Friday, September 30, 2016

Banned Books...Children's Edition!

September is the month Libraries go CRAZY over Banned Books! I have decided to do a 3 part BEST OF BANNED BOOKS to remind everyone of the small mindedness of folks the world over. This here is my Children's Edition.

As a parent (and we'll go back to when my children were little here), I believe it is up to me and my children to decide what they can read. I don't think anyone else should make that decision for me. Does this mean I would want my 9 year old to read Fifty Shades of Grey? That is an extreme book choice and the answer is of course not. But that is for me to decide, and a lot of factors would go into the decision. Let's talk Twilight instead...or Captain Underpants. I would factor in my child's reading level, their maturity, why they are interested in a title, and whether I would be willing to read it before or simultaneously so that we could have meaningful discussion about the topics included in the book.

This is a great opportunity to talk to your children about serious, sensitive and sometimes embarrassing topics in a not too preachy manner. For instance, you can both read a book where bullying is happening, and can then talk about your child's thoughts on bullying, if it's ever happened to them, what they would do if they saw someone being bullied, etc. Some children have a hard time talking about something going on with them, but will gladly have a conversation involving the character in a beloved book.

So, here's my Top 10 Banned and Challenged Kids Books:

 The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

Okay, this one's an easy target. I remember the first time my son brought this book home...and being disappointed initially. We went from Harry Potter to Captain Underpants, so I'm sure you can understand my perplexed feelings. But it's just a silly that created a lot of readers out of reluctant boys. Captain Underpants beat out Fifty Shades of Grey for most banned or challenged book of 2012, if you can believe it. It was banned for offensive language (perhaps calling someone old, or referencing underwear), partial nudity (underwear and a diaper), violence (whacking evil robots on the head) and misbehavior (pranks). 
 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

This was my all time favorite book for a while in elementary school. I even carried a notebook around to spy on my friends, but was too lazy to keep it up for too long, and I don't remember anyone doing anything interesting enough to warrant it. When my daughter was in elementary school I told her about it. She read it, and did the same...carried around her notebook writing about what people were doing. Unsurprisingly, it was banned for setting a bad example for children. I just find it hilarious actually. There are consequences folks...concrete consequences for Harriet. 

 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

I don't remember reading this one as a kid, but I did read it with my daughter when she was in elementary school. She LOVED Gary Paulsen's books. She felt for them how I felt for My Side of the Mountain...a book neither of my children liked as much as I did. It is basically just another classic survival book. It was banned for "sexual content, violence and horror". Okay, the violence part I guess I get, but I really think they must've been reading a different book for the sexual content jibe. 

 How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

I read this one a very long time ago, and my memory has been marred by the fairly recent movie version. It is a book about a kid having to eat worms because of a bet. It is a silly book, and was banned because "eating worms is gross and easily imitated". I'm just going to say that I doubt your child will really eat worms having read this book...and if they do it will probably just be one.

 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House in the Big Woods was banned for "promoting racial epithets and fueling the fire of racism". We have talked a lot about this subject at the library recently. Books that came out in a certain time period may contain words that are no long acceptable in our modern society. Does that mean they are bad books? No. Should you probably have a discussion with your children about the outdated speech, or racially motivated scenes, and point out the differences from then to now? Of course. This is where being actively involved in your children's reading lives comes into play. It can be a real teaching moment. The Little House series contains a lot more excitement than a lot of people remember, and the books are definitely less sugary-sweet than the t.v. show. 

 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I have always loved Little Women. I adored the book as a child, and still have the set of Louisa May Alcott books that my mom gave me. I loved Jo and her writing the best. Yes, the writing is old fashioned, and the marital ideals also, but I really do think it has a place in literature. It was banned for "severe punishment of a feminist character". I think that in it's day it was quite progressive in it's portrayal of women as independent creatures, but now is considered hopelessly out of date because Jo marries an older man, etc. Once again, it is really a testament to the changes in society...which makes for great conversation.

 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

It has been a very long time since I've read this book, but it was banned for "racial bias". Honestly, if my memory serves me correct, this is a great book for kids to get a taste of racism in the south during the 1930's. It is told from the perspective of a 9 year old, and she naively doesn't realize that her skin color has anything to do with her family's fight to keep their land. I believe there is a definitely place for books like this. 

 Superfudge by Judy Blume

I am pretty sure that all of Judy Blume's books have been banned or challenged at one point in time or another, but I grew up loving them. This one has the kids being a little older, so there are chapters talking about Santa and where babies come from...from the perspective of 6th graders and not little beware and be prepared to have a few talks afterwards. The "Fudge" characters grew up with me...and I enjoyed them all the way through. It was banned for "profane, immoral and offensive content". 

 Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

I have always been a big fan of Shel Silverstein. I thought these poems were HILARIOUS when I was little. From the boa constrictor to skipping school, I loved them all. They were so silly, and they made me laugh. They showed me that poetry could be funny. Did I think I should use it as a guide for my life? Was I planning on eating a baby, or starving myself to death? Heck no. Kids are a lot smarter than some adults think they are. It was banned for "undermining parental, school and religious authority". The funny thing about this one is it was challenged in the town I currently live, in 1986. 

Are You There God? It's Me Marget by Judy Blume

This is the book that introduced censorship to me at a young age. In my elementary school library we had a couple copies of this book, and only one didn't have pages filled with black markered bits. That was of course the copy we all fought to check out. I've often wondered if it would've been as popular if they hadn't brought to our attention that there were passages they felt unfit for our consumption? I liked this book as a kid, although it was already quite outdated in regards to periods and pads, etc. I remember asking my mom what this "belt" contraption was that the main character kept fretting over. As someone who went through puberty at a very young age, I was grateful for books of this nature in my library. Yes, I had an older sister that I could talk to about "female" things, but sometimes it's more fun to figure them out on your own. The book was banned and censored for "frank treatment of adolescent sexuality and religion". 

So there you have very long list of banned or challenged children's books. I hope I haven't sounded too preachy, as that's not my intent. I really just believe in parents having the final say when it comes to what their children are reading. And I feel so passionately about reading and talking with children, and giving them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to intellectually separating fact from fiction.

Let me know what your thoughts are on censorship and books. Did you like any of these books as a kid? Did you let your children read them? Do you read along with your kids? Tell me your thoughts either in the comments here or over on my Facebook page

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Banned Books...Teen Edition!

September is the month Libraries go CRAZY over Banned Books! I have decided to do a 3 part BEST OF BANNED BOOKS to remind everyone of the small mindedness of folks the world over.  This is my Teen Edition.

Let me reiterate again that I am all for parents parenting, and having a say about what their kids are reading. I think you should be reading those hot topic books ALONG with your teens if they want to, and having meaningful discussion about the sensitive subjects presented in them. You just might be shocked and amazed by what their thoughts are.

I don't want anyone telling me what my kids can read...I believe the decision should rest on my shoulders. I know my children, as you know yours...and a lot of things go into whether a book is age appropriate or not. You have to consider their reading level, maturity level, etc. I know know that...joe schmo who is trying to ban a book in your child's library does not. End of rant :)

So here are a few of my favorite Teen Books that have been banned or challenged:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I read this book alongside my daughter when she was around 15 years old (I may be wrong, her memory is better than mine but she's not here to argue with me over it!). As soon as I started it, I excitedly explained to her that these characters are my age...I was in high school during this time period, and I felt it was fairly true to some of the experiences I had as a teen. Yes, this book has sensitive subjects in it...from homosexuality to drug use, sexual abuse to mental health issues. But you definitely see the repercussions of some of the character's bad decisions. And like I said above, this can open up a dialogue between you and your teen, where you can discuss these subjects without and possibly before they are presented with them in real life. But for some teens, this is their experience. Because bad things happen in real life, and sometimes you need to know they have happened to other people also. The book was banned for "frank descriptions of masturbation, sex, drugs and suicide". Yes these are touchy subjects, but I also think they are relevant to most teens.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I'll be honest with you, my daughter read this way before I did. But when I finally read this with my adult book club, she was sitting beside me patiently waiting for me to finish so we could talk about it. She was a big fan of the first book, thought the second one was pretty good, and really didn't like the third one. We had some great conversations over this one, and I have since talked ad nauseum to the teens at the library about it for Teen Book Club and our Teen Hunger Games program. I honestly think us moms were more disturbed by the content than the teens. I remember wondering why anyone would want to watch a movie about a bunch of kids being forced to kill each other for a spectator sport, but I think they did the movies as tastefully as possible. I think my favorite question I posed to the teens was whether they would volunteer for the games if their younger sibling was chosen, like Katniss does in the book...the answers were hilarious. One of my daughter's biggest gripes was Katniss having to end up with one of the boys...she thought that was a deviation from her personality in the first book, where she wasn't really interested in them or romance. The book was banned for being "anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitive and violent". 

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

I have a friend and previous coworker who LOVES YA books. Most of the YA books I have read have either been at her recommendation, or one of my kids...which is helpful when giving recommendations to patrons at the library. Anyway, this one was a pick of hers. She knew I liked Shakespeare, and the book starts off with the main character running off for a day in Paris with a Dutch actor she meets at a Shakespearean play in England, while on a school trip. The day changes her life, and you see the repercussions play out. This would be a good one for discussions of first sexual experiences, whether there is such a thing as love at first site, and the aftermath of making those very serious adult decisions. It was banned for a "graphic sex scene and underage drinking".

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

 It's been a very long time since I've read this book. A VERY long time. I remember the movie way better than the book. I know the author was 16 years old when she wrote it, which I think plays into a lot of the more sensitive elements of these juvenile delinquent gang members ;) Some of the reviewers now have commented on how often these boys cry, hug each other, and read poetry! But I think this classic can still teach teens about how seemingly different people can still be going through the same things...and get their opinions on killing in self-defense. It was banned for "ungodly" themes.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

If you have read any of my previous blog posts you know I am a Harry Potter Fan and my children are also. I started reading these books out loud to my oldest when he was very young and going to school in England. I absolutely slaughtered the pronunciation of the names, and my Hagrid voice wasn't very good...but he was hooked, and I proceeded to read the entire series out loud to the kids (some books more than once). There are almost too many good discussion themes in here, and I feel like it has probably been written about better elsewhere. But especially in the first book, talking about Harry's isolation and feelings that he was an outsider, his horrible family dynamic, friendship, and the lengths he and his friends went to defeat a bad guy are good starting points. I think the people who get too hung up on the "magic" are missing the point. The magic is just a backdrop, and I doubt it turned any 9 year-olds into satan worshipers. The focus here should be on Love, which both God and Dumbledore felt similarly about. It was of course banned for "glorifying witchcraft".

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is another one that I haven't read in ages. A Pulitzer Prize winning story about a single father and his children living in Depression era Alabama is considered a classic, for good reason, and has been on high school reading lists for decades. Atticus Finch is one of the most beloved figures in Fiction. As a matter of fact, my daughter claims she's naming her son Atticus Beowulf. I can understand people's passionate response to reading the book that was released last year, in which Atticus wasn't quite the enlightened individual he is in Mockingbird. This is in essence a coming of age story. It was banned for "profanity, rape references and racial content".

Garfield: His 9 Lives by Jim Davis

My sister LOVED Garfield when we were little. I don't know what it was about him...his love of sleeping and crankiness maybe? (Sorry Sis!) But I'm not sure this Garfield book would've been a favorite, considering it is a little messed up. This book contains the 9 lives of Garfield...all done in a different style of drawing and genre. If my memory is correct, it is a fairly odd book. I can see that it was challenged and moved out of the kids section of a school in 1986, but haven't really seen the reason why. But it's Garfield, people!

And a Special Mention Goes out to....

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Okay, I know I said this list had a few of my favorite teen banned or challenged books, but I thought I'd throw Twilight in as a special mention. Yes, I have read the entire series. I even read the story Stephenie Meyer started that was put online, in the voice of Edward. I know many folks who love these books, and many who hate them. My daughter used to have a shirt that said "Then Buffy Staked Edward, The End", which might give you a hint of where my family's opinion lies. If I write this paragraph in the vein of the others, here are a few examples of what you can talk to your teenager about when reading the Twilight series: Divorce, abusive relationships, the mythology of vampires and werewolves, waiting to have sex until marriage, feeling like an outsider in a new place, and the merits of dating a man who sparkles ;) The book has been banned for being "too racy" and "contradicting religious beliefs".

So...once again I'd like to say that I'm not advocating you let your teen read everything under the sun, with abandon and zero parental supervision. What I AM condoning is dialogue between yourself and your teen...and seeing the merit of using fiction for conversation. I absolutely 100% believe that anything you can do to keep your teen talking to you is good. So, just because your kid is now a teenager, it doesn't mean it's time to stop reading with them. But remember, just because you don't want your child to read it, doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to let mine.

Next up is the Children's edition!!  Let me know your thoughts on Banned and Challenged books. Do you have a favorite teen book that you're shocked to realize was banned somewhere? Do you believe in censorship, and think we should go back to burning books? I'd love to hear your thoughts, either here or over on my Facebook page

Monday, September 26, 2016

Quick Library Perk Post...

I wrote a post the other day about getting the most out of your library, and the very next day I found what I consider to be a HUGE untapped resource that most libraries employ, and I just had to let y'all know about it. When I was working yesterday I sent two patrons to OneClickdigital for books they were interested in that we didn't have physical copies of in the library. After they walked out I started thinking that perhaps I should check it out and see what all they had available.

I was blown away. 

To say that they have a plethora of audiobooks and ebooks to read for free would be an understatement. But the thing I was most shocked by were the lectures from The Great Courses. If you have never heard of the company, they offer college level lectures on over 600 prerequisites, from the comfort of your home.
If you remember, I am a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin (I fan-girled hard over here). I really enjoy listening to her podcasts and The Great Courses is one of her sponsors. I had gone over to their Great Courses Plus site to check it out after listening to their ad. With a monthly fee you can watch all you want of their video lectures. I almost signed up...but I know that there would probably be months that I would pay the fee and never watch a lecture...and then months where I would watch a few of them. I felt it was fiscally irresponsible, but I love learning new it was incredibly tempting.

Enter OneClickdigital.

They have over 600 audiobook lectures from Great Courses. And when I say lecture, since this is a book blog, their lecture From Plato to Post-modernism: Understanding The Essence of Literature and the Role of the Author is over 12 hours long. Twenty Three chapters of roughly 30 minutes each.

They have subjects from science to history, religion to music, nutrition to book writing and everything in between.

I think this is a fabulous resource for people who just have an insatiable desire to learn new things. Or parents homeschooling high school students. Afterschoolers who have a teen interested in delving farther into their favorite subject. And all FREE through your library.

So next time you are in your library, ask them if they offer OneClickdigital to their patrons, and let me know what you think. I know every library may not have the program, but if your local library happens to be on a military installation, chances are this program will be available for you.

*It reads like an ad, but I promise you I am not being paid by anyone...I just get excited easily :)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Light of Paris...

*this post contain an affiliate link, please check out my review policy for more info

Sometimes you pick up a book and are drawn in by the first sentence...or the first paragraph...and you just know that you are going to enjoy it. I instantly felt that way about The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown, and it didn't disappoint.
 The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown review by Tomes and Tequila blog
"I didn't set out to lose myself. No one does, really. No one purposely swims away from the solid, forgiving anchor of their heart. We simply make the tiniest of compromises, the smallest of decisions, not realizing the way those small changes add up to something larger until we are forced, for better or worse, to face the people we have become."
 This is how we are introduced to Madeleine, and instantly you can feel how unhappy she is in her current life. From the outside it looks like she has it all. A handsome and wealthy husband. A beautiful condo in Chicago. She spends her free time volunteering at a local art gallery. But inside, she is miserable. Her husband is controlling and belittling, as is her mother...who is one of the reasons she married. Under the pretty exterior, she is in turmoil. After a troubling argument with her husband, which ends with him saying they should just divorce, she leaves for a planned trip to visit her mother in Magnolia ("in between Memphis and Little Rock"). While there she reads the journals of her Grandmother Margie, who strikes out on her own in 1920's Paris and is filled with the same inner angst as Madeleine. Are either of them going to find a way to live their true selves?
I picked up this book because A) it has the word Paris in the title and B) the A in Paris is shaped like the Eiffel Tower. I really am that shallow sometimes when it comes to books. But, I am a total Francophile, and love reading about Paris during the Jazz Age. The book alternates between Madeleine and Margie...and all of the chapters that had Margie in Paris reminded me of the movie Midnight in Paris, which is the only Woody Allen film I have ever enjoyed. (It didn't hurt that Tom Hiddleston plays F. Scott Fitzgerald) Her story arc was compelling to me, and I found myself hoping her life would turn out different than I already knew it would. But what really kept me reading was Madeleine.

I know some of the other reviewers complained that they felt Madeleine's character was too whiny, ungrateful, etc. I, on the other hand, could empathize with her angst and her problems with self-esteem. That feeling that it all comes easy to other women, and so hard to you. To illustrate...I look at women wearing scarves all the time and think they look so beautiful and well put together...I put one on and spend the day fussing with it, afraid I look like a goofy impostor. I could give you a million examples, but I am sure me and Madeleine have that in common.
In the book though she is reminded, and I need the reminder too sometimes, that you never know what is going on in the minds of anyone else. In The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness we met the character of Lindy, who main character Nina felt had the perfect life, and come to find out she deals with debilitating anxiety. Often times looks can be deceiving, and I honestly think that is worse now in the age of social media.

So, in a nutshell, I really enjoyed this book and will definitely recommend it to folks at the library. I wanted to see Madeleine get past herself, and her horrible inner dialogue, and become her "true self"...and not who everyone else wanted her to be. I was rooting for her, and for Margie, all the way.

I think this would be an amazing Book Club Selection, as the conversation I know I could have with a group of girlfriends would be incredibly interesting. I would want to ask my friends if they ever felt like an impostor? Have they ever wanted to run away to Paris? How much of a say does your mother or your husband have in your life? Do you hear your mother's voice in your head when you order dessert? LOL

If you like Paris or stories about women "finding themselves" definitely add The Light of Paris to your To Read list.

*Don't Thing 2's cactus look so cute in that picture with the book? Disregard the fact that you can see my reflection in the book...damn library book covers!  :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Getting the Most Out of Your Library

I'm feeling so much love for my workplace that I felt I should dedicate a post to all the wondrous things you can find at your local library...some of which you may not have been aware of. I definitely want to include the caveat that your local library may not have all of these programs/items available...but my small military library does, so chances are yours might too...and if not, ask your librarian about it. Generally speaking, most library workers love talking about their facility, and will go out of their way to make sure you're happy.
If you haven't been inside a library in awhile (shame on you!) you may be surprised to find it isn't the hushed sacred stacks environment of yore. Well, that is unless your "local" library happens to be of the large academic variety, in which case it may be a bit more conservative. But most libraries, in an effort to stay relevant and continue to receive funding, have taken on the roll of community the noise level can get up there, especially if there is a kid's program taking place. The stereotype of bun wearing old ladies with glasses, shhhh-ing you if you so much as mumble is no longer relevant. Most librarians work very hard to keep current on local trends, and really don't want to make folks terrified to walk into the building. It sort of defeats the purpose.

Now that I've got you inside the doors, let me introduce you to some lesser known items or programs you might find.
  • Interlibrary Loans: If you walk into your library just dying to check out a specific book, and they don't have it...please ask at the circulation desk if they do Interlibrary Loans. Basically your local library will "borrow" your book from another library, and you will pick it up and return it to them. This is a magical program, in my opinion. It means I can go through my "To Read" list on Goodreads, whether we have the item in my library or not. Libraries only have so much space...but they are normally more than happy to try and get an item in for you if you want it. This works best for books at least 6 months in publication because most libraries don't want to lend out their hottest bestsellers. Sometimes if they can't get it in ILL, and it's a recent book, they will just order it to add to their collection...just to accommodate you. It's like magic!
  • Zinio magazines: FREE MAGAZINES ONLINE. I'm not sure that I have to do the hard sell on this one. But, I have always been a huge fan of magazines. My husband, on the other hand, isn't a big fan of my magazine piles laying all over the house. Enter online magazines. The library I work at offers this program for FREE, all you have to do is make your account through our website. Zinio offers TONS of magazines which you can read from your computer or other electronic device. These are new magazines, and not just strange titles you've never heard of. I'm talking Runner's World, Esquire, O Magazine, ESPN, Allure, Outside, Parents, GQ, Architectural Digest and Seasonal Home Magazines. Now, not all libraries have this, but it's worth asking.
  • Overdrive: Through Overdrive you have access to free Ebooks, Audiobooks and Videos all accessible on your computer or electronic device (I use my Kindle, but I know they have an app for your smartphone). You can check out items just like you would at your local library, for a set amount of time, and when the checkout period is over with...poof, it is taken off your device (you get a warning email beforehand). Most libraries will have slightly different titles on Overdrive than they have in their actual facility. I have a friend who listens to audiobooks when she runs, and asked online recently for tips on getting more books to listen to at a cheaper price. More than a few mentioned Overdrive at the library. The plethora of free audiobooks you can download (sorry Audible) from the library makes it a valuable resource. They even have exercise DVD's cool is that? 
  • My library offers the use of for FREE with your library card. This means homework help for your kid, or you, at the touch of your hands. It may not be free at a regular public library, but I know the service is free for military...whether a military kid, or active duty/reserves. I know a lot of my readers are affiliated with the military, but I don't know that everyone got the memo we offer this service. has homework help by REAL PEOPLE...not a computer program. I have a coworker whose daughters use this fairly regularly...and have had nothing but good to say about the website. If you're not military...ask your librarian. 
  • Language Programs: If you, or someone in your family, are interested in learning a foreign language, you can find many helpful resources at your library. At mine we offer CD/DVD programs to check out (your Pimsleur/Rosetta Stone type resource)...but we also offer an online program called Transparent Languages. You sign up in the library, and then can use the website from anywhere. Terrific additional resource if you or your child are taking a language course, or traveling to a foreign country. 
  • DVD's: This one is simple. My library gets new release DVD's every week...just like Redbox, only FREE. We have the latest children's animated programs, documentaries and blockbusters. I know some libraries charge a nominal fee for the program, but ours is free. AND, if there is one coming out in the future you can't wait to get your hands on, we may even order it for you! Because chances are, if you want it enough to request it...someone else will probably be interested in watching also. With more people getting rid of cable, I think not using the library as a source of entertainment would be a shame. 
  • Programs: Okay, this is an area that will vary tremendously depending on where you are located, but my library offers a plethora of programs for every age range. We have weekly Story Time's for the little munchkins (today I did a fabulous Pirate Story Time, complete with eye patches for the kiddos!) which include a few stories and a craft. Once a month we have a large kid's program, with different varying themes. We have done Star Wars, Frozen, Christmas, a Valentine's Prom, Field Day, etc. Sometimes we even do a Puppet Show, which the kiddos LOVE. My library has monthly book clubs for elementary age on up to adult. We have a chess club for all ages. We offer an adult craft club, which does different Pinterest style crafts every month. Game day sees different games for all ages on tables throughout the library. OH, and we have a Lego Table for kids to play with, and often hold Lego creation contests. We have also done teen/adult programs for Doctor Who, Marvel, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, with much success. Like I said, different libraries will have different programs, but you can bet their calendar is pretty full.
So, if you are still thinking of the Library as a place to just check out books, stop by your local one sometime soon and see what they have to offer. I think you might be surprised!
(I feel like I should say, this public service announcement brought to you by copious amounts of wine and a very healthy love for my job!!)

Let me know if your library offers any of these services, or others I may not have mentioned. I am always curious what other libraries are doing! Let me know in the comments here or over on my Facebook Page

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Woman in Cabin 10...

It had been awhile since I'd read a suspenseful mystery, so I thought I'd grab The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware from the library and give it a shot. I had noticed it on "Must Read" lists...and comparisons to The Girl on the Train, which I'd enjoyed (although it really made me question my alcohol consumption!). Despite thinking the cover looked remarkably similar to a ton of other recent books I'd noticed on the shelves, I figured it was worth checking out.
I would give this book a solid 3 1/2 stars (rounded up to 4 on Goodreads) because I think the author was going for an Agatha Christie style whodunnit, but she didn't quite make it. The first bit dragged for me...the middle was good...and the end was so so.

The book starts with Lo Blacklock being burgled during the night in her flat in London. She has always struggled with anxiety, for which she is taking medication, but the burglary really throws her head into a spin. She is barely through her initial shock when she hops onto a luxury yacht to write a story for her boss, who is on maternity leave. This is her chance to finally make it big in her career. She just has to schmooze a few folks and write a great paper. But her nerves are shot, and the whole event has started off wrong. Then she wakes in the night with the faint memory of a scream in her mind...and hears a large splash outside her room. Did she witness a murder? But there's no one missing on the ship? And why isn't anyone else believing her?

I used to LOVE Agatha Christie novels...and Murder on the Orient Express was always my favorite. I like the idea of the closed room mystery. Something has happened, and you know there is a murderer among you. Initially you think it was one character...then something else is discovered and you change your mind and move to the next suspect. The entire time you are flipping pages faster and faster...dying to know how the story is going to resolve itself.

The Woman in Cabin 10 just didn't do an amazing job at building the tension, or even getting to know the characters that may have been involved in the "murder". I didn't feel like I knew any of the them well enough to venture a guess that they might be involved. Their descriptions upon Lo meeting and interacting with them was very brief. It was more Lo making mistakes and stumbling through a dinner party, and less about the other folks there. So when it came time for her to go through the other folks on the yacht, worrying about who had done it, I found myself having trouble remembering who was who. (This is where the evasiveness of trying not to write spoilers makes it difficult to really write a book review!)
My other issue with this book is their use of Lo's anxiety issues as a means of disregarding her worries and complaints when presented with them. In The Girl on the Train, the character Rachel spends an entire book doubting herself and trying to get folks to believe her, because of her alcoholism. Her alcoholism is basically another character in the book, and it is believable. As someone who has had issues with anxiety in the past, although not at a level needing daily medication, I find it hard that anyone would think that it would preclude her from rationally explaining that someone is writing notes on her mirror while she's in the shower, or things are missing from her room. Or that because of her glasses of champagne, and little white pill, she may have hallucinated a woman giving her a tube of mascara from the room next door. It is one thing to have your drunken blackouts be a reason for having things mixed up in your mind, it's another to have anxiety be given the same doubtful response. I am in no way dismissing anxiety, don't get me wrong. I have friends whose whole lives are greatly affected by their anxiety problems. But when something like 11% of the American population take antidepressants, I don't think anyone would find them cause for dismissal of a woman's complaints that she witnessed a murder. You might think her reaction to things would be heightened perhaps, but not hallucinated. Or at least that is my opinion.

Okay, after going on that rant, I went back and changed it to a 3 stars! LOL

Really, the book had a lot of promise, I just don't think it got all the way there. It wasn't a bad book, I enjoyed it enough to keep flipping pages. But the middle lacked depth, and the ending was a bit disappointing. It wouldn't be a bad book club book though, because there definitely is enough in it to generate quite a bit of discussion. And it isn't so long of a book to be overwhelming for your less enthusiastic readers. But I feel like the author was trying to make the next Girl on the Train or Gone Girl...and it didn't quite get there.

So, have you read this one? Did you like it? How do you feel about Agatha Christie style mysteries? Do you think I'm being a little too harsh? Let me know in the comments, either here or over on my Facebook page!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Banned Books...Adult Edition!!

September is the month Libraries go CRAZY over Banned Books! I have decided to do a 3 part BEST OF BANNED BOOKS to remind everyone of the small mindedness of folks the world over.  This is my Adult Edition!

First perhaps I should tell you my own very strong opinion regarding banned and challenged books.
It's as simple as that. As a grown ass woman, I don't want anyone telling me what I can or cannot read. I am perfectly capable of picking up a book and deciding whether I find it's content offensive or not. And if it's offensive to my morals or my sensibilities...I can put it back down. Afterwards, I may tell you that I didn't like it...that it wasn't a good fit...but I don't think because of that I should be able to tell you that you can't read it. I may not like a book that you loved. You may not like a book I loved. I may find some content perfectly fine, and you would blush, be shocked, and never DARE to pick up a book like that again...and vice versa. But this is a personal decision. Objectionable topics tend to make the best discussion fodder...and you know how I feel about discussion fodder! (Y'all are probably sick of that word by now!)

So here is a list of a few banned and challenged Adult books. It's my list and I haven't decided yet if they will all be ones I love...or ones I just am shocked by...or ones I disliked enough to make note of. I will try and let you know why it was banned or challenged though.
The Bible...came in 6th place on the Top 10 List of Most Challenged books for 2015. It's the first time it has landed on the top 10 list in the United States.  It has been challenged for "religious viewpoints" along with "incitement to violence" and "sexual content inappropriate to minors". I'm not pushing a Christian agenda here, but I don't think anyone should be kept from reading the Bible if they want to.
Black Hawk Down was challenged for it's cursing. This book moved me, the wife of a military member, to tears. I think it did a phenomenal job of portraying a horrible event in our nation's history.
The Da Vinci Code did nothing to change my thoughts on Jesus, artwork or conspiracy theories...but it definitely kept me flipping pages when it came out. My favorite edition is the one that includes artwork and maps. It was banned for being "offensive to Christianity".
Water for Elephants was a book club selection for me when I lived in  Missouri. I gave it 4 stars back then, and it is now mingled in my brain with the movie (which I remember to be fairly faithful to the book). It was banned for sexual content...the likes of which I have no recollection.
The Kite Runner was another book club selection back in Missouri that I seem to remember liking quite a bit...although the subject matter can best be described as depressing. It was challenged for "desensitizing children to violence" at a high school. I know this was required reading for my daughter in high school, and brought about plenty of vibrant conversation.
I think my North Dakota friends would agree with me when I say, this was one messed up "classic" book. Brave New World has been banned for it's casual sex and deemed "pornography" over the years. But it was very good. And it made for some seriously fabulous conversation.
Nineteen Minutes was another of my book club books. This book was challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence and incidents of bullying. Which is exactly why it is a good book. It deals with a school shooting...and is a great way to discuss the horrifying reality and complexity of these sort of violent events.

And before this post gets so long I have lost all of my readers, I will end with the trifecta of my daughter's favorite books. I will remind everyone that she is 18...

Now that is some serious literature right there! We have All Quiet on the Western Front, The Divine Comedy and The Prince.  Degenerate and Anti-German, offensive and discriminatory, and a direct threat to Roman Catholic authority.

So, pick up a banned or challenged book this month. Let me know what you're reading. I am reading Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. Do you agree with my thoughts on Banned or Challenged books? I will post my teen and older children editions soon!! I'll leave you with the American Library Association's graphic on the top reasons books have been challenged this year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

When You're Sad...

I love books. This is a book blog. I am a book blogger. I work in a library. I read books for work. I read books for fun. I enjoy being surrounded by piles of books. I am happiest when I have a huge To-Read stack waiting for me. But right now I am sad...and I haven't read much.

You see...I married into a very large and loving family, and we lost one of our own last weekend. It didn't come out of the blue. We all knew it was going to happen sooner rather than later. But a very large hole has opened up in the family. I would describe my brother-in-law to you, but he was indescribable...I just don't have the words. My husband was able to fly down to be with the rest of them, but I couldn't make it this time. And it is very hard to be the person left at home when everyone is grieving together.
Couple this with a migraine issue that has turned into a week long headache, and you get a very melancholy Christina. I have too much on the brain, my heart hurts...and so does my head.

Why am I telling all of you this? Mainly because I have tried to post a few times a week since I started this blog...and it has been almost a week since I posted anything new. I want to be a reliable source of literary information for you but instead of reading I have been curled up under a blanket watching Harry Potter movies (and special features) for a week. I pick up a book, and then set it back down again. I just can't concentrate long enough. Perhaps some of you have experienced the same thing in a time of grief.

I hope to have another new review for you soon. I started The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware and it has me intrigued, so that will probably be next. But I am allowing myself to be sad right now, and trying not to beat myself up over it.

On a happier note, I hope you checked out my #askmeanything feature on the Chat About Books blog. If you haven't taken a look, you can find it here. Were my answers what you expected? Is there anything you're dying to know about me? Feel free to leave a comment here or over on my Facebook page.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Liane Moriarty didn't let me down (well, not really)...

Sorry I have been MIA for a few days. A serious migraine kept me from reading as much as normal, but I am back to my somewhat abnormal self and excited to get back on top of my To Read list! Also, I have been doing some brainstorming on posts to share in addition to reviews, so expect some new content soon. But for now, let me tell you about the new Liane Moriarty I finally got my hands on from the library...Truly Madly Guilty.
As I told you over here, Liane Moriarty's books are automatic To Reads for me. I have enjoyed every one, and I think they make marvelous Book Club selections because they are usually filled with all sorts of juicy nuggets to dissect and discuss. Truly Madly Guilty wasn't my favorite of hers, but it was definitely filled with conversational fodder.

I really enjoyed the format of this book. I tried to describe it to my son and it went something like this: It gives you a little tidbit of the aftermath of "the event"...then bounces to right before "the event"...then a tiny morsel of "the event"....then back to the aftermath...then the precursors...etc, until FINALLY you understand what happened!! I have actually read quite a few books recently that were set up like that, including The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. I have learned you just can't think about them too hard. You have to roll with it, or you'll be driven batty.

Truly Madly Guilty is the story of six adults...three couples really...and the event that changes their lives, some in huge ways and others in small.

Clementine and Erika have been friends since they were kids, but they have a very strange and dysfunctional relationship. Erika had a bad childhood, and Clementine's mother took her on as a project for her really. A "look at that poor little girl, she needs a friend" sort of thing...and Clementine has fought with her disgruntled feelings ever since.

Clementine is a concert cellist and has two little girls with her husband Sam. She likes to think of herself as an artistic bohemian, and they have a pretty solid relationship.

Erika is the accountant she always aspired to be...married to another number's person Oliver. She comes off as a very stiff and rigid character, with a possible personality disorder...but the two were made for each other.

Vid and Tiffany are Erika's neighbors who invite the two couples over for a BBQ (aka, the event). They are loaded, live in a pretentious dream house, and Vid's very boisterous over-the-top character almost hogs the entire book.

So...what happened at the BBQ? You'll have to read it to find out. I try my best to keep the spoilers at a minimum but I can tell you that some of the book club discussion content would include pregnancy, sexuality, hoarding, a little kleptomania, friendships, death and grieving, marital bliss, and what makes a good couple. This is why I think her books are perfect for your average book club (not that I was ever involved in an AVERAGE book club!!).

Like I said up above, this wasn't my favorite Liane Moriarty book, but I thought it was good. I would give it 3.5 stars (rounded up on Goodreads). I liked What Alice Forgot much more. Yes, it kept me reading because I was dying to figure out what on earth happened at that damn BBQ...but once I had figured it out, there was a little meh moment. It just didn't captivate me. "The Event" wasn't as juicy as I'd thought it would be. But it was still a solid book.

Are you a fan of Liane Moriarty's books? Have you read this one? What did you think? I am always curious if I'm being too hard on an author! Let me know in the comments, or over on my Facebook page.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Survivor's Guide...

Every once in awhile you pick up a book, and know within the first couple of sentences that it's going to be a favorite. The writing style speaks to you. You want to be best friends with a character. You find yourself invested in their struggles. You are rooting for them with all of your might. I felt this way about the character Nina Popkin in the book The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson.
I would like to personally shake the hand of whatever admin on Netgalley approved my request to read this. It was written so cleverly that it reminded me of what was missing from the last couple books I've reviewed. And it has a pretty colorful cover, with a BIRD on it! I know I have told y'all before how I feel about birds...and my impulse to purchase anything pretty that has a bird on it. I digress...

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness tells the story of three women, but I would say it's mainly about Nina Popkin and her craving to really belong in a family of her own. I love this character. I feel like I need to apologize to Isabel Spellman, as Nina is definitely my new literary BFF. 

The book starts off in 1979 with Phoebe, very pregnant and in love with Tilton...running wild on their last night together before he leaves for college, with their friend A.J. She is very young and still in high school, but we learn she already has a toddler at home and big dreams of her future. But the night ends in a hinted at tragedy.

The rest of the book is present day...35 years later. Enter Nina Popkin. She is floundering a bit now that her adopted mother has died of cancer...and her ex-husband is happily remarried to the bank teller he left her for. All she wants is a family of her own. She has always dreamed of finding her birth mother and decides she is going to solve this mystery once and for all. 

She finds out she has a sister who grew up around the corner and went to school with her. Lindy is a successful businesswoman with 3 beautiful children and an anxiety issue. The last thing she wants in her structured life is a whirlwind like Nina. She has always been perfectly happy with her large adoptive family...or has she? 

Then Nina hunts down her mom...who is also a little less than enthused to meet the children she gave up. Phoebe has tried hard not to think about her past, and the painful event that led to the decision to give up her babies. Why rehash it? 

Is Nina ever going to get the family of her dreams? 
You know how much I love my dysfunctional family books, and this one has a little bit of everything in it...all wrapped up in a sarcastic and witty bundle. There is a little bit of romance. Some fabulous jokes about The Beatles. Crazy hair dye and frogs. A very unsuccessful and short get away drive. Laughs. Drama. Tears. An education on guys in bars bearing margaritas. And a fabulous and chaotic ending.

In short, this book should definitely be on your To Read list. It would make a great book club selection, as there is much fodder for discussion. What makes up a family? How important is it? Do we ever really feel like we belong? Is it really crazy to throw food out your back door in protest? All important questions to ponder.

The Survivor's Guide to Happiness comes out October 25th from Lake Union Publishing. I highly recommend it...and will probably be spouting off about it for the next few months. I hope my boss already has it on her list to order, so I don't have to grovel. :)

I hope everyone is having a fabulous Labor Day weekend! Are you reading anything spectacular? Let me know in the comments, or over on my Facebook page

Friday, September 2, 2016

In Twenty Years...

I have always loved the film The Big Chill. College friends getting together after the death of one of their own...reminiscing about the good old days, and how much they have changed from their young idealistic selves. In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch sounded very similar, so I was super happy Netgalley sent me a copy of the book to review. And although I can't say it was as good as the film, I did enjoy this light summer read.
The book starts off in 1998, at the end of a group of 6 friends Senior year of College. They are young and carefree, ready to take on the world...determined to stay close and remain the best of friends no matter what life throws at them. Bea is the heart of the group. She has already been through hardships, and values the "six pointed star" that is their posse. Lindy is the wild child rocker. Annie is the insecure one. Colin is the sexy hunk. Catherine and Owen are the loving couple. Their friendship is toasted, and a time capsule is saved for their 20th reunion.

Cut to 2016 and everything has changed...or has it. Lindy is still the wild child rocker, now famous. Annie is still the insecure one, now a trophy wife. Colin is still the sexy a famous plastic surgeon in LA. Catherine and Owen are still a couple...she a CEO of a giant Martha Stewart-esque crafting empire, he a miserable stay at home dad. But Bea died a few years back, the friends had a falling out, and there are hard feelings all over the place. Then the friends receive letters stating that a reunion had been set up at Bea's meet up at the old house they once shared, to celebrate what would've been her 40th birthday. They of course drop everything, some reluctantly, to honor their old friend and see what comes of it. To say the event is a mess would be an understatement.

This book was an easy read at 332 pages and I'd give it a 3.5 stars (rounded up to 4 on Goodreads). I think it would make a good chick lit book club selection, so I can see why it has made all the "Best Summer Reads" lists online. The wheel wasn't reinvented here, but there was a lot to be said about friendships and growing up that I think would make for good discussion.

I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but there was a little more than a love triangle...more like a love circle...or a love multi-pointed line in here that was pretty interesting. Colin loved Bea. Annie loved Colin. Lindy loved Annie. Annie tried to ignore Lindy's feelings for Lindy slept with Colin. Bea was irritated with everyone for it. Years and years later there were still hard feelings. This brings up the topic of whether men and women can really be "friends". Bisexuality is also a big unspoken issue, as Lindy has relationships with both men and women, and has a very lackadaisical attitude about love and sex. And is generally just an asshole for sport.

Catherine and Owen's marriage is a very overblown and exaggerated example of the issues many people have when with someone for a long time. You could call them a "Power Couple" if they both weren't so miserable. Growth in a relationship, gender roles, honesty between spouses...all good fodder for readers.

Annie has been fighting with herself for years. Fighting to rid herself of the Texas trailer park upbringing she's ashamed of. Hiding and dismissing her feelings. Trying to be what other people want her to be instead of being herself. Taking pills to dull her inner voice. She needs something dramatic to shake her up and force her to take a stand, for herself. Her character is also a terrific example of our current Social Media culture. Looking for the perfect filter and snapshot to make her life look brilliant to others.

I found Colin's character to be the least interesting. He may have been the most likeable, but in my opinion that's because he wasn't fleshed out as well as the others.

So, another fun look at people in their 40's. It has been a trend in my reading lately! It wasn't the best book I've read all summer, but I read it in two sittings, gulping down the last few chapters late at night because I was curious how it was all going to be wrapped up. I thought the writer did a good job of writing the voices of the different characters, which has to be hard with 6 different and very distinct personalities.

If you are a fan of chick lit books (I use that description with love in my heart, just because it's the only way I know to describe them!) or books about friends/friendships and how they grow over the years, I would add this to your to-read list. I guess Adult Contemporary might also be a good word for it.

Anyway, let me know if you've read this one, either in the comments here or over on my Facebook page.  How is everyone doing on their Goodreads Challenge, by the way? I am still behind :( I definitely have room for improvement. Enjoy your long Labor Day weekends!!