Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm Joining Booking Mama's Shelf Discovery Challenge!

Ok, I couldn't be more excited about this challenge hosted by Booking Mama! It stemmed from the new book by Lizzie Skurnick called Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. It's a "reading memoir," as Booking Mama describes, that features over 70 MG and YA classics all with Skurnick's unique impressions. The pieces included are so great and totally bring me back to my young gal years with authors like Judy Blume, whom I completely adored :0)

So, as part of the challenge I must list the 6 books I'm going to read over the next 6 months. I'm all giggles just thinking about reading some of these. Oh, to be a kid again... Anyhow, some I've read before and some I haven't but know I should have they are:

A Wrinkle in Time by Medeleine L'Engle - I love this piece. Such a classic and one I haven't read in a long time.

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume - I can't believe I actually haven't read this one! I know, how could I have missed it?

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett - I remember reading this book over and over as a girl. And the movie too. I watched it like a hundred times. I actually still have the VHS.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews - I remember this piece really affecting me as a kid. And a few of my students re-read it over the summer as part of their summer reading and they had quite a lot to say about it. So, I'm excited to go back a read it, especially with such a different perspective now.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - Another one I somehow missed!

The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts - Again, loved this one.

Ok, so there they are! My challenge is set. To find out who else is participating in the Shelf Book Challenge and to sign up yourself, visit Booking Mama! And if you're curious to see which other classics are included in Shelf Discovery click here!

Some Lit. For The Kiddies...

It's been some time, I know, but my lil' one had surgery and so I devoted all my time to him these past two weeks. Anyhow, spending that time with my lil' man reminded me how much I adore children's lit. Even took some classes in college. So, I figure I'll review some here for any moms (or dads) who are looking for some great pieces (old and new) to read to their kids...

This first piece comes from John Burningham, the man behind the masterpiece classic picture book Mr. Grumpy's Outing. It offers an answer to a common childhood mystery: Where do pet cats go when they leave the house? Little Marie Elaine, curious to find the answer, follows her kitty Malcolm into the city one special night. The covert trek leads to a night of fantastical discoveries and adventure. The story is whimsical and the artwork beautiful. An elegant trip into the imagination.
THE INFO: It's A Secret by John Burningham. (Candlewick) Ages 3-6
A couple others your child may like:

Japanese Children's Favorite Stories by Florence Sakade and Yoshisuke Kurosaki (Tuttle).
~All of these short stories teach smart lessons. A great way to encourage discussion and talk with your child about the meanings afterwards.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)
~ A spellbinding mystery with very cool filmlike illustrations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In celebration of National Reading Group Month (October), the Women's National Book Association has, for the first time, named 9 Great Group Reads. These books were chosen for their appeal to reading groups and their ability to generate lively discussion. "The committee also made a conscious decision to focus its attention on under-represented gems from small presses and lesser-known mid-list releases from larger houses." In other words, the books chosen here are listed to help book lovers find excellent reads that may be overlooked by the national bestseller hoopla. :0)

So here are the books on the inaugural Great Group Reads list:

Resources for and details on all the titles can be found at the National Reading Group Month website. So, if you host a book club or would simply like some good books to read, check out the site. Happy reading!

Review ~ The Gargoyle

Title: The Gargoyle
Author: Andrew Davidson
Publisher: Anchor
Reading Level: Adult
Rating: Undetermined - read on
Summary: The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. After a horrible accident, a sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany.

Review: Ok, I understand that the point of reviewing books is to actually read the books and then review them. However, I just could not finish this one. After seeing it bookmarked on Target's book club, checking the reviews and then reading the summary, I was completely intrigued by this novel. And as it opens, the action begins immediately with the retelling by a narrator who seems real with a sarcastic and yet saddened edge. I felt it would be promising, until he dove into his past. It seemed understandable for this narrator to have had a bad childhood and even kept me for a bit after finding out that he had landed himself into the pornography field. However, as he dove deeper into his past, I found the specific detailing of his business to be, well, quite cheap and unnecessary. Foul language began creeping into his descriptions and the writing itself fell a bit flat. There is a time, a place and a method for handling issues and language such as this in writing and personally, I didn't care for the way in which Davidson addressed them, which really upset me since the storyline itself seems so interesting. After trying more than a handful of times, I put the novel down, which would put me in a great minority if you check the reviews on Amazon. So, I cannot give a full review of this novel, however, by reading what I've said here, I've either saved you a trip or piqued your interest.
Again, I'm sorry that I did not continue as so many say the love story in the piece is just beautiful. Anyone else read this book? Have I given up too early?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Banned Books Week

Since I just started this blog, I'm a week late in talking about Banned Books Week, but I thought I'd put up a post anyhow, for those of you who might be interested. Banned Books Week is the week we celebrate the freedom to read. It's an annual event that supports the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books weeks have been targets of attempted banning, a total of 3,736 over the past 8 years. And while some books have been banned, efforts made by many, including teachers, librarians and booksellers, have kept others safely on the shelves. This is a week when many come together to teach the First Amendment and the power of literature in an effort to keep these books available.

As a lover and teacher of literature, I celebrate banned books week. Many pieces, when read, taught or discussed at the appropriate time can enhance learning, stimulate thinking and help readers to consider other possibilities and challenges. Though they may be uncomfortable to examine at first, I find that many of these novels force readers to consider themselves and the world in light of the themes presented in such novels.

So, curious to know which books have been challenged/banned? Here is the list of the top ten challenged this year:

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint,and unsuited to age group

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 group

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

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 ZiegesarReasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

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

Personally, I've read two on the list (His Dark Materials Trilogy and The Kite Runner) both of which I enjoyed immensely. Others that have been challenged include classics which I've taught in class - Lord of the Flies, To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and others that I've loved (The Great Gatsby, Invisible Man, Gone with the Wind). So, even though it's after the fact, celebrate Banned Books by reading a banned book yourself. For a list of the top 100 Challenged/Banned Books and why click here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Jim Butcher ... Furies of Calderon

As a premiere post, I figured I'd start with a fantasy series my good friend Mr. J passed along to me:
Title: Furies of Calderon
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Ace Paperbacks (2004)
Reading Level: Young Adult/Adult
Rating: Loved it!
Summary: In the realm of Alera, where people bond with the furies--elements of earth, air, fire, water, wood, and metal--fifteen-year-old Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. But when his homeland erupts in chaos--when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies-- Tavi's simple courage will turn the tides of war.
Review: Furies of Calderon is the first of a series of 6 books, the next which will be released this November. It's a great start to an epic fantasy world and I shamefully admit I read all 5 books in less than two weeks. :0) Butcher's choice of elemental magics works well with the characterizations; He put the strength of the characters first, their powers second; which translates into extremely likable characters. The fury system itself (command of the elements) is a unique magical construct and made for a refreshing fantasy series. Lots of suspense, war, and there's just enough romance to keep a lady happy. Blends a bit into the Sci-Fi, but not by much.
I heartily recommend Furies of Calderon along with the rest of the Codex Alera Books. It is an entertaining series that rewards fans with meaningful characters. The book is fast-paced, with multiple, simultaneous storylines keeping interest alive. I'm anxiously waiting for the 6th installment!