeds of my awe for STOMP!) I love studying all the different handwritings on the checkout card. It's like a story inside a story.

Why did I stop going to the library again?

Never fear. September is almost over, but I still have time to take advantage. To solidify the deal, I'll make a pledge -- if I don't come out in October with a new library card, I won't be able to buy another book for 6 months. If you know me, you know how hard that's going to be. I wish I could say I had some legitimate backers, so I could have a contest like Schmutzie here, and give something away as incentive for actually going the distance. But I don't have backers, and I'm pretty sure I don't have readers yet. So I'll have to settle for the next best thing: deprivation.

Anyway, please, join me (and I do mean in spirit if you do not happen to live near me) in getting to know your local library, and the awesomeness that is getting books for free.

And speaking of libraries...props to Arthur throwbacks.


You Knew It Was Coming...

What's a book blog without a list of the author's favorites? In a completely non-exhaustive and unparticular order:
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Children of the River
  • The Outsiders
  • Blonde
  • Gone with the Wind
  • To Full Term: A Mother's Triumph Over Miscarriage
  • The Sense of Structure: Writing From a Reader's Perspective
  • Katharine Kerr's Deverry series
  • Drop City
  • America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines
  • The Vagina Monologues
  • Ramona the Pest
  • Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus
  • Le Petit Prince
  • Exiles: The Ruins of Ambrai
  • The Things They Carried
  • If I Die in a Combat Zone
  • Not So Quiet...
  • The Sun Also Rises
And what determines a favorite, you ask?

I'm sort of biased in this area. Sometimes I feel like I've fallen in love with almost every book I've ever finished. The feeling is especially powerful if I did a really good job picking a book to suit my mood. I adore the feeling I get when I've matched up my mood with the mood of the book. It's what I imagine marriage will be like. Here's another list I'm currently using as a scale. Feel free to rate your own books using it. Again, non-exhaustive:
  • A favorite book should wrench your heart, in any direction, if only for 30 seconds.
  • A favorite book should make you laugh out loud.
  • A favorite book should cause you (at times) to take pause in your reading and regroup, because you realize you've been audibly mumbling the most exciting parts to yourself.
  • A favorite book is literally impossible to put down because it's figuratively glued to your hand.
  • A favorite book leaves you feeling satisfied, no matter what the ending.
  • A favorite book is meaningful enough, and surprising enough, for rereads.
  • A favorite book excites you.
  • A favorite book invites you.
  • A favorite book allows you time to breathe.
  • A favorite book leaves you with a new thought.
  • A favorite book earns your respect, it never commands it.
  • Last but not least, a favorite book just makes you feel happy.
I suggest we all take some time to pull out the ol' favorites, leaf through them, tell them you love them. Ahem, well. Happy reading, everyone!