Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Banned Books Week's Wednesday Word: Smut

noun \ˈsmət\
obscene language or matter

Most books are challenged because someone finds something offensive about the story, language, or characters. Much of the time, it's considered obscene. In the old days, we called that "smut".

Listen to what Tom Lehrer thinks about banning smut, in all forms:

This was filmed in 1967, so there has been a faction of people speaking on behalf of intellectual freedom for decades. Lehrer uses the word "pornography", the definition of which we have honed a bit in modern usage. In 1967, it was anything that may "arouse the prurient interests of the average person." Today, it means more alone the lines of  anything that serves to "show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement". So, we have upped it a notch in modern times.

2014 Books challenged because of "smut":
  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
  2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
  3. And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  4. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
  5. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
  6. Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  7. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  9. A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
  10. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Yes, that makes the entire top 10 list of 2014 Challenged Books, done so with SMUT being one of the chief reasons.

Your word for this day of Banned Books Week: SMUT!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Banned Books Week: This will make you laugh

The most challenged book of 2014 was a mere third in 2013. What was the most challenged book that year? I'm glad you asked!

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

No, I am not somehow mistaken. As a matter of fact, this was the most challenged book for two consecutive years, 2012 & 2013.

In 2013 alone, there were 307 attempts to remove or restrict books from school curricula and libraries. And that's just the reported challenges. The ALA estimates that there are 5 actual challenges for every one made formal. And in 2012, Captain Underpants beat out 50 Shades of Grey! Go figure...

The author's response is wonderful:

LOVE this response! Do me a favor, and buy the first book in the series of Captain Underpants, just to add to your collection!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Banned Books Week: The Most Challenged Book of 2014

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”.

Written in 2007, this is a coming-of-age story of a Native American teen. Although it is fiction, it draws on the author's experiences as a Native American with ancestry of several tribes, growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Challenged and removed from required reading as recently as 2014, it is an unapologetic look at the harsh side of how many  teens in this nation, and especially in Native American Reservations, are raised.

In 2010, the Arizona State House of Representatives actually passed a bill which outlines HOW to censor:


Unbelievable. The entire state of Arizona doesn't want an entire collection of books taught in school. There is no reading, discussion, teaching, exchange of ideas, or freedom to read inside these schools.

In the United States of America.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Time to exercise your reading freedom, bibliophiles!

September 27 - October 2 is Banned Books Week

What will YOU read?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.  

 Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.  

 But some can never stop searching for answers. Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?  

My take: 5 looks!

LOVED this book! I was immediately intrigued with the premise of the story, and the writing pulled me into the non-stop action.

Written in a series of personal journal entries, meeting notes, and transcripts, the action and character development feel so personal and present. I was completely sympathetic to Rose, Kara, and Vincent. Mitchell's character was a complete surprise as the story progressed. Alyssa was a great antagonist ... or, is she?!

The flow of the action, the concert of the voices, and the sheer tension of finding all of the parts, putting them together, and seeing what they can do was enough to make this a one-sit read for me.

My favorite? The narrator. Who is he? For whom does he work? How long has he known about these parts, buried around the planet? Is his mystery lunch companion one of the aliens? A bit reminiscent of the television series "Person of Interest" character Harold Finch in his intelligence, foresight, and ability to distance himself emotionally from events.  I sincerely hope there is a sequel well in the works!

Highly recommended, upon it's availability April 26, 2016. Many thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy of this beaut in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Club Meeting

(L-R) Patricia, Theresa, Stephanie, Mary Ann, Donna, Gail, Carmen
I am so happy to report that The Happy Bookers have agreed to start meeting monthly, as opposed to every two months! yay!

Last night, we met at Patricia's lovely home to discuss Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. Unfortunately, I decided to put this one aside for the time being, with the intention of picking it up again later. It just didn't grab me, and my TBR is too long to tarry.

As usual, the conversation was lively, and there was much laughter. Patricia had delicious foods for us, as well as a variety of tasty beverages. It was a very fun way to spend a Wednesday night.

Next meeting is at Donna's and we are reading NOS4R2 by Joe Hill, in honor of the month of October!

When your local library disappoints...

I live in a VERY small town. It's a cross between Stepford and Mayberry.

I love living here, but not much has changed since I moved in, fourteen years ago. By far, my biggest disappointment has been the public library. I know that funds are very limited, and that has a significant impact on the library's offerings, but my issue is more with the complete lack of excitement and fervor for all things literary.

The library director has been in her position for years and years, and is probably set to retire. There is another librarian whom everyone assumes will step into that role when it is available. Both of these women seem to lack any type of fire, drive, or desire to put books into the hands of the town.

There are no book clubs at my library!

September is National Library Card Drive month, per the American Library Association (ALA). What did my local library do to encourage patronage? Nothing.

Next week is one of my favorite literary weeks of the year: Banned Books Week. What is my library doing to encourage the freedom to read? Nothing.

What does my library do to partner with area public schools to foster a love of reading? Nothing.

What is the social media presence of my library? Practically non-existent.

What makes it harder for me to swallow these bitter pills is that I met with the library director not too long ago, and talked to her about ways to make the library more exciting and engaged with the community. I even offered to facilitate a reading group. She just looked at me, smiled, and thanked me for my input. She could not wait for me to leave.

Oh, and did I mention that the library is closed every Thursday? Why? Because it's always been done that way.


I want a library that dresses up when it's Dr. Seuss Day! I want a library that holds classes on how to use the internet for research. I want a library that displays children's art from local schools (and not photocopied coloring pages). I want a library that has "If you loved this, read this!" recommendations. I want a library with a freaking book club.

I want a library that doesn't depress me when I enter the doors, and librarians that don't shush me when I am talking too loud. Besides, there's no one else in there for me to bother.

See? Very disappointing, and not one thing to do about it. Status Quo will kill the library in town. Or at least make sure it stays comatose and on life support.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Having trouble reading? Again?!

It is quite common for a voracious reader to hit a reading slump. I wrote about it here. And in May of this year, I addressed the conundrum of putting a book aside until a later time, if you can't get into it. That piece is here.

The reason I bring this up again is that it has happened to me. AGAIN. I am having a great deal of trouble reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. It's not that it's hard to read. It's not hard to read at all. It is just mind-numbingly boring. I can't help by think that it is too wordy, and could have used editing. It is about a young boy of both Mexican and American descent. It's written to be an epic of his life, but I have to think that "epic" doesn't mean that it must be "long".

However, I remember the enthralling The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, at a healthy 488 pages.

The Lacuna is a touch longer at 507 pages, and I am stuck around page 150. What to do? Put is aside for later.

The other is, unfortunately, for my book club which meets every two months. Surely I must be able to read a book in two months! WRONG!

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann is not grabbing me, either. So, that is two books that I can't get into, almost back-to-back. Makes me wonder if I am the problem. However, I have had no issue reading other books in the meantime.

The book club meets tonight, and I have barely broken 100 pages in this 454 tome. Do you really need that many pages to tell of the downfall of three woman in New York in the 1940s? Again, I am going to put this aside for now and move on to another on my TBR.

I still want to read these, but just not right now. It's too much work.

Wednesday Word: Respite

noun re·spite \ˈres-pət also ri-ˈspīt, British usually ˈres-ˌpīt\

1:  a period of temporary delay
2:  an interval of rest or relief

Origin of RESPITE
Middle English respit, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin respectus, from Latin, act of looking back
First Known Use: 13th century
Another word that I love, and think should be used more often in conversation.
This word came to mind this past weekend, as I attended a caregiver seminar at my church. One of the points made again and again is that caregivers need a time of respite. It can be very stressful to be a caregiver and often becomes all-consuming.
A time of respite, away from the tasks at hand, will refresh and renew both your body and mind.
I'll bet you could use some respite right now!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

When she was fifteen, Amy Stevenson was attacked and left for dead in a park not far from her house. Her attacker was never found. Fifteen years later, she still lies in a hospital bed in a vegetative state. She's as good as dead, unable to speak, see, move. But not even her doctors will categorically state that she doesn't hear or understand anything...

Alex Dale is the same age as Amy, and grew up in a neighboring town, familiar with the story of the attacked girl from her own school days. She's now a journalist, but in a sort of waking trance of her own. A barely functioning alcoholic, her career is on the skids, her marriage is over, and she rarely makes it past noon without disappearing into a drunken haze. During a visit to a hospital ward for a routine article on patient care, she comes across Amy. And for the first time in years, she cares about something other than at what time that day she can start drinking.

My take: 3 looks

This was a hard one for me to get invested in. However, I found that once the characters were set, I was into the action. The writing style of presenting different voices at different times was a nice tool, and only a few times did I need to re-reference the date at the beginning of the chapter. The fact that the comatose Amy also had a voice was a huge plus for me. I have long believed that coma patients are very aware of their surroundings, and this was a nice story to support that.

With that said, I found it very difficult to believe that Jake was still so caught up in a puppy-love feeling after 15 years. Certainly he knew that he shouldered no guilt in her attack and current situation. There was nothing compelling in the fact that he was still so drawn to her. As a matter of fact, I found it a little creepy. Her best friends had moved on, after all, as had her own step-father. Jake, however, was alone is his stagnant life-role.

Fiona was another piece of work. I felt that the author wanted the reader to be a bit sympathetic to her, but her crazed antics over Jake's bank accounts were over-the-top. The fact that he married one woman, and she morphed into another would have been a believable premise, if she hadn't swayed back and forth between sane and off-the-rails. I would put it to pregnancy hormones, but the bank-account-incident was early in the marriage.

Alex was the savior of this novel for me. She was fully developed and drawn with precision: her continued struggle with being divorced, her dependence on alcohol, and her grasping for the story of Amy, hoping this story would get her back on track in her life. As she progressed, you saw her dependence slowly become independence, her weakness change into resolve, and her world in a bottle expand to include others around her.

The writing is a bit sluggish, the outcome is completely predictable, and the title of the book leaves me scratching my head. However, while this is no "Gone Girl" or "Girl on the Train", it is an interesting read, and worth your time.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dying Declaration by Randy Singer

Thomas and Theresa Hammonds believe in tough love and old-fashioned discipline. They do not believe in doctors. When their controversial religious practices lead to personal tragedy, however, the Hammonds face heartbreaking loss, a crisis of faith–and a charge of negligent homicide by a relentless prosecutor.

Defending Thomas and Theresa is freewheeling African American lawyer Charles Arnold. Charles believes in grace and mercy. But nothing in his colorful past has prepared him for the challenges of this shocking case, or for the dangerous conspiracy at its heart. Cultures and Lawyers Collide… Teaming with Nikki Moreno, the court-appointed guardian for the Hammonds children, Charles pursues intractable questions. Who is responsible for Joshie Hammonds’ death? Will this family’s tragedy lead to their destruction? Which will triumph–mercy or judgment? The answers hang on the traitorous testimony of a key witness…and on a dying declaration that will revolutionize the lives of everyone who touches the case.

My take: 3 looks

You all know how I feel about Christian Fiction, blah, blah, blah. However, this one is pretty good. Charles is a street preacher, so the faith aspect of the story is very natural and not at all forced. He is a real man, with real issues, in a real world. That is hard to find in Christian fiction.

However, I am a very black-and-white thinker, and I can't help but feel that the parents are, indeed, guilty of negligent homicide. While the doctor was definitely at fault, his decisions would have been moot if the parents had sought medical attention even one day earlier. Thomas and Theresa were certainly likable, but there is no denying that their lack of action was the cause of their young son's death. Blindly following an ignorant teaching is no defense.

While the author obviously wants the reader to despise Rebecca, even going to the lengths of giving her the nickname "barracuda", I found myself thinking that she was only doing her job. As the state's deputy prosecutor, her job was to prosecute. The fact that she was ambitious and preening for the camera made no difference to me. Again, she was trying to find justice for this child, as she said several times in her internal monologue.

Nikki was a redrawing of Marisa Tomei's character in the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinnie, except Nikki was infinitely more irritating. She was a caricature, as the "scantily clad with a heart of gold" Latino.

The relationship of Buster and Armistead required some suspension of belief, but to say anymore would be a spoiler.

I give this 3 looks despite all of the negatives because the story itself was gripping, and the ending had my head spinning.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wednesday Word: Cacophony

A barking dog, a crying baby, loud music, slamming doors, sirens, alarms, repetitive sounds of all kinds, the cacophony of a room full of people talking; ... Kelli Jae Baeli

noun ca·coph·o·ny \ka-ˈkä-fə-nē, -ˈk- also -ˈka-\

1:  harsh or discordant sound :  dissonance
2:  harshness in the sound of words or phrases

1650-60; < New Latin cacophonia < Greek kakophōnía

This is a very interesting word. As you can see from the picture above, the term inherently points to a negative connotation. Too many harsh noises sounded together at once to become an overwhelmingly unbearable sound.

However, there are other ways to look at this word. For example, when I had three boys all under the age of one year, their cries could become a cacophony of hunger. When I am feeding my little rescue cats, their meows are what we call a "CATcophony". Before an orchestra plays, and the musicians are warming up, the sound is definitely a cacophony of instrument sounds.

I look at this word as less of a negative, and more of a description of a variety of different sounds, bumping into one another and bouncing off into waiting ears.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Distortion by Terri Blackstock

A husband's lies can have deadly consequences. When Juliet Cole's husband of fifteen years is murdered before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning, then returns home to break the tragic news to her boys. But a threatening voicemail takes this from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack. Juliet realizes that she and her children are in danger too, unless she meets the killers' demands. But as she and her sisters untangle the clues, her husband's dark secrets come to light. The more she learns, the more of her life is dismantled. Was her husband an innocent victim or a hardened criminal?

My take: 2.5 looks

If you have followed by blog for a while, you know that Christian Fiction is not my favorite genre. I find it either in-your-face with doctrine, full of sugary-sweet-too-good-to-be-true characters, or headed too far in the other direction. This is where Distortion falls.

There is a lot going on in this book. Centered on four siblings, with a Danielle-Steel-type series of tragedies in their past, it is over-the-top. In the first book of the series, combined with the action from this one, their Christian-deacon father ran off with his secretary, Holly is unmarried and pregnant (not to mention that she drives a cab for a living), Cathy's fiancé was murdered and she is now dating his brother, Jay's wife was murdered and he is a single dad to their 5-year-old son, and (finally) Juliet's husband is gunned down in the first chapter of this book.

See? Too, too, too much. Wow.

And the characters are irritating. Sure, they are real people with real problems, but they are caricatures. Holly is pregnant so she can't help her siblings when she is moving to a better neighborhood, but she can run through the woods at night to track a killer.

Juliet is reeling from the fact that her husband was not at all the man she thought he was, but the main thing on her mind seems to be how she can find it in her heart to forgive him, giving her young sons a good Christian example.

Jay is relegated to babysitter for all of the kids while the others run off to "help" the police and FBI solve their case. Why not put Holly there, since she can't lift a box?

You see where I am going with this. If you love the genre, you will probably like this. It's fast-paced and full of action. It's just not my thing.

Not recommended.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio


Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky . . . yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first—if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.

My take: 4 looks

This book, written for upper-elementary or lower-middle school students, is a combination of mystery, intrigue, familial relations, monsters, and shape-shifting witches. In short, there is something for every young reader here!

Warren is completely likable as he bears the burden of running a manse of a hotel while his uncle sleeps and his aunt dreams up new ways to make his life even less exciting than it already is. On a trip to the hedge maze one night (as punishment from his auntie), he finds a journal which may lead him to the "all-seeing eye", thought to be a myth until now.

Will the creature in the boiler room turn out to be a friend or foe? Will the old teacher in the library come to Warren's defense? Is pale Petula all she seems to be? And what on earth is Warren going to do with 100 guests showing up at the same time? Are the paintings of his ancestors trying to communicate with Warren?

Perfect for boys and girls, this is a great story, enhanced by wonderfully imaginative illustrations by Will Staehle.

Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing this galley proof in exchange for my honest opinion. Book is available November, 2015.

Wednesday Word: Preventative


adjective or noun pre·ven·ta·tive \-ˈven-tə-tiv\

Definition of PREVENTATIVE

:  preventive
Now, what we have here is a perfect example of how the language changes over time. When you look up a word and the definition is another word, that usually means that the initial word is not the preferred term. As a matter of fact, it may not even be a word, but its usage has become so common and accepted that the dictionary has included it in the lexicon.
For example, several years ago you would not have found the word "irregardless" in the dictionary. It is there today, referring you to the correct term "regardless".
So it is with "preventative". It's not actually a word, but it has become so commonly (mis)used that it is now accepted.
However, be a friend of grammar and do not use it. Use the correct "preventive" instead.
Oh! Here is the definition and etymology of preventive:
a :  designed or serving to prevent the occurrence of disease <preventive medical care>
b :  undertaken to forestall anticipated hostile action

First Known Use of PREVENTIVE

circa 1626 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Book Riot Store's latest addition!

Those of you who know me know that my very favorite book of all time is Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth. Written for children, it is full of wit, wisdom, and wordplay. It is a book lover's dream to read.

The only thing better than having a signed first-edition, which I do NOT, is sporting the apparel. Well, there may be other better things, but that is to say how very excited I am to order this shirt!!

See my review of The Phantom Tollbooth here.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain


Cain's first novel - the subject of an obscenity trial in Boston and the inspiration for Camus's The Stranger - is the fever-pitched tale of a drifter who stumbles into a job, into an erotic obsession, and into a murder.

My take: 3 looks

In a novella that takes 116 pages to fully develop two characters, commit a murder, and leave behind a trail of devastation, James M. Cain's first book crowns him king of noir.

Frank is a committed drifter, but the beautiful Cora makes him want to change his entire life just to have her. Trouble is, Cora is married to the good-hearted restaurant owner, Nick. Maybe it's not so much trouble, after all, as Frank and Cora concoct what they are sure is the perfect murder.

With sharp, staccato dialogue and the kind of backdrop that harkens to the heyday of film noir in the 1940's, it not hard to see this book play out as a black and white movie in your mind. With a classic twist at the end, the reader finds that the postman does, indeed, always ring twice.


Friday, September 4, 2015

The Fold by Peter Clines


A brilliantly twisty, turny supernatural mystery from the author of the Ex-Heroes series and 14 .  The folks in Mike Erikson's small New England town would say he's just your average, everyday guy. And that's just how Mike likes it. Sure, the life he's chosen may not be much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but Mike is content with his quiet and peaceful existence.   That is, until an old government friend presents him with an irresistible mystery--one that Mike is uniquely qualified to solve: it seems that a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device that could make teleportation a reality. But something is very wrong with the project. The personalities of the scientists who work on it are changing. People are dying. And reality itself seems to be...warping.  Mike soon learns that the machine is not at all what it appears to be--and that its creators may have opened a doorway to something horrible that lurks just outside our world's borders.

My take: 5 looks

Stop what you are doing, and read this book! It is a crazy roller-coaster ride!! I started this book at around 2 pm this afternoon, and it is finished at 9pm. I could NOT put this book down, and will tell everyone I know about it.

Mike is a brilliant man who teaches high school literature to keep a low profile, and keep his demons at bay. His demons? Photographic memory and a genius IQ. The government needs him now, and he bites off a LOT more than he can chew.

A combination of speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, this book covers all bases, and does it beautifully!

Did I tell you already? READ this book!!

Highly recommended.

Thanks to BloggingForBooks for a copy of this book for my honest review.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wednesday Word: Behoove


verb be·hoove \bi-ˈhüv, bē-\

to be necessary, proper, or advantageous for

I can completely see how using this word too often would get annoying. It's not a word that you hear very often, and yet, it has a clear and certain meaning.

When talking to my kids: It would behoove you to get home by midnight.

When talking to my boss: It would behoove you to look at the report I sent on the sales figures.

When talking to my husband: It would behoove you to remember our anniversary.

See how it is used? Now you try!