Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Support Ellen Hopkins

As you all know, there were some shenanigans with the Norman, Oklahoma school district involving Ellen Hopkins and her books. One crazy ass parent ripped into the school, demanded Crank and Glass be removed from the library and didn't want Ellen speaking to any students in the entire school district. The psycho got her wish because the superintendent is a pussy and doesn't want to actually have a discussion about something like that and would much rather just snuff it before the flame gets too big.

So Ellen's books were banned from the library and she, as a person, was banned from the school district. Neener on them that she still spoke at a local venue but, of course, no one that made the fuss about her to begin with deigned to show up. Figures, right? Surely that wacko mom had never read any of Ellen's books either. Just found out what they were about and went on a stink about them.

Now Ellen's got a local radio personality on her ass about the good of the banning, the bad of her books and the immorality she's promoting by writing such filth. Yeah, if you're not *headdesk*ing by now, you're a better person than I am.

Now Ellen's asking for your help. Go to her blog and snag the email addresses she has listed. BE NICE and send in your reasons why Ellen is a fantastic author, why her books are encouraging and why they should remain on the shelves. The objective here is to BE NICE! Meaning, don't use coarse language. It'll pretty much invalidate your point and get your email deleted. Say what you want, but say it with class.

Yeah, this coming from me. Hey, I'm not sending the guy my blog post, am I? But be sure to send your thoughts to these guys and get your voices heard and make sure that Ellen gets her day in court. She and her books don't deserve to be treated like they have by the Norman, Oklahoma locals.

Contest Reminder!

Just a reminder to everyone that part deux of my Ban This! Win This! contest ends tonight at midnight EST! Be sure to get your entries in by then!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Most Excellent Banned Books Links

Dammit! Blogger has smacked right into my company's firewall. Boo. Maybe I shouldn't have started posting at work? Eh.

Anyway. here are a few brain-stimulating links about banned and challenged books I found floating around the web.

List of Banned Books by Governments

While I'm not a fan of Wikipedia because it's one of the most inaccurate encyclopedias on the web, it still provides an interesting go-through of what's been banned where and when. That is, if it's accurate.

A teen book burns at the stake

Remember that post I made about the idiots in the Midwest that not only wanted to ban Baby Be-Bop from their local library but burn it at the stake? This is an article about that very same incident from the author's, Francesca Lia Block's, point of view.


A pretty cool site on censorship and book banning. I really love the layout. It's so poignant and minimalistic but really fits with the overall theme. Trust me. You'll get it when you see it.

First Amendment Center

The legal side of book banning and how the courts pwn those morons that attempt it.

Banned Books and Censorship

Another thorough site on book banning and censorship (obviously).

Be sure to check these all out and pass them along to everyone you know. Let's maintain our freedom to read what we want, when we want.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Quiet Belief in Angels by RJ Ellory + Contest!

Published September 8th, 2009.

1939. In the small, rural community of Augusta Falls, Georgia, twelve-year-old Joseph Vaughan learns of the brutal assault and murder of a young girl, the first in a series of killings that will plague the community over the next decade. Joseph and his friends are determined to protect the town from the evil in their midst and form "The Guardians." But the murderer evades them and they watch helplessly as one child after another is taken.

Even when the killings cease, a shadow of fear follows Joseph for the rest of his life. The past won't stay buried and, fifty years later, Joseph must confront the nightmare that has overshadowed his entire life . . .
(book blurb)

I don't read out and out mysteries very often and this book was a random grab at BEA. I just went, "free book!" *yoink* Thankfully it sounded interesting enough and it's set during a time period I normally like so what the hell, right?

It took a little bit to get into and the voice is a retroactive one - the grown up Joseph Vaughan telling the story as he grew up so it's a little strange to read a kid having such high end thoughts. But you get used to it. The only thing I found really annoying was how the MC kept dropping all of his I's. The sentences would often start with the next word in the sentence. I think the author was trying to go for a particular kind of voice but I couldn't help but think, all the way through, that it was just a means to have a first person story not be littered with I's. Kind of weak but there you go.

Joseph is actually an amazingly fleshed out character. Him and his mother. You can't help but not connect with both of them, especially since, for most of the story, Joseph's still pretty young (24 before the shit really hits the fan). You can't help but feel so bad for him, and for everyone in the town, for the murders that keep happening. And when Joseph discovers one of the bodies when he was 11 or 12, it'll take your breath away.

I ended up steam-rolling right through this book because it was basically one tragedy right after the next and I'm sick and interested like that. This kid, let me tell you, had a shitty hand dealt to him over and over and over again and it makes for an immensely compelling story, as demented as that is. It's sad what happens to his mom but in the end you have to question whether it was justified or not. That kind of questioning is all over the story and it was one of the reasons why I liked it like I did.

While the murder mystery is working it's way out in real time, there's a shorter part scattered throughout the book with Joseph talking to a corpse and you can only assume it's the murderer. So when twists and herrings get thrown in, you know it's not the end, it's not it because that part that you keep reading, with the dead body, didn't happen yet. So while you read, and while pieces are thrown at you, you're trying to figure out who's the guilty party.

But the thing with mysteries is, the end is the be all end all of the book. If the ending sucks, it'll destroy the rest of it. Do you see where I'm going with this?

I don't want to give it away but I will say it felt like I was driving 70 miles an hour, slammed on the brakes and threw my car into reverse. I was in such a WTF? World when the murderer came out that I didn't know what to do with myself. It's not revealed until the very last page of the book who it is so I went from going, "Yay!" to "Huh?" in a matter of one sentence to another, it was so sudden.

And usually, with hindsight and the knowledge of who did it, you can do back through the book and pick out all the clues that would lead to that person. I couldn't do that with this one. To me those clues just weren't there and the murderer might as well been chosen out of a hat for all it was worth.

The ending totally destroyed the book for me because I felt the conclusion was so random and so out of whack with the rest of the story that I just couldn't get over it. Maybe I missed something. Something big. But even with my sieve of a memory, I would still be able to pick out instances that would give it all away. Not here. I'm telling you, totally random.

Maybe someone else, someone that's better at reading mysteries and subtleties than I am, would do better with it. It's a pretty damn good book. The end just FUBARed it for me, though, unfortunately.

Contest Time!

Want my ARC? It's all yours. Just leave a comment with your email to enter.

Contest ends October 19th at midnight, EST. US residents only, please. Good luck!

Author Bites - Beth Fantaskey on Killing Mockingbirds

A big thanks to Beth Fantaskey for contributing to Ban This! What those parents banning books fail to realize is that these books, the ones they think will dement their poor children's minds, are hugely inspirational, hugely helpful and it's hugely detrimental to remove them from circulation in any way. But I'll let Beth have the floor on that.

As I was trying to figure out what I could contribute to this dialogue, I started surfing the web for information about exactly which books have been challenged in recent years.

I’d heard about – and therefore expected to see – certain titles popping up again and again. (Good old Catcher in the Rye! Did anything make me want to read it more than the endless fretting about its content?)

But then I came across – and was jolted to see – To Kill a Mockingbird listed as a book that has faced numerous challenges.


That novel taught me more about compassion, and human decency, and the importance of doing the right thing, and being open-minded about people who seem “different” than…Well, few people or things had a greater influence on me as a young person trying to set my moral compass.

I spent the greater part of my young life wishing I was – and in my better moments trying to be – as brave and kind as Scout, and feeling lucky that I had a Dad who was a good deal reminiscent of Atticus Finch, minus the law degree. Tom Robinson awed me with his quiet, powerful grace in the face of racism that threatened his life. Even Mrs. Dubose, the angry neighbor, turned out to have a hidden strength. Gosh… I think I learned something from just about every character in that book, as the various players’ true selves emerged.What a masterpiece, on every level. Thirty-some years later, I still carry its lessons with me.

I might not be the best person in the world – but I guarantee you that I’m a better person for having read To Kill a Mockingbird.

And I kind of think that, right there, says all I need to say about banning books.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Contest Slurry

Ends ??? (don't wait!)

Autographed set of Nancy Holder books plus a tin of mints - Cindy at Princess Bookie

Ends 9/28

2 paperback sets of the Gemma Doyle trilogy - Alea at Pop Culture Junkie

Ends 9/29

Skeleton Creek and Give Up the Ghost, both by Patrick Carman - Chelsea at The Page Flipper

Ends 9/30

5 copies of Ruined by Paula Morris - Book Chick City

Signed copy of Demon Princess by Michelle Rowen plus demon goodies - Tales of the Ravenous Reader

Signed ARC of Soulless by Gail Carriger - Sara at The Hiding Spot

Ends 10/1

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble - Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag

3 copies of The Perfect Baby Handbook by Dale Hrabi - Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag

5 signed copies of Ballad by Maggie Steifvater - Free Book Friday Teens

Ends 10/3

Signed copy of Fire by Kristin Cashore - Lenore at Presenting Lenore

Signed copy of Fire by Kristin Cashore - Liviania at In Bed with Books

3 copies of Night Runner by Max Turner - Kristi at The Story Siren

Ends 10/4

The Summertime Sound by Matthew Specktor - Alea at Pop Culture Junkie

Ends 10/5

James Patterson prize pack with 8 books - Jenni at Falling Off the Shelf

David Inside Out by Lee Bantle - Robin Titan at TV and Book Addict

Ends 10/6

The Everafter by Amy Huntley - Alea at Pop Culture Junkie

Ends 10/7

2 copies of The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols - Kristi at The Story Siren

Flowers of Algernon by Daniel Keyes - Stacey at Page Turners

Ends 10/8

10 eBooks of Birthday Girl by Diane J. Wright - Ashley at Books Obsession

3 copies of Candor by Pam Bachorz - Tina at Fantastic Book Review Crisis Point or Power Surge, both by Andy Briggs - Jenny at Wondrous Reads

Just One Wish by Janette Rallison - Ashley at Books Obsession

Ends 10/11

Blue Plate Special by Michelle Kwansey - Carrie at Carrie's YA Bookshelf

Ends 10/13

One Month Blogoversary Contest, choose 1 from 5 books - Adrienne at An Addicted Book Reader

Ends 10/15

5 copes of Leviathan by Scott Westerfield - Teen Libris

Ends 10/16

5 copies of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - Kate at The Neverending Shelf

Ends 12/10

One of 25 signed copies of Secret Society by Tom Dolby plus an ankh tattoo - HarperTeen

Added to the Pile + 14

I have some cool books coming my way from Llewellyn and I got the first of them this week. Spooooooky! I can't wait to read it!

Do ghosts really exist, or is "ghostly phenomena" just strange stuff that gets blamed on dead people? Giving you the real story, professional ghostbuster and skeptic Adam Selzer of Weird Chicago Tours delves into a mysterious death at a former funeral parlor, nightly ghost sightings at Hull House, and more. Proving that not all ghost hunters are kooks (some are just geeks gone wild), Selzer showcases true spooky tales worldwide, a history of hauntings, the art of ghost hunting, and cool evidence of the supernatural. These stories will make you want to investigate that cemetery down the road to see if it's haunted - or just dark and creepy. (book back blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 21

Life sucks and then you die. Or just avoid literary short stories all together in order to avoid such a pessimistic view of life. Your choice.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just a note about my buddy . . .

Yeah, remember my buddy over at SafeLibraries? The one that brought you endless entertainment with this mindless, uninformed and just downright wrong information about how no books have been banned in the US for 50 years blah blah blah? Well, after I did some digging, I found some rather interesting information.

My buddy there claims that he is against book banning in its true sense (as in forbidden from the country Nazi-level, I guess) but feels that such decisions such as what's shelved in local libraries be left for the people to decide. Ok, fine, whatever. Such an extreme view of book banning doesn't exist in this country since it never was and isn't currently under a fascist regime but that's besides the point.

This guy's so against "traditional" book banning but one of his closest buddies is one mighty . . . person. Take a guess who it is. Go ahead. Stumped? How about this--

Ginny Maziarka.

Now you're probably going, "why do I know that name?" or "where have I heard that?"

Probably right here.

Oh yeah. The knob that claims he's against book banning is bestest buddies with the woman that defines bat shit insane. The woman that wants a gay-bashing selection of books in the YA section in order to balance the "pro-gay" books that are already there. Because it isn't fair otherwise. The same woman that wants a mere 82 YA books re-shelved and re-classified as "inappropriate" according to her virginal definition in her public library because apparently she lives with the Waltons and they shouldn't be viewing such abject literature.

Oh yeah. What a good idea it is to leave public library literature decisions up to people like this. Next thing you know my ass will be tied to a stake and I'll be drenched in kerosene.

Yeah. Oh how I laughed when I made that link between the two. And hopefully you will too. If you didn't think SafeLibraries was a knob already, hopefully you'll judge him based on the company he keeps. And be sure to read some of the glowing comments he leaves on Ms. Marm's blog. Oh he loves her so. But he's against book banning, guys. Remember that.

But just don't try to go up against them because they'll try to have the act passed as a hate crime against Christians. Tissue? Vodka? Valium?

These guys probably live by the credo of the failure-at-life Steven Anderson. I really wouldn't be surprised if they did. Not at all. Actually, considering how righteous they act and what's been said already, I half expect it. It would only further my failure-at-life opinion.

Banned Books Week - September 26th to October 3rd

Today begins ALA's banned books week! Woohoo! It's also the final week of Ban This! Be sure to spread the word about banned and challenged books, advocate for our First Amendment rights and keep reading! Spread the banned and challenged reading love by posting ALA's Banned Book Proclamation on your blog!

Banned Books Week Proclamation

WHEREAS, the freedom to read is essential to our democracy, and reading is among our greatest freedoms; and

WHEREAS, privacy is essential to the exercise of that freedom, and the right to privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one's interest examined or scrutinized by others; and

WHEREAS, the freedom to read is protected by our Constitution; and

WHEREAS some individuals, groups, and public authorities work to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label "controversial" views, to distribute lists of "objectionable" books or authors, and to purge libraries of materials reflecting the diversity of society; and

WHEREAS, both governmental intimidation and the fear of censorship cause authors who seek to avoid controversy to practice self-censorship, thus limiting our access to new ideas; and

WHEREAS, every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of American society and leaves it less able to deal with controversy and difference; and

WHEREAS, Americans still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression, and can be trusted to exercise critical judgment, to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe, and to exercise the responsibilities that accompany this freedom; and

WHEREAS, intellectual freedom is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture; and

WHEREAS, conformity limits the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend; and

WHEREAS, the American Library Association's Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year as a reminder to Americans not to take their precious freedom for granted; and

WHEREAS, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Bites YA Review Blog celebrates the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, September 26th through October 3rd, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Bites YA Review Blog encourages all libraries and bookstores to acquire and make available materials representative of all the people in our society; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Bites YA Review Blog encourages free people to read freely, now and forever.

Adopted by the Bites YA Review Blog

80s Awesomeness! ~ 30

Acid Wash!!!

This was one of the uber-styles in the 80s. Horrid, isn't it? Yet it's coming back . . . Whether you wore the style like a denim cowboy or in those jeans that were full-on mom-style (like 18 inch inseam that slimmed at the ankle) with funky-colored tube socks rolled over them, you were at the apex of IT. And they were soooooooooooo easy to make too. All you needed was bleach and a bath tub and maybe a safety mask and you were good to go. This is one style I don't understand coming back. It was absolutely ugly then and, well, it's still really ugly now. Blech.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Freaky Friday :|: 30

Title: The Stalker
Author: Nicole Davidson
Published: October 1992
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 176
Jennifer escapes an attempt on her life in an empty shopping mall, but the terrified girl is stalked by the strangler, who is determined to silence her forever. (from
Woohoo! A larger cover image! It's getting better. At least the image is, anyway. As for the books, well, they're pretty cookie cutter at this point. I'm actually more interested in reading these books just to see what was done different to make a rather mundane plotline more interesting.

HarperCollins Teen Sampler!

Click Me!

Read excerpts from five different HarperCollins Teen books: The Amanda Project 1: Invisible I by Stella Lennon and Melissa Kantor, Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani, Secret Society by Tom Dolby, Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block and The Blonde of the Joke by Bennett Madison.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Aren't vampires supposed to be evil?

Neil Gaiman really said it best in this article. Vampires as we know them today were a Victorian ruse to talk about sex without actually having to talk about sex. Vampires were evil incarnate, especially for women. If you didn't watch yourself, protect yourself, you'd been swooped in on by the dude with the pointy fangs and flowing cape and he'd make you do nasty, immoral, sinful things. The horror!

The point is that vampires used to be the epitome of evil. No one actually wanted to be them. At least that's what they said. They were something to be feared, to be repelled, not to be swooning over.

Then came the likes of The Lost Boys (I'm not just saying that, Gaiman pretty much gives that move credit for the hot vampire turnaround) where it took away the repellant and replaced it with a yearning. Yeah, sure, they were blood sucking beasts but they were young and hot and immortal. And the only trade in is no sun tanning? Where do I sign up?

But at least those vampires still maintained some semblance of irreparable action. They were still evil but the notion of being a vampire was more appealing. Maybe blood-drinking wasn't so bad. But recently the vampire has been taken even further and de-evilized even more to a simpering, whining emo nerd who can't comprehend the fact that he should go get a tan if being undead were so bad. They're not really vampires anymore. They're yuppies with stick-on fangs and blood fetishes that don't function like the vampires we all know and love. They've de-evolved to something closer to human. What the hell's the point?

Gaiman is convinced that the vampire craze is a cycle. It went dormant for a while after the 20s and 30s hype and then amped back up in the 80s and 90s, and now the beginning of the 2000s but hopefully, and one can only hope, vampires will head back down into hibernation mode in order to rejuvenate into their former selves. They've been out too long. They're tired. They can't maintain the punk rock Billy Idol evil hardass facade that long. Not with all the fangirls. They're giving in. They're getting neutered. They're losing their evil.

That's why I really have no desire to read much of the vampire fiction that's out there now. I don't want a yuppie with fangs. I want my bad ass vampires. Yeah, the Lost Boys were hot but you wouldn't catch them undead in school, let alone pining after some bland noob. They'd be eating her. Like they tried to do to Michael. The sex was what drew you in but it was just a ruse. At the end of the night, you were dinner. While we Lost Boys fangirls pine after our boy of choice we're all very much aware that, had it been real, we would have had our throats torn out of our asses. There'd be no love. No snuggles. There'd just be blood and death. Vampires kill people. Period.

So I guess I'm going to tough out this last leg the the cycle. What choice do I have? I can live in the past, and I do, and just pray to whatever god that may be listening that he bestows testicles on vampire-kind once again in the not-so-distant future. I mean, do the Twitards today even know who Bela Lugosi is?

What's next, banning books?

Here is the last of the re-posts from my writing blog. This one kind of branches out to censorship of things beyond books but the idea is still very much pertinent here.

In one of his columns for Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King openly chastised the Massachusetts legislator for trying to enact a law that would ban kids under 18 from purchasing violent video games. I’m convinced he can only make me love him more.

In so many words, he believes it should be in the hands of the parents to control what their kids do and don’t see and yes, I wholeheartedly agree. He even brought up a rather valid point: a seventeen year old can walk into a movie theater and see the next slash ‘em up flick yet he won’t be able to go to Target and purchase Grand Theft Auto. Makes sense, right? O_o

Scary enough as this is that parents just can’t bring themselves to break their friendship with their children to ban things from their own house, it could get even scarier if they started banning certain books that minors would otherwise have access to. Yes, yes, I know. The idiots* have been attempting to do this for years. God forbid Mark Twain, the civil war era writer, didn’t use “African American” in his works. Racist propagandizer he is! But think about it. In the same scenario as above, a seventeen year old can go see Saw 47 but can’t pick up The Shining. Please tell me I’m not the only one going cross-eyed at that prospect.

I echo King’s point pretty much down to the letter. Parents need to start putting a hand in to raise their children, to put their foot down and not allow things they find objectionable into their homes instead of suing this company or that for exposing their child to it, never mind it was their money that bought the product to begin with. At the same time the government needs to take a step back and stop going to such lengths to protect us from ourselves. I was 4 or 5 the first time I saw the first Poltergeist and probably about 7 or 8 the first time I saw The Exorcist. Did I try to masturbate with a crucifix? No. Why? Because my dad liked the movies (my mom was pissed he let me watch them), watched them with me and explained things to me, explained that it wasn’t real (regardless of the fact that my mom wouldn’t allow a Ouija board in the house thanks to Linda Blair) and I wasn’t allowed to watch these things on my own.

What’s the difference between Mario getting thrust over a cliff and beating up prostitutes for bonus points? Are they not both equally violent or is it because Mario is in Dot Matrix design and Grand Theft Auto is “so real”? Why is it that kids don’t understand the difference between fantasy and reality? Why do parents think Zoey 101, That’s So Raven, Hanna Montana and Sponge Bob Square Parents are so much better for their offsprings’ psyche than Mortal Combat? Acting like a tempestuous, spoiled little brat is so much better than kicking the crap out of a digital samurai?

You know, I’m not all that far off from this generation of kids without want and parents as best friends but I don’t mimic the shit I see on Jackass nor do I shoot up a hooker because I saw it on a video game. I haven’t scribbled “All work and no play . . .” on my walls nor attempted to Avada Kedavra my friends. Why do these children not know where that reality line is?

Parents need to take the blame for when their kids do something wrong instead of turning it around and making it look like the opposition is deranged. Take the guy whose kid fashioned a taser out of a cell phone. Let me repeat that. THE TURD MADE A TASER OUT OF A CELL PHONE. He brought it to school and started using it on kids. He was expelled for having a weapon on school grounds. His father (what a role model this guy is) stepped up and sued the school district for overstepping their bounds, exaggerating and made his son look like a victim who “just had a cell phone.” So if Billy files a shank out of a toothbrush and takes it to school and gets expelled for stabbing kids with it, can he use the same defense? But it’s just a toothbrush! He was practicing good oral hygiene!

But I’m getting off the topic. Kids today no sooner know right from wrong than they do fantasy from reality. Parents want their kids to be up to speed on fashion, trends and pop culture. They want them to be popular. How do you do that? Certainly not by denying them something every other kid has. "But Mom, I’m not going to know what’s going on if I don’t have Grand Theft Auto!" And god forbid parents say “tough shit.”

First it’s video games. Then the bored house wives out in the Midwest with nothing better to do will finally get their wish when the government starts banning minors’ access to objectionable books. Because obviously parents can’t get their shit together and decide what’s good and what isn’t for their kids. Only the government can to that. And yes, that can be read in a couple of different ways. If a parent wants their kid to see Schindler’s List under their supervision, it shouldn’t be illegal to do so. At the same time parents need to draw a line and actually have an active hand in raising their kids instead of just throwing movies and video games at them and being *gasp* shocked when they mimic something they’ve seen that gets other people killed and them thrown in jail.

I know I’d be pretty pissed if my books weren’t available to younger readers because the government didn’t think it was appropriate enough. I’d like to think the parents can make a fine enough decision in that department. They just need to actually step up and do it.

*I’m not calling the site owner(s) an idiot but the people that petition to actually ban books. Yeah. They’re the idiots, among other things.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Are books too gritty?

This article highlights an author talking about how she doesn't like the track that children's literature is taking as of late, mainly the gritty realism of a lot of it. She commends the books of the 50s where there was an adventure to be had, a lesson to be learned and a happy ending for everyone.

Aside from the fact that that point of view is horribly out of date and optimistic to the point of unrealistic, I think it's blanketing too much of the reading that's out there. She talks about it as if all children's books have endings that you'd rather slit your wrists to than feel happy about. That they're all too real and children don't need to be exposed to that.

The thing is, what's being written in children's books now is happening to children. Ellen Hopkins is a wonderful case in point. Her books are not dire and depressing and offer nothing to the reader. In fact, quite the opposite. They're warning tales and even amidst the hardships of the characters, there is a ray of sunshine but it's not about to slap you in the face.

Not all children or teens are white and from the middle class that skip around going tra-la-la. Yes, up-beat adventure books are fun. But even the 50s had poor kids. Destitute kids. Minority kids. Kids from bad homes. Sure they could read those books to escape but as soon as their noses were out of them, we were back in reality where things weren't so rosy. With this grittier network of reading material, it provides an alternative. Something that more children can relate to and in turn become hopeful about once they reach the end of the book. It's not such a stark difference between the book and real life but if there's a glimmer of hope in the book, so can there be in life.

Gritter books have their merits just like the fluff does. It doesn't make it any better or worse than whatever else is out there. But there are options. Kids change. Their desires change. Sure they want fantasy, someplace they can escape to, but the characters need to be those they can relate to. If they can't relate, if they can't picture themselves in those characters shoes, then what good is the fantasy?

What do you think? Are books getting too gritty? Should the market pull back or do you think this influx of more realistic fiction offers something that wasn't there in the article's mentioned author's happy time?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Alchemaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers + Contest!

Published September 3, 2009.

When Echo the Crat's mistress dies, he is compelled to sign a contract with Ghoolion the Alchemaster. This fateful document gives Ghoolion the right to kill Echo at the next full moon and render his fat, which he hopes to brew into an immortality potion. But Ghoolion has not reckoned with Echo's talent for survival and his ability to make new friends. (book back blurb)

This was another BEA grab I made. Really, I need to learn to be much more selective the next time around. Ok, so I thought the cat (which is actually a Crat) was cute. So I snagged it. Do you blame me? Could you resist? Plus it sounded like a really interesting world so I wanted to try it out.

And you know what, it was good. Actually, it was better than that despite how dense in description it was. And I mean really dense. That was why I stopped reading it. Not because I got bored or didn't enjoy what I was reading. I just didn't have the patience to get through it all. It's long. 372 pages. It's a trade paperback so it's bigger than a mass market size. The font is tiny and so are the margins. And the plot progresses excessively slowly because of all of the description.

But the thing is, it's really fun description. And I love the tone. It's quirky and darkly humorous and you can't help but pity this little Crat for the situation he's in. Right when I stopped was when the plot regarding Ghoolion was starting to get pretty interesting (not that it wasn't already) and I wanted to read on but by that point I'd already spent a week on the book and I hadn't even broached 100 pages yet. See what I mean? It's going to take some patience to get through this.

It's such a rich world. I would say enchanting but there isn't anything all that enchanting about it thanks to the alchemaster. Grotesque would be more like it. Every single character, even those in passing, are insanely well-developed from the second they're mentioned that you can't help but picture them in your head. The illustrations in the book don't hurt either! They're great and at times unnerving but you can't take your eyes away from them. They just make the words that much richer.

If I didn't have such a huge TBR pile with a bunch of time-sensitive books still left to read, I would have read this one to the end because, at the end of the day, I really wanted to. But I just don't have the patience to take 3 weeks to read one book right now. No rating for this one since I didn't finish it.

Contest Time!!!

Want my ARC? It's all yours. Just leave me a comment with your email and answer this question--

What makes you ultimately stop reading a book even though, deep down, you want to keep reading to the end?

No answer, no entry. Period.

Contest ends October 13th at midnight, EST. US residents only. Good luck!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Author Bites - Mari Mancusi on Where it all Ends

A big thanks to Mari Mancusi for giving her time for my little banned books cause here. Like I said in a previous post, Mari was the one that told me about Ellen Hopkins's issue in Oklahoma. That post was made late last week if you want to take a look at it. But before you do be sure to read what Mari has to say about boon banning, book burning and talking to your children.

One of my favorite YA authors these days is the incredibly talented Ellen Hopkins. She writes powerful stories, all set in verse, dealing with heavy issues like drugs and addiction. Her first two books were actually based on her daughter’s real life issue with meth. And these aren’t nursery rhymes either – they’re not sugar-coated. They’re brutal and real and important.

But Ellen recently blogged that an author visit she planned in Oklahoma was called off because a parent found her books and called the principal, saying they were inappropriate for students. The books were removed from the school library and Ellen’s visit was cancelled.

This makes me furious. Not only as an author, but also as an advocate for teens. Ellen’s books don’t glamorize drug use – if anything they’re a cautionary tale. But her books often get judged by their covers.

I don’t like to blame the parents; they’re doing what they can to raise good, moral kids in a world of mixed media messages. Where scandal begets fame begets a great big paycheck and a reality TV show. They want to protect their kids and shield them from the horrors of the world as long as they can. They want them to enjoy their childhood before they have to grow up and face life’s tough realities. And that’s good and noble and totally the role they should take. But censorship of books is the way to go about it.

Because the question becomes, where does it end? Whose moral code do we use to judge what’s appropriate and what’s not? Do we ban books containing drug use? If so – only the ones that glamorize it or do we include the ones where there’s a life lesson as well? What about books containing sex? Or eating disorders? Or how about vampires—they’re a kind like demons, right?—the God-fearing may not like those. And oh—while we’re at it, maybe we should ban books where kids talk back to their teachers or disobey their parents or cheat on their tests at school. After all, don’t want them to get the wrong idea…

If we start the burning, we’ll end up with no books at all.

A better solution, in my opinion, is to get involved in your child’s reading choices. Read the books before they do. Become informed about the content and talk to your kids after they finish the book. Because let’s be real here. Whether or not your kid reads a book about drugs, they’re going to be offered drugs at some point. Whether or not your kid reads a book about sex, they’re going to be propositioned for sex. And the books, in my opinion, offer an opportunity to open channels of communication.

A book with sex could spark a discussion about safe sex. A book about drugs turn into an opening to talk about whether they’ve been offered any at school. Instead of trying to stick your kids’ head in the sand, educate them, inform them, and help them learn to make smart life decisions.

As for Ellen, she can’t go speak at that Oklahoma school. But she’s helped thousands of others across the country over the past few years through her books. And they write her letters, thanking her, telling her they’ve struggled too. And that her books have given them hope that they, too, can have their own happy ending.

Just imagine if those books had never existed. Just Imagine if they’d been burned?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Contest Slurry

Ends 9/20 (hurry!)

Cleopatra's Daughter or The Heretic Queen, both by Michelle Moran - Alyce at At Home With Books

2 copies of David Inside Out by Lee Bantle - Sophie at Mrs. Magoo Reads

Ends 9/21

Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch - Lenore at Presenting Lenore

Ends 9/22

If I Stay by Gayle Forman - Chelsea at The Page Flipper

Ends 9/24

2 Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe bookmarks - Lauren at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf

Naming Maya by Uma Krishnaswami and LA Summer by Sheryl Mallory-Johnson or A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot and Eighth Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovitch - Ari at Reading in Color

5 signed copies of Oh. My. Gods. and 5 signed copies of Goddess Boot Camp, both my Tera Lynn Childs - Free Book Friday Teens

Ends 9/26

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick - Lauren at I was a teenage book geek

Ends 9/28

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran plus an authentic Roman coin - Lauren at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf

Signed copy of Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran - Jenni at Falling Off The Shelf

Ends 10/1

Signed copy of Blood Promises by Richelle Mead or a signed copy of Strangle Angels by Lili St. Crow, both with postcards and tattoos - Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag

Signed copy of Fire by Kristin Cashore - Lauren at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf

Signed copy of Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough - Tina at Fantastic Book Review

Ends 10/2

Signed copy of Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe - Tina at Fantastic Book Review

5 copies of Ruined by Paula Morris - Nicole at WORD for Teens

5 copies of Ruined by Paula Morris - Reader Rabbit

Ends 10/3

Ash by Malinda Lo - Lenore at Presenting Lenore

Ends 10/6

The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley - Sophie at Mrs. Magoo Reads and Kate at The Neverending Shelf

Ends 10/15

Chalice by Robin McKinley - Elise at Reading Rocks

Ends 10/30

Shooting Stars Mag's part of Bad Boy Bonanza that's across multiple blogs with multiple prized - Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag

Jealous of Summer Reading Lists

This is the summer reading list from the high school across the street from me. It's not the high school I went to though. I couldn't find one for mine. Not all that surprising, really, but that's besides the point.

My point is, I don't remember my summer reading lists looking anything like this. Not even close. What a great choice of books! All I remember from my summer reading lists were "classic" books and adult contemporary stuff. Maybe a couple of Stephen Kings if we were lucky. Granted YA wasn't then what it is now but it's not like it didn't exist.

It makes me happy to see reading lists like this. To me it shows that the people making these lists are keen to what kids actually want to read and what might actually appeal to them as opposed to stuffing 500 page novels in 6-point font down their throats over their summers. I can't tell you how happy I was when I saw this.

For those of you out of high school, do you remember your summer reading lists being this cool? For those of you who had to do summer reading, did your list look like this or was it more . . . rigid?

And the winner is . . .

The winner of my BEA Swag Grab contest is . . .


Congratulations! I'll be emailing you shortly. A big thanks to everyone who entered!

Banning Books About Book Banning

I really wonder if Vern gets the irony of his actions. At all. Considering he finds the use of cigarettes in the book objectionable, I highly doubt it.

Wait, what's different?

I just can't put my finger on it . . .

Something's not right here . . .

Did it just get creepier in here?

Things I've Learned from Books + 20

Run a background check on your friends. That way you'll have a better footing than the others when she just up and disappears. Not that you know anything about that . . .

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's so stoopid it hurts

This is another re-post from my writing blog. This one, I think, takes the cake. I mean . . . just read it . . .

Like Ginny Maziarka.

She wants the public library to re-shelve what she deems as “inappropriate” reading material from the young adult section to the adult section. What is her definition of “inappropriate”?

They later petitioned the library board to move any sexually explicit books — the definition of which would be debated — from the young-adult section to the adult section and to label them as sexually explicit.

I’m sure she would name herself as head of such a labeling committee and make sure any books with kissing before marriage were re-shelved in their rightful place with the hardcore porn.

This coming from the brilliant mind that says things like–

She and her husband also asked the library to obtain books about homosexuality that affirmed heterosexuality, such as titles written by “ex-gays,” Maziarka said.

“All the books in the young-adult zone that deal with homosexuality are gay-affirming. That’s not balance,” she said.

Apparently she’s pissed off that there isn’t a gay-bashing section to strike the balance for them raunchy pro-gay books. The children need balance, after all! And shot guns and helicopters so they can hunt them some wolves.

She furthers her definition of “inappropriate” by saying -

“We’re not talking about educational material. We’re talking raunchy sex acts,” Maziarka said.

As if it wasn’t clear enough before.

But lets not forget the genius of one Robert Braun who . . .

. . . with three other Milwaukee-area men, filed a claim against West Bend calling for one of the library’s books to be publicly burned, along with financial damages.

The four plaintiffs — who describe themselves as “elderly” in their complaint — claim their “mental and emotional well-being was damaged by [the] book at the library.”

The claim, unconnected to the Maziarkas, says the book “Baby Be-bop” — a fictional piece about a homosexual teenager — is “explicitly vulgar, racial and anti-Christian.”

Because book burning is the epitome of mental stability. People, I’m not creative enough to make this shit up.

And then we’re back to Ms. Maziarka who states -

“We want parents to decide whether they want their children to have access to these books … and we want the library’s help in identifying [them through labeling and moving],” Maziarka said. “It’s just common sense.”

Because common sense is found in them books written by ex-gays and finding balance in blatantly homophobic literature.

If your ears aren’t bleeding by now, you’re a better person than I am (and still heavy that emergency room co-pay). I just don’t get this kind of sheer stupidity. I really don’t. Where do these people get off attempting to dictate to the public what they should and should not read? What makes them think that such “explicit” content is beyond the scope of a teenager? What century are they living in? As if sex in high school is unheard of. Yeah, and bitches still wear bustles.

Jesus fucking Christ. Give it a rest people, will you? You’re making a gigantic ass out of yourselves, you’re attempting to stifle the First Amendment rights of everyone around you and all for what? So your kid doesn’t read how to give a blow job? Like he can’t Google it? You know what, you don’t want your kid seeing that stuff, then don’t let them. Don’t punish everyone else’s kids (and parents) because your asshole is puckered so tightly you’re sucking up rocks. I really don’t give a shit what you do or don’t want your children to be exposed to. That’s all you. Keep them in a hermetically sealed bubble for all I care. But the second you start to infringe on my rights because you feel it’s for the greater good, be prepared for the bitch slap that your daddy never gave you but should have.

This dumb bitch talking about common sense is like Ted Bundy giving a class on socially acceptable behavior. It just doesn’t make sense. And neither does their survival this far into life. Damn you, Darwin! You’re failing me!

Contest Reminder!

Just a reminder that my BEA Swag Grab Contest ends tonight at midnight, EST! Be sure to get your entries in by then for your chance to win some awesome BEA stuff.

The Puzzle King by Betsy Carter + Contest!

Published August 25th, 2009.

On a gray morning in 1936, Flora Phelps stands in line at the American consulate in Stuttgart, Germany. She carried a gift for the consul, whom she will bribe in order to help her family get out of Hitler's Germany. This is the story of an unlikely couple, the lively, beautiful Flora and her husband, the brooding, studious Simon, two immigrants sent to America by their families to find better lives. They meet in New York City and fall in love. Simon - inventor of puzzles and other novelties - eventually makes his fortune, becoming the "Puzzle King." Now wealthy, but still outsiders, Flora and Simon become obsessed with the fate of the loved ones they left behind in Europe whose future will be determined by the growing anti-Semitism on both sides of the Atlantic. (book back blurb)

This was another book where I wasn't sure what to expect out of it. I snagged it at BEA because I love the whole World War II era and anything centering around that I'm immediately interested in. I had to say, though, the blurb on the back of the book gives the story a heightened sense of intrigue that, for the most part, isn't there until the very end.

In fact, the scene that the blurb sets up is actually the very end of the story. It doesn't start with trying to get the family out, as one might think. Instead it's a story leading up to that moment and what it took to get to that point in their lives. I'm not sure how a lot of people would feel about something like that. I knew I kept looking for that scene and when I finally found it was like, "Finally! It's over?"

The beginning of the book isn't even about Flora but about Simon. We get to see his trip over to the States and how he starts off his life has a non-English-speaking immigrant in New York. You'd think that since it appeared to be a story about Flora, we'd see that part of her as well. Not so much. By the time we get to Flora and her family, they're already in New York, have settled themselves and didn't have nearly as interesting a time finding their way around as Simon did. So really it kind of makes sense not to start with her.

The story doesn't stay on Simon or Flora singularly for much of a length of time but flips back and forth between the two. These were two divergent paths that came together and had a similar goal: to get their families over to America and out of an unstable Europe. Really, it is a good thing they ended up together because their like-mindedness with foreign affairs was fitting.

While I enjoyed the story and I found myself getting really into the lives of Flora and Simon and even Seema in her full facade, I felt the story would have had a better starting point more towards the end, when Flora and Simon head back over to Europe in a very vital time, when Seema's already defected away from her life in the States and moved back to Germany. There, I felt, was where the real struggle began and I felt the story was ending just as it was starting to get good. We have no idea if Flora's visit to the consulate even works to get her and Simon's family out of Europe. We're left hanging and I was pretty frustrated by that. Sure, what we did get from the book was excellent backstory but I felt it could have been better suited drizzled into the larger story of finally getting the family out of Germany.

Overall, though, I did enjoy the book. It's amazing what foreign families did in an attempt to provide better lives for their children. What a different world that was when families would actually consider sending an eight-year-old son to a foreign land completely unsupervised to make his way in the world. Like we would even dream of that now! I actually liked Simon more as a child than I did as an adult. He was so much more vibrant and enigmatic and he had great friends! Flora was a relatable character but I never felt she stood out all that much. Seema, on the other hand, was the true puzzle. She wanted to be an arm piece for the WASP boys and fit in with society but she struggled with it. I felt she was a stronger character than her sister was.

I'd recommend this if you're looking for a nice relaxing read. It's definitely good for a once over but once you've finished reading it, you'll probably be all set with it.

Contest Time!!!

Want my ARC? It's all yours. Just leave your name and an email to enter.

+ 2 for new followers
+3 for current followers
+2 for linking (up to 3 links)

Contest will end October 10th at midnight, EST. US residents only, please. Good luck!

80s Awesomeness! ~ 29

Probably one of the awesomest 80s movies, and vampire movies, ever, Near Dark. The thing is, the word vampire is never mentioned in the film. It's insinuated, sure, but you won't hear the word. And these guys don't have fangs. Quite possibly the ONLY vampires that can pass as vampires and not have fangs. Why? Because they don't need them. They will tear you to shit perfectly fine without them. Thanks.

It's a family of roving vampires that are constantly dirty and travel around in a beat up camper. The dainty chick falls for our dear Adrian Pasdar and before he knows it, he's starting to smoke in the sun. Literally. Sucks for him! The ending always has me laugh because in reality, it would kill anyone but it saves a couple of the characters and poof! Daywalkers again!

What pisses me off though, thanks to all of this Twishite, they've repackaged the DVD and Adrian bears a striking resemblance to sickly gray-looking Edward on the cover. I refuse to post it. Google it if you want to see it. Yeah, I get you're trying to cash in on the whole Twinut thing, guys, but Near Dark being anything like those glitterpires? Uh . . . if the Twiwards don't yak on their couches, they'll have nightmares for weeks. Bar scene, anyone? These are not "vegetarians" and they will gladly, and with much enthusiasm, kill you dead. You know, like vampires should.

Freaky Friday :|: 29

Title: Demon's Beach
Author: Nicole Davidson
Published: July 1992
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 160
In the Florida Keys in search of sunken treasure, the Archaeology Club from Fort Johnson High School encounters an unspeakable evil as members of their group begin to behave strangely and accidents happen. (from
Well that's elusive. It could go either way. And it sounds original enough up against what I've posted for this meme thingy already. I'd read it. And yeah, the image is pretty pathetic. It was all I could get, though. When you're skint, you'll take what you can find, I guess. And it's a really short book. I mean really short. By any standards. I guess there's no fat on it at all. Makes me kind of worried, actually.

Friday, September 18, 2009


No, I'm not joking, unfortunately. A big thanks to Mari Mancusi for the heads up about this.

Ellen Hopkins donated her time (including travel and board) to a charity cause that landed her in a middle school in Norman, Oklahoma for an author visit scheduled for September 22, this coming Tuesday. This past Tuesday, September 15th, an irate parent bum-rushed the school and demanded that Crank and Glass be removed due to the content. The superintendent conceded and not only pulled the books but forbade Ellen from speaking at that school or the high school.

The upside, the librarian that organized the whole thing, Karin Perry, wouldn't let the day fall and organized for Ellen to speak at the Hillsdale Baptist College at 7:30 on Tuesday. If you're in the area, or know anyone who is, be sure to spread the word and flood the campus in support of Ellen.

Read Ellen's LiveJournal post about it all here.

Of course, the geniuses at SafeLibraries had to have their say in her comments section, posting how how no books have been banned within the last 50 years . . . on an author's blog post ranting not only about how her books were banned from said school library but how she, herself, was forbidden from speaking at that school or the high school . . . O_o Facts? Facts?! Who needs facts? We'll just plug our ears and go LALALALALALALALALA because that so pwns facts like whoa. O_o

Aaaaaaaaanyway, be sure to leave Ellen a comment on her blog to show your love for her and her work and show how moronic the entire situation is. Shame on you, Dr. Joseph Siano, superintendent of Norman's public schools. Lemme guess, you smoked under peer pressure, didn't you?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Your beliefs are touching me

I'm re-posting this from my writing blog. I was able to scrounge some halfway decent stuff from that bucket!

Self-censorship can be a beneficial thing. It’ll keep you from looking like an ass at inopportune moments and pretty much keep your dignity intact. But when it comes to school librarians self-censoring for the sake of the children, we have a completely different issue.

Especially in this economy, I can understand walking on egg shells and playing nice with the school board when they “highly recommend” that a book not get bought for their library because a job is better than no job. But the ones that do it out of fear of backlash from the parents or even because they themselves don’t agree with the text is a censoring best left to their own children.

In a poll conducted by the School Library Journal, a sampling of school librarians of all school levels from all over the country were anonymously polled about their censoring. That poll shows, among other things, that school librarians won’t shelve a book due to the potential threat from parents, this overwhelmingly over any kind of reaction from the administration. Now what does that say? That parents need to keep parenting to their own children maybe?

It’s bad enough when parents come out and officially challenge a book, or succeed in getting a book officially banned (honestly, they have to know that it has the adverse effect on their intentions) but when librarians refuse to even let the book out in the open for fear of repercussion is hitting a little below the belt. I’m the only one that should be dictating what my child can and can not read, not some worm with nothing better to do than organize a rally to get a perfectly good book banned because she doesn’t like the word scrotum in it. It’s not like it was on every page. It was said once. Ooo!

The level of bending to these harpies is getting ridiculous. Why does someone else decide, in a freely accessible school library, what is appropriate and available to my child? That’s not their call. Age-appropriate books should be shelved in the appropriate libraries regardless of what others might thing of the content. If they don’t like it, then their kid doesn’t have to read it but don’t take away the access my child has to it because you have a telephone pole firmly wedged up your butt. I understand that objectively deciding what is age appropriate does require judgment calls and can be individualized but refusing to shelve a book because it has a lesbian secondary character and said school “doesn’t have any gay students?” That’s just idiocy.

And, like that article points out, it’s not just the right wing conservatives throwing feces at the rotating device about books. The politically correct liberals are getting their undergarments all bunched up. One woman challenged a book with a dead turtle in it citing that turtles have feelings too and that they can feel fear. O_o *headdesk* Does she realize that no turtles were harmed in the making of that book? Does she think it was written in turtle blood or something?

Really, this is insanity. Keep your beliefs to yourself and don’t try to impose them on entire school systems. I really don’t care what you do or don’t want your kid to read but don’t you dare try and limit what my child has access to because you’re a nut ball. If my kid wants to read about lesbians with dead turtles, then he’s going to read it. If it’s too much for him, he’ll put it down or come to me and start asking questions. While lesbians and dead turtles might not exist in those people’s planes of existence, they certainly exist in mine and I don’t want to make my child ignorant to the fact that lesbians are just like everyone else and everyone loses people and animals they love. It’s a lesson of life and I’d rather they learn it at 10 than 40 because Mommy Dearest wouldn’t let reality touch them.

Seriously, pick up Bacci ball or something. Something better to occupy your time. I hear knitting’s nice.

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