September 30, 2010

Banned Books Week 2010

It's that time of year again. Banned Books Week is upon us. This is one of my favorite and least favorite weeks of the year, because it reminds me of the importance of our freedom to read what we want in this country and it reminds me that a small, but vocal group of people who would like to take that freedom away. Makes me downright crabby is what it does. Here is the ALA's list of the top ten most challenged books of 2009:

   ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
   Reasons: nudity, sexually explicit, offensive language, drugs,
   and unsuited to age group


   And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
    Reasons: homosexuality


   The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
   Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually
   explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group


   To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: racism, offensive language, unsuited to age group





 Twilight (series), by Stephanie Meyer
 Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group



  Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
   Reasons: sexaully explicit, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group



  
                   
  My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
   Reasons: sexism, homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group, drugs, suicide, violence


     
  The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things
, by Carolyn  Mackler
   Reasons: sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group



      
   The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
   Reasons: sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group



                             
   The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
   Reasons: nudity, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group



Happily, I've read just over half of them. I'd like to read more. I'll be doing my special Banned Books Edition of Retro Friday this week and, in the meantime, why don't you check out this map and see which books are being challenged in your state and what you can do about it. And here is my favorite post on the subject so far this week, from Greenwillow editor Martha Mihalick.

Last of all--two of my favorite quotes on censorship, by men who would know. Chris Crutcher had this to say to the question, "What would you like youth to know about books that have been challenged or banned?":
That they aren't really banned. They can get them at the library or the bookstore or Amazon.com. This is America.
And Stephen King:
Speaking personally, you can have my gun, but you'll take my book when you pry my cold, dead fingers off of the binding.
As my six-year-old boy would say, "Haroo-ya!"

September 29, 2010

Make Me Feel Better Books

A couple of weeks ago, Sabrina over at About Happy Books posted on her top "make me feel better" books. I am intimately familiar with the concept, as I'm sure most of you are. Though I usually refer to them as "comfort reads," this time I was struck by Sabrina's choice of wording. Because often it's not only comfort I go looking for. It's nothing quite that passive or soft or cozy. Often I'm in a more demanding, more, well, desperate frame of mind. And the sentiment I bring to the search is definitely of the make me feel better. Do it. Please?!

I have this print hanging in my library because it reminds me of just this sort of situation. It came from DH's grandma's house--one of those warm, happy places--and I was in love the moment I laid eyes on it.
It's from the old Gibson Girl books and, in case you can't quite make out the text, it says:
She looks for relief among some of the old ones.
I love the pile of books spilling across the floor as she searches for the one. The one that will make her feel better.

The other night I picked up Sharon Shinn's Mystic & Rider--a tried and true "make me feel better" book--and leaned back in bed to just let the magic happen. And, you know, it did. The book sort of took charge, if you will. I laid out my expectations and the dear characters and marvelous world just took right over and brought their A game. I was so grateful. And so happy to feel reassured and buoyed up in the knowledge that those old ones--they never let you down. I was all set to move on to the next in the series, when an unexpected and highly anticipated package arrived on my doorstep. Perfect timing. I'd paused in the headlong charge than can be our reading regimen. I picked up one of the old ones and effectively recharged my reading juices. Just in time for the shiny new pretty to slide right in and capture my attention. I feel better.

What are some of your "make me feel better" books? I'd really love to know.

September 27, 2010

Forever Cover

Here it is! The cover of the third and final book in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. I'm so glad it's red. I think it fits the close of this series well, I love the subtle change in the leaves, and it makes me happy to see Sam on his very own cover as well. Forever is due out July 12th of next year and it promises to be just a doozy of a finale.

September 23, 2010

2010 Cybils

It's a little difficult to believe, but it's that time of year again. The Cybils are right around the corner and the panelists and judges have been announced. This will be my third outing working on a panel for the Cybils and I couldn't be more pleased to be a part of such a wonderful endeavor. This year I'll be happily serving on the first round panel for the young adult science fiction and fantasy categoryHere's our team this year--a very fine one I must say:


Steve Berman, Guys Lit Wire
Tanita Davis, Finding Wonderland
Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom
Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds
Angie Thompson, Angieville
Hallie Tibbetts, Undusty New Books
Heather Zundel, Secret Adventures of WriterGirl


Nominations get going in a little less than a month now. What books will you be looking to nominate this year? For my part, I can't wait to get started. Let the deluge begin!

September 22, 2010

If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend by Alison Pace

I've been hearing about this book for what seems like awhile now. I'd never run across it until Ari from Emily and Her Little Pink Notes started talking it up as a diamond in the rough. She has such similar taste to my own that I rather suspected at that point I would someday be seeking this one out. Then Lit Snit featured it on their BBAW Unexpected Treasure post and those suspicions turned into beliefs. Finally I broke down and searched my library's catalog. They had it in! So I grabbed it on my way to work that day and settled into bed with it that night. I went in expecting chick lit with a splash of art history thrown in for good measure and I read it in one sitting that night.

Jane Laine works for the most notorious art gallery owner in Manhattan. Possibly in the whole of the art world. She remembers a time when she loved and understood art and why it pushed her into pursuing a degree and a career in the field. But almost every ounce of joy in what she does has been systematically sucked out of her by her rapacious and reptilian boss. Coming off the heels of a particularly devastating break-up, she flubs up a particularly delicate situation at work and is sure she'll be fired without a by your leave. Instead, she is sent on a unique sort of venture with Dick Reese's primo client--the current darling of the art world--Ian Rhys-Fitzsimmons. Jane is to accompany Ian on a five-month-long international art tour and see to his every need. Mystified but counting her blessings, she sets out wondering how she'll manage to spend five months with a man she does not like and whose art she does not understand. Fortunately, fate has a few surprises in store for her and the trip does not go the way she thought it would. On so many levels.

Ari was right. This is smart and fun and not exactly what you'd expect from the title or the cover. I think what I enjoyed most was Jane's observations on her travels and the effect being in those countries had on her. The way Rome changed her perspective was particularly moving to me as I have lived in Italy several times and love it with a deep and unfathomable sort of love. I was so jealous she was there and I was not! And like Ian tells Jane in that perfect quote from Wuthering Heights:
I could fancy a love for life here almost possible.

That's it. That's tears-in-my-eyes it! How Italy makes me feel. How wonderful to encounter just the right sentiment in this light and lovely book about an art gallery manager in search of something or some place or someone to remind her why life is worth living. We all need those reminders every so often and Jane had gone for quite long enough without some spark in her life. It was fun watching her fumble around and find it again. If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend is the kind of book I could hand anyone, without worrying at all. It's a sweet, fast read and it leaves you feeling good about life and love and the human capacity to both create and appreciate beauty. I laughed several times and smiled more. If you're looking for a warm and thoughtful way to spend an evening, Alison Pace's debut novel is an excellent way to go.


Linkage
Chick Lit Books
Dear Author Review
Emily and Her Little Pink Notes Review
The Velvet Sea Review

September 21, 2010

Jane Giveaway Winner!

And the winner is . . . ibeeeg!
Congratulations! ibeeeg's favorite literary couple is Claire and Jamie from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon--a book I have yet to read despite countless glowing reviews. Just shoot me an email with your mailing info and I'll try to get your book off quickly. Thanks again to April for so kindly participating in the interview. And thank you to all of you who entered the giveaway. I really loved this one so much and can't wait for it to be published and see what you all think. I had to laugh at the sheer number of you who declared Elizabeth and Darcy your favorite literary couple. I adore them as well and they are unquestionably much beloved by such a wide swath of the population. Amazing. Other top couples include Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, and Margaret Hale and Mr. Thornton.

Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

I was absolutely delighted when I heard that Ilona Andrews had signed a contract for more Edge books. I was even more delighted when a review copy landed in my lap. I read On the Edge last year and was completely swallowed up by the world of the Weird, the Broken, and the Edge. I loved Rose and her rifle and her precocious and wild little brothers. Declan the blueblood grew on me and I finished it crossing my fingers for more from that world. When I learned that Bayou Moon would follow William--Declan's sometime brother-in-arms, and sometime enemy, I did my little dance of joy. I'd always like William. He was lethal and unrefined, where Declan was dripping with stiffness and honor. Just more my kind of guy, you know? I wondered who he would find and how they would get on. I'd liked Rose so much and I wanted William happy. There. I said it. I also like this cover better than the first one. William's not so "here I am in all my glory" as the dude on the cover of On the Edge. Also. He has arrows, which as you know equals awesome. And Cerise looks wary and capable in a very Kate-like way. These things boded well.


William is still hanging out in the Edge. He's working his nothing job, living in his dump of a trailer, and kind of wishing it would all just end soon and he'd be suddenly and effectively put out of his misery. But he's got one last mission to perform. And it is one he intends to pull off flawlessly and with the ruthless precision he became known for during his time in the Red Legion. The elite mercenary known as Spider is creating an army of mutants and serving as spymaster for Adrianglia's rival nation in the Weird. So William is called up to spy on the master, discover his plans, and bring him down at all cost. Having crossed swords with the vicious Spider several times before, William is more than happy to oblige. He'd like nothing more than to rid the world of that psychopath once and for all. While on his way into the portion of the Edge known as the Mire, William encounters Cerise Mar. Nominal head of her clan, Cerise is on her own quest to find her missing parents and save her ancestral home from their neighboring clan whose been at their throats for ages upon ages. Since William is fairly certain Spider is behind the abduction of Cerise's parents, and since Cerise knows the ins and outs of the Mire like the back of her hand and can guide him through them, he attaches himself to her--against her will, I might add--and the two of them set off through the swampy wasteland to track down a killer.


Bayou Moon is even wilder than its predecessor, if you can believe it. And since, in many ways, William and Cerise are wilder than Declan and Rose, I relished how the landscape, the villain, and the entire storyline reflected that. The Mire is the grim and grimy underbelly of the Edge and I literally had no idea what unholy creature would turn up next to block their path. I couldn't help but enjoy watching Cerise guide big, bad William through her homeland and take a little pleasure in watching him squirm at the most outrageous and intricate ways the clans have developed to eke out an existence in such a place. I liked Cerise from the very beginning. But then I was predisposed to as she is tough and determined and recognizes William's value. The narrative alternates between William, Cerise, and Spider's experiences and I will say I almost cringed every time it switched to Spider. The dude is the real thing--absolutely heinous and it was hard to watch him twist and pervert those around him in pursuit of his cause. I dreaded their final meeting and looked forward to the few moments of happiness allowed these characters here and there. Fortunately the bond between William and Cerise is the real thing as well and I worried over them (and loved them) as much as I hated the villain. The Mars as a group are an extremely varied and strong supporting cast of characters and I eagerly got to know each of them as William did. Introducing your family to new people is always an interesting and sometimes thorny endeavor and I thought this was a particularly strong aspect of the novel, especially as it so effectively humanized Cerise and showed us why she was the way she was. I enjoyed catching glimpses of old characters, while keeping the focus on William and Cerise and making room in my affections for a few new ones who I hope to see again soon in future books. Bayou Moon struck me as a stronger, darker, meatier installment in the series and I had no trouble whatsoever giving myself over to its sinister charms. 
Bayou Moon is due out September 28th. 



Linkage

September 20, 2010

Perspective Pretties


I like the way these three play with your notion of perspective. From the back of the first girl looking forward into the snowy streets, to the second one looking down almost hopelessly with pictures of moments hanging above her, to the third one looking back over her shoulder at who knows what she's left behind back in "normal." They're all three lovely in both title and cover and I am eager to get my hands on them.

Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick
I'll just go ahead and say that this is my favorite of the three covers. I just looks like a street I used to live on and that, combined with the light blue glow of the umbrella, and the wonderful title and I want it on my shelf. The insides sound quite complicated and not a bit daunting. Alex's parents get divorced after her father's infidelity tears their marriage apart. Moving to a new town with her mother, Alex finds attention in spades from bizarre twins Fred and Adina. Due out October 5th.

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Fathers are not doing well for us this fall. After her photographer father commits suicide, Eddie devotes her every waking moment to putting together the pieces of the puzzle leading up to her father's unexpected death. In the course of her searching, she encounters one of her father's students who seems to know more than he ought to. I'm a huge fan of Summers' after loving Some Girls Are. Very much looking forward to her third novel. Due out December 21st.

10 Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
I had to laugh reading a description of this one as it mentions protagonist Janie Gorman is forced to put up with a mother who is something of a celebrity blogger among the granola mom set. What a fun idea. Needless to say, she's longing for something a little more normal. I think I'll like Janie. She takes up the bass and joins a band and associates with the likes of a boy named Monster. Bring it on. Due out March 22nd.

September 15, 2010

BBAW: New Treasures

I'm a bit behind on this one, but I didn't want to let Book Blogger Appreciation Week go by without highlighting three of the best blogs I discovered this year. They're each of them distinct and charming and they managed (within a very short time indeed) to get me coming back for more on a daily basis.
First up--Book Harbinger. Isn't that the best title? This one is a bit of a cheat, as I actually met Holly in person before she started her blog and I may have egged her on a bit when she brought it up as something she was thinking about starting. You see, I knew she'd be just fabulous at it and, after reading (and consistently loving) her reviews on GoodReads, I looked forward to enjoying them in a more extended and unlimited environment. Holly has such a developed sense of and appreciation for beauty and the aesthetics of books, their covers, and their language, and I look forward to each of her reviews and posts with great anticipation. Add her to your feed, guys. You won't regret it.
Next up--Chachic's Book Nook. This is another instance of a blogger I met on GoodReads. Only in this case, I didn't realize she had a fully fledged blog going until after the fact. Silly me. Chachic belongs to an amazing group of Filipino book bloggers and I love her posts on their get togethers, activities, and news. She is also a great source to go to for reviews on all things YA, from contemporary to fantasy. Though she's up for anything and has become a recent (and fervent) convert to Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels books, as well as the works of Juliet Marillier and Sharon Shinn. Basically, she has excellent taste and you should take note of her.
Last, but certainly not least--Emily and Her Little Pink Notes. Another example of one of my favorite blog titles. It was that that drew me there in the first place. But it was the heartfelt and eclectic reviews that kept me. Emily has this to say of her reading taste:
I like feisty heroines, human failures, sweet awkward main characters, witty dialogues, humor, rebellion, rock music, poetry, bad boys, quirky geeky boys, principles of love plus an abundant amount of swooning.
Clearly, we are kindred spirits, she and I. She had the good sense to read (and fall in love with) Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl series this year and she went properly swoony over one Eugenides not long ago as well. My TBR pile has suspiciously grown since following Emily's blog and I have to say, I'm nothing but pleased by that. If you haven't had the pleasure of visiting her site, do so now. She's incredibly nice.

Best Library Info Desk Ever

Made entirely of books! 
Click over here to Recyclart to see the rest of the shots.

September 14, 2010

BBAW: Interview Swap with Lisa of Her Book Self

I've been looking forward to today ever since I got to meet and swap interviews with Jena from Muse Book Reviews last year during Book Blogger Appreciation Week. This year I got paired up with another new-to-me blogger--Lisa from Her Book Self. I've spent a fair bit of time browsing her blog now and it is excellent. She has both eclectic and discerning taste and I enjoy her take on books. I've already noted down several titles she recommends to add to my TBR. So please welcome Lisa to the 'Ville! 
***
You ran a personal blog for quite awhile before starting up Her Book Self. What prompted you to start a book blog and how has your approach to blogging changed, if at all?
My personal blog started as a way to keep in touch with friends after college, but after connecting with so many of them on Facebook, my blog dwindled and posting updates was more of a chore than a source of enjoyment.  I started reading other people’s book blogs and when I realized that some of the most interesting things I wanted to share with others were about reading and books, I decided to start something new!  I picked the name Her Book Self as a play on bookshelf and also because I’ve found that the books a person reads can sometimes act as a small snapshot of a personality.  With more people reading and commenting, I definitely feel encouraged to post more often, but perhaps the biggest change to my approach is that I am much more conversational now.  I used to write mostly to entertain my friends, but now I want to share my thoughts as well as draw out opinions from other people.
Have you always been a reader or was there a specific book or series that really got you into reading?
My mom is a teacher so I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember.  I liked mysteries and general fiction as a child, but when I was in middle school my brother lent me his copies of the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman and I know those were the books that made me fall in love with fantasy.  Also, it was my cousin who first lent me The Crystal Shard with the instructions, “You HAVE to read this book,” and not only is it still one of my all time favorites, it secured R.A. Salvatore as one of my very favorite authors.  
I notice you’re an active member of LibraryThing. What first drew you there and do you use it primarily as a way of cataloguing your books or also as a social media forum?
I joined LibraryThing to help me keep track of books I was reading.  People would often ask me how many books I read in an average year.  I used to guess around 50, but when I actually started counting it turned out to be many more – so far I’ve already read 72 in 2010!  The social side of the site has definitely been an added bonus.  It’s strange to admit that I’ve made friends across the globe whom I’ve never even met, but reading tastes really do have a great power in bringing people together.  My screen name over there is elbakerone if anyone wants to look me up and check out my catalog.
You mention on your blog that you have a three-star threshold for the site, meaning you do not post reviews for books you do not like. How did you decide on this policy and what was your reasoning behind it?
I’m a pretty positive person so for me, it’s much more fun to talk about books that I really like.  My star ratings are more or less arbitrary so I don’t really even post them on my blog, but my general rule is that unless I would recommend it to others, I don’t blog about it.  Three stars just seemed like a nice middle ground line between “liked it” and “didn’t like it”. 
You and your husband read aloud together on car trips just like my husband and I do! What have been your favorite books to read aloud together and do you do all the voices, too?
We read a lot of young adult books together and I really liked reading the last few Harry Potter books with him.  With all the hype that surrounded those books it was nice to share that bookish excitement with him.  Plus, they lend themselves well to being read aloud.  Other favorites were Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and the Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  People always think we’re a little strange when we admit to reading to each other and doing different voices for all the characters, but it really makes listening to books more fun.  We’re currently reading through Erin Hunter’s Seekers series which follows a brown bear, black bear, and polar bear on a journey together and doing a different voice for each bear really is a lot of fun. 
I noticed you were the happy recipient of a brand new Kindle for your birthday. How do you like it so far?
I’m still learning how to use it, but so far I really, really like it.  The convenience of carrying multiple books around in the pocket of my purse is a huge advantage since I commute to work via public transportation.  I also just learned how to use the dictionary feature.  I started reading Treasure Island (free download) and came across the sentence “you shall hang at the next assizes,” and thanks to my Kindle I now know that assize is a historical term for a court in each county of England!
You are particularly interested in reading and reviewing indie authors. Which are some of your favorite recent discoveries that I should definitely add to my TBR?
I’ve read and reviewed two books so far by M. Clifford and I can’t rave about his work enough.  He’s actually someone I met in college, but it wasn’t until years after graduation that my reading pursuits and his authorial debut brought us back in contact.  He made the quarter-finals of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award for his work The Book, about a dystopian version of Chicago which explores the pleasures and pitfalls of the digital revolution in reading.  He’s also working on a time travel trilogy the first of which is currently available, The Muse of Edouard Manet. It tells the story of an art conservationist in present day who travels through time to meet and fall in love with Manet. Both works were excellent and I really enjoy Clifford’s writing style and admire his versatility.  I know there’s sometimes a stigma associated with indie authors, and I’ve certainly read some that don’t bear mentioning, but there are also plenty of remarkably talented indie authors out there.  As a reader, I’m confident that I can tell good writing from bad, and as a book blogger, I love to point out the lesser known authors to those that might otherwise not take a chance on them! 
What do you do when you hit a reading slump and nothing you pick up seems to do the trick?
Usually that’s my cue to take a quick break from reading.  I don’t usually hit slumps but occasionally if I’ve just finished a really amazing book; it’s hard to find something to follow it.  Since most of my reading is done on the train, if I can’t get into whatever book I’ve brought with me, I usually just take a break from reading.  That usually leaves me with time to phone a friend for a quick chat or sometimes I’ll think up story ideas of my own that I’ll scratch out on whatever paper I can find in my purse.  My other solution is to pick up a kids’ book.  Sometimes a cute, simple story that I can read through quickly sparks me back into reading mode. 
You read and review quite a broad mix of genres, everything from literary fiction to comic books, fantasy and young adult novels to chick lit. What draws you to such a variety and how do you decide which book to pick up next?
I suppose I get bored easily if I read too much of the same thing.  ;)  Plus, there are so many good books and so many fantastic authors in genres all across the board.  I feel that I would miss many great works if I didn’t read so eclectically.  Aside from the occasional binge reading of a series, I tend to jump around and consciously choose something different from what I just read.  If I’ve just finished a young adult book, I’ll pick up a thriller next, followed by a fantasy, and a classic, then maybe something romantic, before bouncing to a mystery.
What book have you found yourself recommending the most this year?
I already mentioned M. Clifford’s The Book and The Muse of Edouard Manet, as my indie favorites but aside from those, probably The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  It was such a charming and well written book and I’ve been surprised how many of my friends have not read it. 
Thank you so much, Lisa!
Thanks, Angie!  This has been a really enjoyable experience! 
***
And as part of the swap, you can find me over at Lisa's place today answering her questions. Make sure to stop in to say hi and check out Her Book Self