Sunday, September 25, 2016

Banned Books Week 2016 #bannedbooksweek


Today is the first day of Banned Books Week. Every year, I do a series of posts in honor of the week and the books that are so important to be kept in circulation, and read by generations to come.

As it's the first day, I'm going to talk a bit about what Banned Books Weeks actually is, for those who still may be unfamiliar, and why it's such an important week. I'll also share the list of the top ten frequently challenged books of 2015, and some thoughts on a couple of books on the list.

From ALA -

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. Check out the frequently challenged books section to explore the issues and controversies around book challenges and book banning. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

The reasoning behind Banned Books Week, and why it's important, is that it highlights the importance of free and open access to information. The week also brings together the entire book community, online and offline...libraries, booksellers, publishers, journalists, bloggers, teachers and readers who recognize the need to speak out and support the freedom to produce and have access to all materials, even those that are considered unconventional or unpopular.

The focus on efforts to remove or restrict access to books helps to draw attention to censorship and the harm it can cause. It's important to remember that books continue to be banned and targeted for removal and restrictions in libraries and in schools. However, many of the books challenged have remained available due to the extraordinary efforts of librarians, teachers, students and community members who,  by standing up and speaking out, refuse to let the freedom to read be abused.

TOP TEN FREQUENTLY CHALLENGED BOOKS OF 2015
  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

Fifty Shades of Grey - I have personally refused to read this book because 1) I have heard it's poorly written and 2) I have a problem with any woman allowing herself to be subjected to abuse because she's in love with a man, AND believing that she will be able to change him. Now, granted I did not read the book and I know there were many who really liked it, or at least didn't absolutely hate it. However, after reading many reviews on Goodreads, I know that this is a book I would not want to waste my time reading. My sister made me watch the movie. I wish I could get those two hours back. 

All of the above being said, and I get the reasoning behind the challenges to this book (who wants their daughters thinking this is a normal relationship and wanting something like it?), I do think that this is the moment when parenting comes into play. If your daughter wants to read it, perhaps read it with her to demonstrate and point out the reasons why the relationship in the book is a harmful, inappropriate relationship. This is why being aware of what your kids are reading and watching is important, so we don't miss those teachable moments. I realize there are parents who are not involved and aware. Perhaps those are the kids these challenges are trying to protect, but by protecting the few, harm is being done to the many by restricting access to certain books.

The Holy Bible - I am not a Christian. Let me get that out of the way right away. I used to be a Christian. I was raised Baptist and then converted to Lutheran and was baptized Lutheran about ten years ago. I have since abandoned Christianity for personal reasons. I now consider myself an AgnosticDeist and a Pagan. I believe in my right to not have to commit to just one if, or until, I decide to. On that note, I also believe and support the right of eveyone else to believe what they believe. I do not believe the bible is the word of God. I believe that it is more of an allegorical book meant to teach lessons, much in the way of Aesop's Fables. That being said, I certainly do not begrudge a believer to believe in, and have access to, the bible. To challenge the bible because of religious viewpoint is just as bad as restricting a book because of homosexuality. People believe what they believe and they are what/who they are. The First Amendment is there to protect these rights:

CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS; OR THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.

How are you celebrating Banned Books Week?

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cat Thursday - Silly shots #catthursday #cats


Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Cats doing what they do best...acting silly. 




This one below is SO Alice!




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Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm signing up for my new reading challenge...you should too! #13WLRP


I decided to creat the 13 Ways of Looking at The Lifetime Reading Plan perpetual reading challenge after recently reading from two books: 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley and The New Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major. As I was looking at the lists in both books, I thought that these lists would make for an awesome reading challenge to broaden our reading horizons.

This new reading challenge is being hosted at my new reading community site, Gather Together and Read. I have also moved all the challenges I host to this site so everything is easily gathered in one place.

INFO ABOUT THE CHALLENGE
This is a perpetual challenge, meaning there is no set ending or goal. You read at your own pace. It's really about challenging ourselves to read perhaps beyond our comfort zone, and to read books that are considered "great" or, as Jane Smiley said, books "that would illuminate the whole concept of the novel." Also, many of the titles on the lists will easily crossover with other reading challenges!

To make things a bit more challenging (just so the challenge doesn't languish, as many perpetual challenges do), I'm going to follow the lead of Read the Nobels and host a yearly challenge inside this challenge where you commit to reading a set amount of books from the lists in a year. That will kick off on January 1, 2017.

In addition, I will host read-alongs of books from the list periodically. I want to make this site about community and I think read-alongs are an excellent way to foster community.

Both lists for the reading challenge can be accessed in the sidebar menu at the site.

I hope you will join me! Sign up here.


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cat Thursday - Authors and Cats (56)


Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and Cats Thursday. Each time I will feature an author with their cat(s), or pictured with a cat(s).

I missed Authors and Cats last week! I have been so forgetful lately. So, I'm just going to go ahead and do it this week!

A very happy birthday this month to one of my favorite authors, Stephen King! (September 21)
King is known to be more of a dog lover, but it seems they do always have cats in their household. I would think they do at least inspire him, as they have figured prominently in at least two of his works, Pet Sematary and Cat's Eye

Here are a couple of shots of SK with some kitties. I couldn't corroborate for sure, but according to these images, one or both of these cats may be the cat from the Cat's Eye film. King was still relatively young in these shots. He looks like he's having fun. 



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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Reading Life (45) - #TopTenTuesday #RIPXI #Bloggiesta

Scroll down for Bloggiesta wrap-up.


Seems I'm in a blogging rut of a sort. I post reviews and Cat Thursday, but nothing much else. Trying to get back into the swing of things. I have Banned Books Week at the end of the month so want to be in a better frame for (almost) daily posts that week.


I decided to participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week. It has been a while. I actually like making lists so not sure why I don't do this every week. Here are my top ten favorite literary fiction novels (these may also fall into other categories):

In no particular order...


1. The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger - I loved, loved, loved this book. Even after seven years, it still stays with me. It was actually one of my first reviews on this blog (HERE).


2. The Keep, Jennifer Egan - This book blew me away. It was utterly what I was not expecting and that made it all the better. If you haven't read this...well, you really should.


3. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold - This was another of my first reviews on this blog (HERE). I liked this because of it being a cautionary tale, but also the story was incredibly poignant.


4. The Color Purple, Alice Walker - Not much explanation needed here. The movie is actually one of my favorites. I read the book years later and loved it even more. Brilliant story. (Review here)


5. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro - Ishiguro is a brilliant writer. He knows how to get to the meat of what makes people tick, and it's not always pretty, or ideal. He is one of my favorite authors which is why he makes the list twice...


6. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro - This is a book not to read if you don't want to sob uncontrollably. Also, don't go watch the end of the film after reading the book. More uncontrolled sobbing. The movie was good. The book is better. The book makes you think...really think...which is my favorite kind of book. (Review here)


7. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd - A wonderful book, based in fact, about the strength of the human spirit and bonds that can't be broken.


8. The Mountain Story, Lori Lansens - I actually just finished reading this a couple of weeks ago and haven't even had time to review it yet. It is not just about being stranded on a mountain, but about people...what they do to each other and how they love each other in spite of it all.


9. The Gift, Cecelia Ahern - I know Ahern is categorized as a "chick lit" author, but this book is not chick lit. It was a great book to read at Christmas because it has a message, but would be good to read any time of year. Another "will have you sobbing" book.


10. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak - I think everyone has read this so it will be apparent why it's on the list. A book about human bonds, love, tragedy, and how books can bring people together. (Review Here)


R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI

11th year! So glad to have Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings back hosting again. I'm a bit late with this sign-up, but I have a ton of spooky reading going on this Sept-Oct. Yay!

My levels of participation:


Read four books, of any length, from the very broad categories earlier defined as perilous. They could all be by the same author, a series of books, a random mix of classic and contemporary or whatever you like.

Here's what I have on my plate:

  • The Night Parade, Ronald Malfi (currently reading)
  • The History Major, Michael Phillip Cash (currently reading)
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (currently reading, hosting read-along at Castle Macabre)
  • Salem's Lot, Stephen King (read-along in Oct. for TuesBookTalk & the Stephen King Challenge)
  • The Kept Woman, Karin Slaughter
  • various other horror novels


Short story read-alongs at Castle Macabre for Season of the Witch:

Edgar Allan Poe:
The Mask of the Red Death 
The Pit and the Pendulum

H.P. Lovecraft
The Dunwich Horror
The Dreams in the Witch-House




I've already seen Ghostbusters and The Disappointments Room and I have to finish watching the last few episodes of Stranger Things. American Horror Story's new season starts tomorrow!

Movies I'm also planning to see:

Morgan
The Blair Witch
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
The Girl on the Train
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Rob Zombie's 31
Rings

and tons of scary movies and paranormal/horror TV shows on television!



BLOGGIESTA!

Goals:

  • finish working on the new community reading site I've been promising since August :(
    completed site url: http://www.gathertogetherread.com/
  • finishing touches on new perpetual reading challenge accompanying the intro of new site
  • sign-up post for FrightFall Read-a-Thon
  • create button for new reading challenge to start January 1, 2017
  • visit other participants
  • work on book catalog and my home library site (A Library, Collected), if I have time
  • ...if I think of anything else
  • mini-challenge at Guiltless Reading - create a book map Done. Here: http://www.truebookaddict.com/p/my-book-map.html
I accomplished a bit...not a ton, but I'm satisfied. :-)

Recent book acquisitions...

from Goodwill:

Treasured Stories of Christmas (from Norman Vincent Peale, Helen Steiner Rice, Pearl S. Buck, and more)
The Curious Cast of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The American Senator, Anthony Trollope
Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, Fawn M. Brodie
Redcoats & Rebels, Christopher Hibbert
The Light in the Ruins, Chris Bohjalian

What's going on in your Reading life?

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cat Thursday - Cats in Art (21)


Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

I'm behind on my visits again. Bear with me. I promise I will catch up!

The Favorite Cat - 
Currier and Ives 1838-1846

Albert Anker - 
Girl with Cat watercolor 1903

Albert Anker - 1862

Julius Adam II-
GERMAN 1852-1913
Cat with Kittens at Play
private collection


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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

George HS Singer's #Ergon - Review


Ergon is a book of poems about a man looking back on, and going through, life. There are some very deep, meaningful poems in this collection. I found myself getting lost among the words and imagery as I read. There are so many wonderful poems here, but I found this one to be my favorite, as it speaks of the sacrifices parents make, and the great love and protectiveness they feel, for their children. As a mom, I can relate.

World Without End

While she lingered at the handsome
neighbor's house, mother did what people do
when battered or bored or simply afraid. 
And father did what young men do after
their wheelless bomber skids down
on desert tarmac while the crewmen
cry out their mothers' names.

They did what the dead have always
done--shouldered bricks on steep
ramps, obeyed the boss, cleaned 
the children's ears with painted 
fingernails, made do with hardened 
bread and onions fried in chicken fat.

They did what animals do--hunger on their
young's account. Mother dished up nubbly
cow's tongue and father
a Motorola TV and blue Rambler.
And so that I too might do what humans do,
they locked the front door to keep love in
where it nuzzled and shielded, spasmed and flailed.

In this slim volume, through his insightful words, Singer demonstrates Ergon: The core function or purpose of something or someone. Virtue arises when the ergon is realized fully. Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics, 1,7, 12)

This is a must read for all lovers of poetry.

About the Book
George Singer’s Ergon is precise, delicate and fierce in its engagement with the world.

George HS Singer, a former Buddhist monk, has written a debut collection of poems about his life as a monk and in the monastery and about his life when he left to marry and have a family. As he tries to balance his spiritual principles with every day life as a husband and father, these poems utilize nature as a backdrop for his quest.


About the Author
George HS Singer, a former Zen Buddhist monk and student of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, lives with his wife of forty-two years in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he works as a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. He was educated at Yale, Southern Oregon University, and the University of Oregon. He wrote poetry in college but took a twenty-year break before taking it up as a regular discipline. He has been a long term student of Molly Peacock and has had the opportunity to work with other marvelous poets through the Frost Place in Franconia, N.H. He writes about life in and out of a Zen monastery, trying to live mindfully in a busy and troubled world, his love of nature and of his wife. The arts have become more central to his life. Singer’s poems were published in the Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry.



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Friday, September 2, 2016

Take Back Your Shelves Read-a-Thon #TBYSreadathon


I can never resist a read-a-thon, and since I'll be reading this weekend anyway...why not? This read-a-thon is hosted by JMill Wanders.

What I'll be reading (from):

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley
Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
The Life and Death of a Druid Prince, Anne Ross and Don Robins


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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cat Thursday - Large and in charge! #CatThursday #cats


Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Hope everyone is having a great week. A safe and happy holiday weekend to all the U.S. peeps!






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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sweta Srivastava Vikram's #SarisAndASingleMalt - Review


My thoughts
For someone who has a mother who is so very dear to me, and who is also my best friend, this slim volume of poetry was a difficult read. I can't imagine suddenly hearing that my mother had fallen critically ill and not being able to get to her in time. It is unfathomable.

Sweta Vikram has beautifully expressed her time as she rushed to get to her mother before she passed, and the unfortunate time after her passing. She poignantly gives glimpses of what her mother meant to her. Each poem gives us insight into how she is coping with, and working through, her grief.

As you can probably imagine, I had tears in my eyes while reading these poems. There were a couple that really hit home.

This....

Why Didn't You Wait For Me?

Such un-clarity on such a bright day,
such darkness in my verses.

I ask for a sign;
something, anything.

Can you hear me?

Did you know I needed
to give you a hug,
cook some Persian Kalam Pulao
when I saw you next?

A detour in your journey,
did you know fate?
Before leaving for Kashmir
did you gather
memories for me?

Why didn't you wait for me?
I ask the same question, over and over again, Ma.

I ask for a sign;
something, anything.
Can you hear me?

I wonder, as I stare at your body wrapped
in blue in the morgue. You look peaceful.
But I want to hear your hot, teasing words:

Chota kapdaa pehnee phir se?

I ask for a sign;
something, anything.
I weep silently,
thanking the thunder
for expressing my pain through the noise.

Why didn't you wait for me, Ma?

and this...

Time Changes Us

I hear you hum, "Time changes us all."
You always complained that I didn't write about you, Ma.
In thirty-six hours, I bled
a book of poems about you.

Writing is what helps me
keep you alive.
Writing is what tells me
don't lose faith.

I stand inside the sound of my words,
like a stranger lost in a dark forest.
I hear you hum, "Time changes us all."

*******

Vikram shares this cathartic experience with us and it is very powerful. It also shows us that losing someone changes us forever and we must move on, incorporating this change into our new life. I leave you with this quote from the beginning of the book which I will remember well in years to come. I find comfort in it.

"The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to." ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

About the Book

Saris and A Single Malt
Published by Modern History Press in August 2016
Kindle and Paperback; 46 pages
ISBN: 9781615992942

Saris and a Single Malt is a moving collection of poems written by a daughter for and about her mother. The book spans the time from when the poet receives a phone call in New York City that her mother is in a hospital in New Delhi, to the time she carries out her mother’s last rites. The poems chronicle the author’s physical and emotional journey as she flies to India, tries to fight the inevitable, and succumbs to the grief of living in a motherless world. Divided into three sections, (Flight, Fire, and Grief), this collection will move you, astound you, and make you hug your loved ones.



About the Poet
Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning writer, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Amazon bestselling author of 11 books, writing coach, columnist, marketing consultant, and wellness practitioner who currently lives in New York City. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, & mindful living to female trauma survivors, creative types, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. Sweta is also the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife, which helps you attain your goals by elevating your creativity & productivity while paying attention to your wellness.

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/swetavikram
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sweta.vikram

Visit her website: http://swetavikram.com/


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