Posted in Industry News

Banned Books Week 2017

 

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I can’t ignore Banned Books Week.

So many of the top challenged books of 2016 are children’s and young adult books. Would I let my children read sexually explicit or violent books or books with excessive profanity (as determined by me)? No, because as a parent, it’s my job to parent my kids. I don’t leave this responsibility up to my neighbor, my congressman, or my local library. It’s my job.

Banning books is a suppression of first amendment rights. Challenging books based on your personal belief system is ignorant, presumptuous, and oppressive. I respect your right to have your own personal beliefs and ethics but don’t force them on me. That’s not your job.

There is one positive thing about banning/challenging books:  it raises awareness of topics that some people would prefer that society remains ignorant of like LGBT, growing up and maturing, what it means to be transgender, opposing viewpoints, sex education, and what some people believe to be excessive profanity or sexually explicit. Knowledge is power and understanding opposing viewpoints is to understand someone who isn’t exactly like you.

I welcome Banned Books Week every year and enjoy thinking about, looking at, and even rereading the banned/challenged books residing on my bookshelves and acquiring new books every year as well. I hope that by raising awareness and spotlighting these books every year that one mind, at least, is changed and encouraged to be more accepting and open.

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Posted in Reading Roundup

January 2017 Wrap Up

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I have to admit, I didn’t have the best reading month in January. I only managed to finish five books. This was due in large part because I got stuck in The Fountain and wouldn’t let myself DNF it. Because I was struggling so badly with this book, I went several days without reading anything at all. Sadly, that wasn’t the only book that didn’t hold my attention this month. Here’s my list:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. 374 pages. I loved this book. Cline is a genius world-builder. This was such an immersive experience reading this book, I didn’t want it to end. There were bits that were predictable (my husband and I debated about these) but I didn’t mind them and they didn’t take away from my enjoyment of this book. So glad it was my first of 2017.
  2. Dark Matter by Black Crouch. 342 pages. This was another fabulous read for me. Again, Crouch is a great world-builder but he’s also a fantastic character developer (not that Cline isn’t but this really stuck out for me in Dark Matter.)
  3. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. 329 pages. This was the other book I struggled with in January. I wanted to love this book so much that I think I had too high expectations for it. Great premise but poor world building. Cogman drops us in this sci-fi/fantasy/steampunk-type world with very little explanation or back story. Maybe this gets better with subsequent books, which is why I still plan on reading book two in this series.
  4. The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. 400 pages. This was another novel that I really enjoyed reading. This is about Truman Capote, Babe Paley, and the rest of their NYC socialite group. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Benjamin really takes you into this time, the 1950s, and these people’s lives. This was a book that constantly had me researching aspects of it online because it’s such an intriguing story. The people were also fascinating and most of them, with the exception of Capote, I had never heard of prior to reading this book. I highly recommend it to historical fiction fans.
  5. The Fountain of St. James Court or, Portrait of an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund. 448 pages. I very recently reviewed this book here on the blog so I won’t go into it again why this was my most painful read of January.

For five books, that is a total of 1893 pages and an average rating of 3.4 stars. 3.4 stars doesn’t sound too bad except for the fact that I am scarred by The Fountain!!! Just kidding and slightly exaggerating.

How did your January of reading measure up? Any duds? Any books you’d recommend? I only reviewed one of these books on my blog (linked above), but if you’d like a more in-depth review on any of the others, you’ve only to ask.

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Fountain of St. James Park

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Title:  The Fountain of St. James Park or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman

Author:  Sena Jeter Naslund

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Pages:  448

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction/Historical Fiction

Setting:  Revolutionary France and modern day Kentucky

Source:    I purchased this novel for myself.

Publication Date:  Sept 17, 2013

Blurb:

How do writers and painters get their ideas? And what are the realities and heartbreaks that lie behind such seemingly glamorous and romantic lives? In her groundbreaking new novel, New York Times bestselling author Sena Jeter Naslund explores the artistic processes and lives of creative women

Sena Jeter Naslund’s inspiring novel-within-a-novel, The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman, creates the lives of a fictional contemporary writer and of a historic painter whose works now hang in the great museums of Europe and America. Both women’s creative lives have been forged in the crucibles of family, friends, society, and nation.

The story opens at midnight beside a beautifully illumined fountain of Venus Rising from the Sea. Kathryn Callaghan has just finished her novel about painter Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun, a French Revolution survivor hated for her sympathetic portraits of Marie Antoinette. Though still haunted by the story she has written, Kathryn must leave the eighteenth-century European world she has researched and made vivid in order to return to her own American life of 2012.

Naslund’s spellbinding new novel presents the reader with an alternate version of The Artist: a woman of age who has created for herself, against enormous odds, a fulfilling life of thoroughly realized achievement.

What I Say:

The premise of this novel is so intriguing:  a story within a story, one being told in the 3rd person in modern times and the other being told in 1st person from a historical perspective. The modern-day main character is Kathryn, an older author who has just completed her latest novel about Elizabeth Vigee-Le Brun, our historical main character. Kathryn’s story is told mainly in the present, mixing in perspectives from other characters that touch her life. Kathryn’s part of the story is extremely introspective with very little dialogue.

Then we have our artist, Elisabeth Le Brun. Elizabeth was a celebrated artist in Marie Antoinette’s court. She is known for her portraits of Marie Antoinette as well as other nobles from the era. Also, some of her more famous paintings include her self-portraits. We get to know Elizabeth from the time that she was a child in convent school until she is an old lady, having survived the guillotine, the loss of her daughter, and fleeing France to travel as an ex-patriate.

These chapters of the book, for me, were the most enjoyable. I found Kathryn to be annoying. Also, vignettes were tossed in from time to time from the perspective of her friends and her ex-husband. I thought these additions detracted from rather than added to the story. One specific scene involving her neighbor and her ex-husband left me baffled as to what the point of it was.

I could go on with the many things that I found wrong with this novel, devices that were used that were obvious, plot holes that were never filled, etc., but instead I will say that I learned quite a bit about Elizabeth because the tidbits that Jeter Naslund included were intriguing enough that I conducted quite a few Internet searches while reading this novel. Another thing that I will say, as a result of my own research, is do not take the historical bits of this novel as fact because, WOW! did Jeter Naslund take liberties, which is her right as a fiction writer, I know. But she presented certain events as factual when they were, in fact, either rumor or just didn’t happen the way she wrote them. Sheesh.

I rated this book as a 2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads because of Elizabeth’s chapters. This is the second Sena Jeter Naslund novel that I’ve read and disliked. I just don’t think her writing is for me. It took me 11 days to read this book, which is a very long time for me.

Posted in blog stuff, Reading Roundup

December 2016 Wrap Up

Time flies, ya know? I just realized it’s already Jan 3rd and I haven’t post a wrap up for December. Having the kids out of school and the husband home for the holidays really throws off my perception of time.

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In December, I read a total of seven books, one being a graphic novel and one being a novellette. I actually stopped reading when I finished The Night Circus on December 29th because I ran out of room on the page I was using to track my reading in my bullet journal. Seriously. Not kidding. I’m that anal. I couldn’t stand the thought of either not recording another book or having to waste an entire new page for just one more book. I need therapy.

So, I read:

  1. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. 304 pages.
  2. Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory. 556 pages.
  3. Wool by Hugh Howey. 509 pages.
  4. Gilded Cage by Sherry D. Ficklin. 80 pages.
  5. Shift by Hugh Howey. 570 pages.
  6. I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 2:  Fluff My Life by Skottie Young. 128 pages.
  7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. 400 pages.

For seven books, I read a total of 2,547 pages and an average rating of 3.71 stars. That, folks, is a good month of reading. I only had one dud on my list that I wish I could just forget about. If I could, that would be six books with an average rating of 4.16 stars.

My favorite for December is The Night Circus. This was a truly magical book. Very close behind it are Wool, Shift, and I Hate Fairyland. If you’re not reading the I Hate Fairyland graphic novels, you should be. They’re so funny. I love the language, the color palette, and the artwork is wonderful.

I only reviewed one of these books on my blog (linked above), but if you’d like to hear my thoughts on any of the others, you’ve only to ask. 🙂 I hope your December of reading was as great as mine.

Posted in Reading

Reading Equals Better Writing

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I often get teased for using “big” words on Facebook and in every day conversation. It’s gotten to the point where it’s annoying and seems insulting. I don’t use “big” words to show my intelligence level or to belittle others. Maybe I have a more extensive vocabulary than some people, maybe, but if I do, it’s because I READ. I read a lot. Almost every time I read a new book, I run across a word that is new to me. I always look up words that I don’t know in a dictionary. I have an English degree and have almost completed my Master’s in Library and Information Science. Do you really think I can get degrees in these fields and not be exposed to a lot of words???

I ran across an article on Book Riot today written by college Composition professor, Jessi Lewis. She says that in her experience, her students that read books outside of assigned reading, or for fun, often have better writing skills than their peers who don’t. Lewis says, “…it often feels as though if they missed out on reading at certain points in their lives, it will take lots of catching up to get them back to that golden point of grammar-comfort.” This is true also of expanding your vocabulary. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.

Lesson of the Day:  Pick up a book and read it.

 

Posted in meme, Weekly Reading

Mid-Week Update Dec 21, 2016

I don’t know about you all, but I barely can find the time to read. I’ve been so busy trying to get ready for Christmas. I can already tell, this is going to be one of those years when I’m up until 2 am wrapping presents on Christmas Eve, lol. Thankfully, my fabulous step mother sent us a care package this year including three boxes of baked holiday goodies so I’m using that as an excuse not to bake this year. Honestly, I hate baking. I like the measuring and mixing stage but I don’t like dropping the dough on cookie sheets or cutting shapes out of dough, or rolling dough, or dipping stuff in chocolate, and I really HATE the cleanup stage of baking, heheh. So yeah. I get to skip all that this year.

On to the show!

whatareyoureadingwed

What Are You Reading Wednesdays hosted by It’s a Reading Thing.

Grab the book you are currently reading and answer three questions:
1. What’s the name of your current read?
2. Go to page 34 in your book or 34% in your eBook and share a couple of sentences.
3. Would you like to live in the world that exists within your book? Why or why not?

  1. I am currently reading Shift by Hugh Howey. It is the second book in the Silo trilogy.
  2. At page 34 we have, “The lone guard on duty looked up from something he was reading and nodded in greeting. Troy placed his palm on a screen that had grown hazy from use. There was no chit-chat, no small talk, no expectation of forming a lasting relationship.”
  3. I would definitely not like to live in the world of the Silo trilogy. No, no, no. If you’re not familiar with these books, some sort of global disaster has happened that has caused what’s left of the living to reside beneath the earth in silos. Not only would I not want to live on earth after such a disaster, but I cannot imagine living underground without natural sunlight or weather or in such a confined area.

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Next, we’ll take a look at Shelf Control hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies. The rules for this meme:  Write a blog post about a book you already own but haven’t read yet. Include when and where you got it.

I just bought Ready Player One by Ernest Cline at Barnes and Noble last week. I actually wanted to get this as an audio book because I’ve seen so many rave reviews for the audio version. Plus, Wil Wheaton is the narrator and I’m a fan. However, I have a hard time with audio books. I’ve only listened to two audio books EVER but I couldn’t tell you what either book was about. I don’t retain information when I hear it. I’m not that kind of learner. Also, I have a hard time only doing one thing at a time. For instance, when I’m watching TV, I’m also fiddling around on my iPad or my phone. So, I know that if I were listening or should I say “listening” to an audio book, I’d be itching to do something else at the same time, which means I wouldn’t be paying 100% of my attention to the book. Wow. Talk about getting side-tracked.

Anyway, the reason I haven’t read this yet is because I just got it and I’m focused on the Silo trilogy right now. I’m really looking forward to Ready Player One though. From what I’ve heard, there’s a lot of 80s pop culture references and I find books, movies, and TV shows that revisit this decade to be fun and endlessly entertaining (cough::Stranger Things::cough).

So, tell me. Are either of this books on your reading lists? TBR? Have read? Suckage? Loved it? Share!

Posted in Reading

Adding a New Shelf

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No matter how much I read or how much older and wiser (heheh) I get, I still hesitate to allow myself to DNF a book. It almost seems unfair to form an opinion about a book that I haven’t finished. How can you make an informed decision when you lack all the information? That being said, I do allow myself to DNF a book now and then. If an eBook’s formatting is so terrible that I can’t figure out what I’m reading, I DNF it. If a book doesn’t hold my attention, is not interesting, and I’m not getting anything from it, I DNF it. If a book has so many typos or the sentence structure and/or grammar is awful (and where are the editors here??) I DNF it. There are other reasons, but these are my main three. When I do this, I do not write a review for the book even if it’s a proof copy. I absolutely do believe that it’d be wrong of me to convey my thoughts and opinions on a book publicly without having completely finished a book. This is strictly my personal opinion for myself.

There are times, however, when I’m reading a book that I am enjoying but set it aside for one reason or another. Maybe a book that I’ve been waiting for has finally been released and I can’t resist reading it right away or sometimes life just gets in the way. On Goodreads, I usually leave these books on my “currently reading” shelf. Eventually, I’ll move them back to my “to read” shelf, but I don’t have any set amount of time for making that decision. It just seems as if I’m padding my numbers when I “say” I’m currently reading a book that I haven’t picked up in six months or however long.

I was watching Jean’s booktube channel, Jean’s Bookish Thoughts, the other day and she discussed this topic herself and said that she created a shelf just for these books. You know. Books that you’ve started, have set aside, but fully intend to pick up sometime in the future. I don’t know why I didn’t think to add this shelf to my Goodreads before. It will also be a good way for me to review these books every once in a while to see if I do, in fact, want to come back to them or maybe I should just add them to my box of books to trade at the used book store.

There’s nothing wrong with DNF’ing a book. There’s nothing wrong with setting a book aside in favor of another. There’s nothing wrong with reading ten books at one time. I just like to stay organized and I’m a visual person. Creating a shelf on Goodreads for books I’ve started and haven’t finished just makes good sense for me.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have a similar shelf? Do you have a better or more creative solution?