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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Banned: Toni Morrison

Nearly every year, a certain favorite author of mine ends up on the ALA's list of the Top 10 Most Banned and Challenged books of the year.

That author is Toni Morrison. Winner of both a Nobel Prize and a Pulitzer, this woman has written some of the most affecting, powerful works of our time. Her style is experimental and exploratory, and always poignant, straddling the line between heartbreaking and funny.
Her books like Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Sula , and Tar Baby have captivated readers for years.
And they have all been banned and/or challenged.

Here is just a sampling of the praise just for Beloved:
“A masterwork. . . . Wonderful. . . . I can’t imagine American literature without it.” —John Leonard, Los Angeles Times
“Toni Morrison’s finest work. . . . [It] sets her apart [and] displays her prodigious talent.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“Dazzling. . . . Magical. . . . An extraordinary work.” —The New York Times
“A masterpiece. . . . Magnificent. . . . Astounding. . . . Overpowering.” —Newsweek
“Brilliant. . . . Resonates from past to present.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story. . . . Read it and tremble.” —People
“Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature.” —New York Review of Books
“A work of genuine force. . . . Beautifully written.” —The Washington Post
“There is something great in Beloved: a play of human voices, consciously exalted, perversely stressed, yet holding true. It gets you.” —The New Yorker
“A magnificent heroine . . . a glorious book.” —The Baltimore Sun
“Magical . . . rich, provocative, extremely satisfying.” —Milwaukee Journal
“Beautifully written. . . . Powerful. . . . Toni Morrison has become one of America’s finest novelists.” —The Plain Dealer
“Stunning. . . A lasting achievement.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Written with a force rarely seen in contemporary fiction. . . . One feels deep admiration.” —USA Today
“Compelling . . . . Morrison shakes that brilliant kaleidoscope of hers again, and the story of pain, endurance, poetry and power she is born to tell comes right out.” —The Village Voice
“A book worth many rereadings.” —Glamour
“In her most probing novel, Toni Morrison has demonstrated once again the stunning powers that place her in the first ranks of our living novelists.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Heart-wrenching . . . mesmerizing.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Shattering emotional power and impact.” —New York Daily News
“A rich, mythical novel . . . a triumph.” —St. Petersburg Times
“Powerful . . . voluptuous.” —New York
And yet at least one of her books makes it onto the list each year. At any given time, one of her books is prohibited. In 2006, both Beloved and The Bluest Eye made the top ten list together.

Morrison on censorship:
“The thought that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists’ questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, cancelled films – that thought is a nightmare,” she writes. “As though a whole universe is being described in invisible ink.” from The Christian Science Monitor after Song of Solomon was banned at a Michigan high school.

Toni on Censorship:

Frequently banned (and always awesome) books by Toni Morrison:
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.

The Bluest Eye
Set in Lorain, Ohio, in 1941, The Bluest Eye is something of an ensemble piece. The point of view is passed like a baton from one character to the next, with Morrison's own voice functioning as a kind of gold standard throughout. The focus, though, is on an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove, whose entire family has been given a cosmetic cross to bear:
"You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question.... And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it."
There are far uglier things in the world than, well, ugliness, and poor Pecola is subjected to most of them. She's spat upon, ridiculed, and ultimately raped and impregnated by her own father. No wonder she yearns to be the very opposite of what she is--yearns, in other words, to be a white child, possessed of the blondest hair and the bluest eye.

Song of Solomon
Song of Solomon is a novel by Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning American author Toni Morrison. The Swedish Academy cited this book when awarding Morrison the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature.
The novel follows the life of Macon "Milkman" Dead III, an African-American man living in Michigan, from birth to adulthood. The main theme is Milkman's quest for identity as he slowly tries to piece together the history of his ancestors. The novel is written in the third person, so the narrative weaves in and out from each character's viewpoint.

In Sula, Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for literature, tells the story of two women--friends since childhood, separated in young adulthood, and reunited as grown women. Nel Wright grows up to become a wife and mother, happy to remain in her hometown of Medallion, Ohio. Sula Peace leaves Medallion to experience college, men, and life in the big city, an exceptional choice for a black woman to make in the late 1920s.
As girls, Nel and Sula are the best of friends, only children who find in each other a kindred spirit to share in each girl's loneliness and imagination. When they meet again as adults, it's clear that Nel has chosen a life of acceptance and accommodation, while Sula must fight to defend her seemingly unconventional choices and beliefs. But regardless of the physical and emotional distance that threatens this extraordinary friendship, the bond between the women remains unbreakable: "Her old friend had come home.... Sula, whose past she had lived through and with whom the present was a constant sharing of perceptions. Talking to Sula had always been a conversation with herself."
Lyrical and gripping, Sula is an honest look at the power of friendship amid a backdrop of family, love, race, and the human condition

Tar Baby
Ravishingly beautiful and emotionally incendiary, Tar Baby is Toni Morrison’s reinvention of the love story. Jadine Childs is a black fashion model with a white patron, a white boyfriend, and a coat made out of ninety perfect sealskins. Son is a black fugitive who embodies everything she loathes and desires. As Morrison follows their affair, which plays out from the Caribbean to Manhattan and the deep South, she charts all the nuances of obligation and betrayal between blacks and whites, masters and servants, and men and women.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banned Books Week: Spotlight on: THE CHILDREN!!! (or, "what's going on, Wisconsin?")

"But the children! Think of the children!"

Can't you just hear book-banning crazies yelling that over the tops of their signs and their burning torches?

Some of the most frequently banned and challenged books are childrens books, the books that many of us read, loved and can't wait to read with our own kids.
The idea of banning kids books is so foreign to me, because by and large, something is not going to be published for kids if it's truly inappropriate. Even it it looks like a kids book and acts like a kids book, it will be published as adult, if at all (take the classic hilarious book of no-nos, Shes Silverstein's Uncle Shleby's ABZ: A Primer for Adults Only).
But every year, parents, teachers and librarians across the country find fault with some kids' books and feel the need to challenge them, ban them or remove them from circulation. Often, the reasons are surprisingly (or not) ridiculous.
For example:

Shel Silverstein

Two of Silverstein's other books, A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends have both been banned and challenged.
A Light in the Attic was one of the most banned books of the 90s, for reasons such as, the book "encourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them"(Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wis., 1985); it contrains "suggestive illustrations" (Minot, N.D. public schools); and it "glorified Satan, suicide and cannibalism, and also encouraged children to be disobedient" (Big Bend Elementary School, Mukwonago, Wis., 1986). Really? Because I don't so much remember all that.
Where the Sidewalk Ends was challenged in Pennsylvania because of the poem "Dreadful," which talks about how "someone ate the baby" (Central Columbia SD, Bloomburg, Pa., 1986) and it apparently "suggests drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence, disrespect for truth, disrespect for legitimate authority, [and] rebellion against parents" (West Allis-West Milwaukee, Wis. school libraries, 1993).


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Roald Dahl classic we all know and love, was placed in a locked reference collection at the Boulder, Colorado, Public Library in 1988 because it "espoused a poor philosophy of life." It was later removed, but really, Boulder? James and the Giant Peach, one of my favorite books as a kid, is "not appropriate reading material for children" (Deep Creek E.S., Charlotte Harbor, Fl., 1991), perhaps because it contains the "ass" and "promotes the use of drugs )tobacco, snuff) and whiskey" (Pederson E.S., Altoona, Wis. 1991, and Morton E.S., Brooksville, Fl., 1992). And of course, that capital od childrens books sins, is "contains crude language and encourages children to disobey their parents" (Stafford County, Va. schools, 1995).


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, along with the Chronicles of Narnia series in general takes a lot of flack. For some, it's too Christian, but for Christians... well, some seem to miss the (obvious) Christian allegory, and denounce it for its "graphic violence, mysticism, and gore" (Howard County, Md. school system, 1990).

DR. SEUSS Yep, that Dr. Seuss. My all-time favorite book by the beloved Doctor, The Lorax was challenged by the Laytonville, California Unified School District in 1989 because it "criminalizes the foresting industry." Yep.


The Little House books, especially Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie are challenged fairly frequently. Little House in the Big Woods was removed from third-grade classrooms in Lincoln Unified School District in Stockton, Ca., in 1996, and from the libraries of the same community after complaints that the book "promotes racial epithets and is fueling the fire of racism." Little House on the Prairie was challenged for "being offensive to Indians" (Lafourche Parish, Thibodoux, La., 1993, and Sturgis, SD). Rather than being, you know, a memoir where things are represented as they were, not sugar-coated for the ultra-PC 90s.

and lastly:

Where's Waldo by Martin Hanford was challenged in the Saginaw, Mi. Public Library System, reason unknown (oh, Michigan, my beloved state, I did not want to include you in this list of ridiculousness, but this is not the only time you've banned. Shame.). It was removed from circulation in the Springs Public School System in East Hampton, NY in 1993 because of a drawing of a woman on a beach wearing a bikini with no top. (which I believe you can only tell from the back)

So there's your list of absurdity for the day. I think we can all ask ourselves one question. What's going on Wisconsin? Most of these are from you.

As a parting gift to you:
Here is the ALA list of Most Frequently Banned and Challenged books of the 90s, many of them childrens books:
  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Teaser Tuesday (7)

The meme hosted by Should Be Reading, so stop by and check out her blog!

To participate:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Alright, this week, half of the books I plan on reading are still at the library waiting for me. So this is going to be a two-part teaser. For today, I give you two Helluva Halloween selections:

Witch Child by Celia Rees:

I am Mary. I am a witch. Or so some would call me. "Spawn of the Devil," "Witch child," they hiss in the street, although I know neither father nor mother. I know only my grandmother...We live in a small cottage on the very edge of the forest; Grandmother, me, and her cat and my rabbit.
Lived. Live there no more.
Men came and dragged her away. Men in black coats and hats tall as steeples. They skewered the cat on a pike; they smashed the rabbit's skull by hitting him against a wall. They said that these were not God's creatures but the Devil himself in disguise...

Thirsty by M. T. Anderson

In the spring, there are vampires in the wind. People see them scuffling along by the side of country roads. At night, they move through the empty forests. They do not wear black, of course, but things they have taken off bodies or bought on sale. The news says that they are mostly in the western part of the state, where it is lonely and rural. My father claims we have them this year because it was a mild winter, but he may be thinking of tent caterpillars.

That's it for today, but there are two more to come...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hey! That's me!

I was just idly scrolling through my buddy Kate's blog, The Neverending Bookshelf, and lo and behold, what do I see? The words "I am now happy to welcome Misty of Book Rat."

My thought?

"Hey! That's me!"

Anywho, a while back, I did a little interview with Kate, who has a meme called Branching Out, where she spotlights different bloggers. And I am one. Yay!
So if you want to read my fabulous/witty/obnoxious/insert-description-here answers, go here...

Because I can say what I want and feel how I feel...

...and there's not much you can do about it.

Every year at the Banned Books Week Readathon, we sell buttons and bookmarks with quotes about censorship. Our best seller:

Take away the right to say "fuck" and you take away the right to say "fuck the government." ~Lenny Bruce

So today, I thought I'd share with you some pearls of wisdom in honor of Banned Books Week. I strongly recommend you share your favorite with someone today. I also strongly recommend that you exercise you're right to say whatever the fuck you want to. Pick your favorite bad word and say it. Loudly.

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still. ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. ~Henry Steele Commager

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen. ~Tommy Smothers

Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. ~Potter Stewart

We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard. ~Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1764

The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book. ~Walt Whitman

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. ~Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them. ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books. ~Sigmund Freud, 1933

Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings. ~Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1823

Every burned book enlightens the world. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The paper burns, but the words fly away. ~Akiba ben Joseph

Did you ever hear anyone say, "That work had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?" ~Joseph Henry Jackson

To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list. ~John Aikin

Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads. ~ George Bernard Shaw

And because I CAN say so, my word today is: FUCK!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Banned: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I mentioned in my Banned Books Week post that a few years ago, I started a BBW readathon at the community college, where I worked as a writing tutor.

Every year, whenever I was the one reading aloud, I would always go to the same book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. This was the perfect read-aloud for me for Banned Books. On the surface, it has obvious reasons why it was banned, but anyone who sits down to read it will see that everything has a purpose and that it wall works together to make something great. Truly great. It is an epistolary novel, consisting of letters written to someone known only as "friend" by a naive and touching boy named Charlie. It is by tuns hilarious and heart-wrenching. It is the type of book that, if you can't connect to it, it sorta makes me wonder if you're human...

So every year, I reach for The Perks of Being a Wallflower , and every year, everyone settles in to listen. It catches more people's attention than nearly any other book we put on display. So I would like to share with you some of my favorite stories resulting from reading this book aloud.

First, you have to understand that this is a college campus, and we were set up in front of the library. Sometimes there would be a huge influx of people, and some would stop and listen, some would donate and talk to us, and some would just walk on by. At times, there was no one there but me, reading aloud to myself, or to a co-volunteer. I always sort of knew what was coming next in the story, and I always hoped that someone would be around for the best parts.
The first year I read this, I could see out of the corner of my eye a section coming. It's one of my favorites, and one of the reasons this book is challenged so often. It is an excited little letter that Charlie wrote to "Friend" that goes a little something like this
Do you know what 'masturbation' is? I think you probably do because you are older than me. But just in case, I will tell you. Masturbation is when you rub your genitals until you have an orgasm. Wow!
Yes, you heard me right. This is one of may favorite parts (I laugh aloud every single time), and I was hoping someone would come through. The room was empty, save for me, blithely reading, and a fellow volunteer. But I could see, headed straight for the library's doors, two boys. I thought to myself, "please, please come through in time." What bigger attention getter is there than a girl sitting in a room reading that? They came through right as I got to that line.

My second story happened the next year, when I was once again reading Perks. As I said, the readathon took place in a library foyer. There were tables there where people would sit and chat (talking over the reading, like they couldn't take it outside. grr, don't get me started) and some people would sit and study. There was one young man who chose the latter option, which I tried not to be irritated with. There are entire rooms for quiet study inside the library, as well as tables and cubbyholes. I was not about to modify my reading voice for him to study his massively thick book that I can only guess was accounting. I figured we had to be getting on his nerves, but that was his problem. We were there first, and I am territorial.
I continued to read, and every now and then, he would look up, but it was in this abstracted way, like he was working out a problem. Or maybe he was trying to calm himself down, because we had to be getting on his nerves. I didn't think he was listening to us, or gave a damn about censorship and what we were doing.
He sat there for hours.
When he got up to leave, he came over to the table. I thought, 'here it comes, he's going to tell us that he is giving up and going somewhere else, since we obviously can't read in a quite voice.' He asked the name of the book. He wrote it down. I thought, 'Oh, great, he's going to go complain that two loons were reading a book about drugs and sex and masturbation.' He told us that he never reads for pleasure, and that he couldn't remember the last book he'd chosen to read. He told us that he was going to go to the library and see if they had that book, or that he might go buy it. And then he thanked us.
[I'm tearing up right now]

This is why we do the readathon. This is why censorship is so wrong, down to its very core. This is why I will never keep quiet.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
on the ALA's Top 10 Most Banned Books of the Year nearly every year since it's publication
Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually
explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group

Standing on the fringes of life...
offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
Since its publication, Stephen Chbosky's haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion has received critical acclaim, provoked discussion and debate, and grown in to a cult sensation with over half a million copies in print.
It is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where all you need is that perfect song on that perfect drive to fell infinite.
Through Charlie, Chbosky has created a deeply affecting novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

In My Mailbox (4)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. Stop by and check it out, and share your own finds!

Um, I went a little crazy this week, but I actually only spent around $25, so all in all, I've done worse.

I ordered 5 books from Better World Books, which is my absolute way to buy, other than my library book sales. They are always so reasonably priced, shipping is free, and part of the proceeds support literacy campaigns around the world. What's better than a feel-good splurge? I got:

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Witch Child by Celia Rees
Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
and Teh Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick

In other venues, I got:
The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I already have this -- two, in fact -- but I loved the binding)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (same as P&P -- couldn't resist)
Anne's House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery
Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
The Fairytale Detectives: The Sisters Grimm #1

Here they are all on my wrinkly pink sheet. =D
Since I now have 3 copies of both P&P and Little Women, I may be giving a copy of each away at some point (if I don't bookmooch/PBS them). Maybe I'll have a Classics month. Hmm...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Banned Books Week

Here's a little thing to know about me. I am a bit of a bit of a raging liberal when it comes to censorship. My answer is always no. Just, no. So I am a huge supporter of the American Library Association & their Office for Intellectual Freedom, and their yearly celebration and recognition of censored material, Banned Books Week.

A few years ago, I started a banned books readathon at the local community college where I worked as a tutor. It was a 24 hour marathon, which at a small community college means it was 12 hours on two days. Though there were other people with me, not all were as eager to read aloud certain things (teh masturbation letter in Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, for instance); I, however, reveled in it (the reactions were priceless), and my voice was generally hoarse and nearly non-existent at the end of the two days.

Today kicks off this year's Banned Books Week, so I would like to share with you the top ten most banned and challenge books of this past year, based on those reported to the ALA. Once again, no big surprise, the non-fiction children's book And Tango Makes Three tops the list.
Drumroll, please...

The 10 most challenged titles were:

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint,
    and unsuited to age group [anti-ehtnic? Did they read the same book I did?]
His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
  • Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
  • Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age
Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  • Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
  • Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint,
    sexually explicit, and violence [This title, by the way, is on the list of titles chosen for The National Endowment for the Arts' Big Read]
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  • Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually
    explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group
Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
  • Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age
Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
  • Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
  • Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

So, I would strongly encourage you all to go and show your support of some of these fine books, or others that have made the list in the past. Some of the best books of our time or of all time (The Bluest Eye, Beloved, The Satanic Verses, To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, A Light in the Attic, Where's Waldo!) have been banned and challenged. Check out this list of titles and the crazy reasons they've been banned, or this list of the ALA's 100 most frequently banned books.

Whether you like these books or hate them, remember that's your decision to make for yourself, but it's NOT your decision to make for me.

Want to show your support? Join me in Ban This! Book Bloggers for Book Smarts in the Rally Against Stoopid! and blog about your favorite banned books today!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Helluva Halloween Possible Prize Bucket

As I mentioned in my HH Contest post, there will be various prizes available to choose from for the 2 top point earners and 1 random participant that win the Helluva Halloween Contest.

This list of prizes is apt to change, grow, morph at any time, and the amount of prizes available to choose from, as well as the number of prizes awarded, depends on the amount of participation in the contest. Some are used, some are new, and some are former library books.

In other words, stop back by every now and then and see what's changed...
books added to the pot later are bolded

Cast, P.C. & Kristin -- Marked
Clemens, James -- Wit'ch Gate
Grahame-Smith, Seth -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Harris, Thomas -- Hannibal
Jones, Diana Wynne -- The Merlin Conspiracy
King, Stephen -- Rose Madder
King, Stephen -- Dolores Claiborne
Koontz, Dean -- The Funhouse
Landy, Derek -- Skulduggery Pleasant
Rice, Anne -- Tale of the Body Thief
Pike, Christopher -- Last Act
Sedgwick, Marcus -- Book of Dead Days
Sergiev, Gilly -- 5 Easy Steps to Becoming a Witch
Wesley, Kathryn -- Salem Witch Trials

Random goodies, including a random funeral parlor goodie (you read that right)

Helluva Halloween Contest!

Alright, so after a lot of hemming and hawing (how exactly does one 'haw'?), I have decided to have a contest to go along with my Helluva Halloween Challenge.

Basically, it's going to work like this:
  • the contest is open to followers only (so go click the button)
  • participants in the challenge can earn points for everything they do:
  1. Post reviews of Halloween-y books, movies, tv shows, etc. for 10 points each
  2. Post about this challenge, how well they're doing, they're plans, etc for 10 points (once)
  3. Participate in any randomness that I come up with, points variable
  4. Answer my out of the blue pop quizzes (good job w/ the 1st, Titania), points variable
  5. Legitimately comment on posts, reviews and randomness that I put up (must have
    Helluva Halloween" tag to count) for 5 points
  6. Post their own Helluva Halloween giveaways and link to the prize page for 25 points
  7. Tweet #HelluvaHalloweenContest or this link, remembering to @DarlingMisty so I know for 2 points (daily). Also, comment and let me know who you are, so I can award points.
  8. Advertise this contest and the challenge (sidebar, blog post, facebook, myspace, etc) and comment with a link for 2 points each
  9. If you have done something that you think is worth points, let me know. I may award them, same as I did E. Guevara for posting about my review of The Graveyard Book on her blog, just because she liked it (thanks, E!)

Remember to always comment with links so I can verify and award points, and to always link back or mention the Challenge in the post to get your points. I would also recommend that you keep track of your own points, too, in case of discrepancies.

It's still fairly informal, but basically, the more you do and the more interactive you are, the more points you get. The contest ends with the Challenge on October 31 st, so at the end of the Challenge, the two top point getters will get a prize, as will one random participant (the random participant is open internationally, though the bigger ones -- well, that depends...).
I will put up a list of potential prizes, which will change and grow depending on the response I get. This is retroactive since I started the challenge, so all posts, comments and links, etc, count for points.

Don't have a blog? You can still participate. Email me @ mbradenwf@gmail.com to tell me what you'd be interested in doing, and we will make it work. If you'd like to review for points, I'd be happy to do guest posts.

Looking forward to seeing what everyone does!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Awards season...

Okay, so recently I've been a bit inundated with awards, but I haven't had a chance to be gracious and give thanks and pass them on to other awesome people. (I think I just inadvertently called myself awesome. Awesome.)
So, in no particular order:

from Velvet @ vvb32 reads and from Kate @ The Neverending Shelf

I'm I for informative (thanks, Velvet) and N for Neighborly (thanks, Kate)!
This award was started by Bookin With BINGO and
here are the rules: This "B-I-N-G-O" BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD
means that this blog is...

B: Beautiful - Falling Off the Shelf : I just love that header; and Purple Hoodie Chick, for that beautiful background

I: Informative - Juju of Tales of Whimsy. I love the way she breaks down her reviews.

N: Neighborly - April of Good Books and Good Wine -- I wish we were actually neighbors, April; I could use some of your 'good wine' on occasion. (and that blueberry tea, I'm still thinking of it)

G: Gorgeous - E. Guevara of Behind the Cover of Hand Me Down Books Gorgeous background.

O: Outstanding - The mysterious Book Chick of Book Chick City; it truly is an outstanding blog!

The people who I nominate in this next section are actually getting two awards:

Super Comments Award
also from Velvet @ vvb32 reads


also from Kate @ The Neverending Shelf

The first honors bloggers who leave awesome comments – they make you laugh, think, and offer encouragement and support. In other words, they’re freaking awesome.

The second honors my blogs top commenters, thank you for being a loyal follower and showing me love on a daily basis. You all make my blog exciting and fun, I look forward to reading all of your thoughts and opinions. Without you my blog would just be ordinary, you all help me spice it up and I am thrilled to be part of book blogging.

Rhiannon Hart @ Rhiannon Hart
E. Geuvara @ Behind the Cover of Hand Me Down Books
Juju @Tales of Whimsy
J. KayeJ. Kaye's Book Blog
Rachel Belle @ Bookworm Wannabe
Titania@ Fishmuffins of Doom
Rachel @ Garden in my Pocket
Lauren @ I was a Teenage Book Geek
April @ Good Books and Good Wine

Thanks for making me happy with your comments, ladies!

Got three of these, from Book Chick City, Velvet @ vvb32 reads, and from Jenn-ay @ My Tea Time is My Book Time Thank you for this great award, ladies. If you haven't been to their blogs yet then please do. They are really fun!

This award is designed with one purpose in mind: Pass this on to other bloggers who have awarded you in the past.

Anyway, on to the people who have been kind enough to award me in the past (and in today's post):

Kate @ The Neverending Shelf
Juju @Tales of Whimsy
Book Chick City
Velvet @ vvb32 reads
Jenn-ay @ My Tea Time is My Book Time
April of Good Books and Good Wine
Rachel Belle @ Bookworm Wannabe
Creative Chronicler @ cc-chronciles

also from Velvet @ vvb32 reads

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when your relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Hearthfelt Award is all about, feeling warm inside.

Put the logo on your blog/post. Nominate up to to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside. Be sure to link your nominees within your post. Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

Kim @ And Anything Bookish... Your soothing blog design is so calming and nice.
Nina @ J'adore Happy Endings because who doesn't love a good happy ending?
Parajunkee's View, because I am a parajunkee, too.
Allison @ Read Into This! Great blog design, great blog content: what more could you want?

from Creative Chronicler @ cc-chronciles

This is the Honest Scrap award. It is for those bloggers who write from the heart. The rules are to pass it along to seven bloggers and then list 10 honest things about myself. Here are those deserving of this honor, bloggers who write from the heart and touch me because of it:

Velvet @
vvb32 reads
Jenn-ay @ My Tea Time is My Book Time
April of Good Books and Good Wine
Rhiannon Hart @
Rhiannon Hart
E. Geuvara @ Behind the Cover of Hand Me Down Books
Allison @
Read Into This!
Purple Hoodie Chick

Ten things, hmm...

  1. If you couldn't guess by the name of my blog and my header, I have a thing for rodents, especially rats. I think they are fantastic. I've had 6 in my life:
  2. Louie, Hubert, Midnight, Cheddar, Emo, and Engelbert Humperdinck.
  3. I had never read a comic/manga/graphic novel until about a year ago; I was surprised to like them.
  4. I took four years of French in high school and haven't done a thing with it except talk about people behind their backs.
  5. I was a college-level writing tutor (essays and whatnot) for 5 years.
  6. Jello freaks me out. I think it's a weird Blob flashback thing.
  7. I have hosted a Banned Books Week Readathon for the last few years, always reading aloud from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I particularly like to see people's reaction when I read the "Dear Friend, do you know what masturbation is?" section. Priceless.
  8. I am slightly obsessed with fairy tales. I wrote a 20 page research paper on the dark side of them. Crazy stuff.
  9. I secretly want to be Veronica Mars. And Jessica Rabbit. And Punky Brewster. So if someone could just mash all that together...
  10. I can't stand country music 99% of time. When I have to listen to it, I get a little short-tempered, almost like I haven't slept. It's really unpleasant.

Alright, I think I got it all. Enjoy your awards, everybody!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review: Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum

Awhile back, I participated in a little poetry challenge. The challenge was on the blog of the lovely Velvet of vvb32 reads. The challenge was to write zombie haiku to win a book called (you guessed it) Zombie Haiku. Imagine my excitement when I was one of the lucky winners! (Thank you, Velvet). So I got my pretty little book of bloody, pus-y (how do you spell pus with a y? I don't mean that as a dirty joke) book of zombie poetry, and it was pretty much exactly what I was expecting and hoping for.

The story: The "story" unfolds via a man's poetry journal. Intending to document the glory of life, it ends up recording the downfall of civilization as he:
runs from zombies,
is bitten by zombies,
becomes a zombie,
bites and creates more zombies,
and embarks on the never-ending quest for fresh flesh and the all important zombie food source, brains.

Some of this anonymous man's poetry is only so-so (but what do you expect of a man who keeps a haiku poetry journal), and his pre-zombification haiku are as pretentious and pointless as you'd want them to be. But when said poet gets bitten, things take a turn for the worse -- while his haiku takes a visceral turn for the better, in my opinion. Dripping blood and pus and various other fluids onto the pages of his precious journal, he goes in search of the first of a slew of meals - -I mean, victims. (I'm not going to tell you who the first victim is, but ugh).

My thoughts: I previewed a few of the disgustingickyawesome haiku on a previous teaser tuesday, but they were just the, *ahem* tip of the juicy cortex. Though there are throwaway bits, there are some moments of gross brilliance in here. Our mysterious zombie man retains his vocabulary pretty much intact (which somehow doesn't seem ridiculous), but everything becomes a little stilted and skewed, creating a nicely eerie, Other effect. And of course, some of his phrasing, reactions and desires are just hilarious. Some of my favorites:

I keep saying "brains."
I remember other words,
but I just need one

Little old ladies

speed away in their wheelchairs,
frightened meals on wheels.

Everything I thought
tasted a lot like chicken
really tastes like man.

He tends to not flinch

though I'm yelling in his ear,

which is in my hand.

But even in all the slapstick and predictable freak out of zombie-time, there is still a nice undercurrent of just how gross and wrong this is. Mecum made some nice choices in how he slides things in to keep the reader from getting complacent. I thought this was absolutely brilliant, simple yet jarring:

Bodies pile up.
It seems bullets can stop us,
not that it stops us.

On the subject of choices, I think Mecum was pretty dead on through out. The progression from surviving human to crumbling zombie is interesting, and the choice of haiku, these short little bursts of thought, is fitting in a way that seems so far-fetched and yet obviously appropriate that it ends up being the perfect choice for a zombie narrator.

Design: And the design of this book is brilliant. It is the perfect complement to the text, adding a layer of ick and reality that makes you feel more like you are holding someone's bloody journal, discarded after the world has ended. There are polaroids of zombies "taped" into the journal, maggots, green and bloody smears, sketches, grime and clumps of hair -- it all works together to make the book more of an experience. And it is crucial, I think, because in spite of the continually funny and occasionally brilliant haiku, the book would be too slim and inconsequential without really great design.
My final say: Long story short, if you're in to zombies, looking for a light/fun/gross/seasonal read, this is a great way to go.

Bonus Material:

Zombie Haiku has its own awesome website with a zombie blog, haiku, sample pages, and haiku sent in by authors, comedians, random celebrities, etc., inspired by the zombie mayhem. Some of my faves:

Brain eating monsters
Make disappointing lovers
Because of the fear
- Michael Ian Black, comedian and writer of My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays That Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face

The day I died you
tried to put a bullet in
my head. You missed. Lunch!
- David Wellington, author of the terrifying Monster Island trilogy

You are my desire.
Eating your luscious love thoughts
My Junk Just Dropped Off
- Christopher Moore, author of many great books including You Suck: A Love Story

On the site, there's also a page where Mecum mimics the style of famous poets -- if they were zombies. Things like:

Zombie Haiku by William Shakespeare
To bite through the skull
or beat it against the wall?
That is the question.

Zombie Haiku by Sylvia Plath
From head to black shoe,
daddy, I had to eat you
because I’m starving.

Zombie Haiku by Robert Frost
Two lobes in the skull.
I eat the bloodier one –
not much difference.

Zombie Haiku also has its own Myspace page, which is the location of the blog.

Teaser Tuesday (6)

The meme hosted by Should Be Reading, so stop by and check out her blog!

To participate:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Once again, I'm a rebel. Here are my multiple teasers, none of them fitting the "two line" mold:

from Eternal by Cynitha Leitich Smith:

I skip to an arched window of the pink-and-black suite, unofficially called the nursery, and wave to subjects arriving via the red carpet. Cameras flash, and jewels sparkle. I'm finally the life of the party. All I had to do was die.

from A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton:

Jeremy didn't know what I was. No one at the agency knew. I was one of the weakest members of the royal court, but being sidhe means something even on the weak end of the scale. It meant that I had successfully hidden my true self, my true abilities, from a handful of the best magicians and psychics in the city. Maybe in the country. No small feat, but the kind of glamour I was best at wouldn't keep a knife from finding my back or a spell from crushing my heart.

from Maus: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

click on the picture to see full size. Trust me, this is a great graphic novel, you want to see this teaser.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Are you Reading? Mondays (6)

Well, it's a Manic Monday once again, so it's time for "What Are You Reading?", a meme hosted by J. Kaye. Check it out and tell us what you are reading.

Last week, the plan was to read:
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Zombie Haiku
and maybe a couple of tales from Grimm's Grimmest for Helluva Halloween.. I read the first two, not so much the last. So it's been bumped to this week, along with:

A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
Maus: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman
Eternal by Cynitha Leitich Smith

I'll might squeeze in one more, but I'm not sure what.

Mentioned in this thread:

Last week:

This week:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Review: 'Repossessed' by A.M. Jenkins

Today I bring you: horny demons. Enjoy!

Repossessed Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins

From Harper Collins:

Don't call me a demon. I prefer the term Fallen Angel.

Everybody deserves a vacation, right? Especially if you have a pointless job like tormenting the damned. So who could blame me for blowing off my duties and taking a small, unauthorized break?

Besides, I've always wanted to see what physical existence is like. That's why I "borrowed" the slightly used body of a slacker teen. Believe me, he wasn't going to be using it anymore anyway.

I have never understood why humans do the things they do. Like sin—if it's so terrible, why do they keep doing it?

I'm going to have a lot of fun finding out!

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Really, more of a 3.5, than a 3. But I wanted more from this book. It sounded so cute, like such a neat idea, but it fell a little flat to me. Repossessed is the story of Kiriel, a fallen angel who possesses the body of Shaun, a slacker teen who wasn't doing much with it anyway, as Kiriel quips. Kiriel tries to experience life as Shaun, luxuriating in the senses humans possess and the activities he's seen humans do but never been able to do himself. He is at first rather sex-obsessed (fitting, as he inhabits a teenage boy), but as the story progresses he begins to truly experience life and develop attachments, in essence becoming more human.

He goes through his brief stolen "life" trying to figure out why humans do what they do, and why they don't do what looks irresistible to him. He begins to question the things he's always known, and he tries his hand at the seven deadly sins, and as he says, "Knowing doesn't hold a candle to doing." But as he experiments with humanity, he begins to see just what being human means. And that maybe he could use his time as a human to do something lasting.

So, sounds great. And it was cute, and there were some great humorous parts, both through Kiriel's narration and through his blundering his way through a human life. But it was always only so-so, and even though there was nothing I hated about it, I felt myself constantly checking the page number to see how much was left. I had waited a while for it and was excited, and by the time I got into it, I was just ready for it to end. I would try another Jenkins book, it was good enough for that, but if another left me feeling dissatisfied and underwhelmed, I don't think I'd give him a third chance.

View all my reviews >>

Bonus Material:

Repossessed got a lot of good buzz. I may just be (probably am) picky. I saw potential, but I wanted more.

Repossessed was named a Best Book for Young Adults for 2008 by YALSA, the Youth Adult Library Services Association (part of the ALA). See the full list

Here's a nifty little Reader's Guide from Harper Collins. So if you want some discussion questions on horny demons...

Catch up with author A.M. Jenkins on his blog, or read an interview with him done by fellow YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith on her blog (Tantalize, Eternal)

Browse inside Repossessed at Harper Collins' website.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Firsts: 9/18/2009

The first line can make or break a reader’s interest. Just how well did the author pull you in to the story with their first sentence? To participate in this weekly book meme is extremely easy.

  • Grab the book you are currently reading and open to the first page.
  • Write down the first sentence in the first paragraph.
  • Create a blog post with this information. (Make sure to include the title & author of the book you are using. Even an ISBN helps!)
  • Did this first sentence help draw you into the story? Why or why not?
The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss

It was felling night, and the usual crowd had gathered at the Waystone Inn.

Alright, that's it for the first line, but I don't think that quite does this book justice, so why not go here and read the whole first page or so?


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