Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Banned Books Week 2009--Historical Fiction Favorites

Today I am featuring two of my favorite historical novels (and their authors) that have been banned/challenged.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

He was born on 5 June 1949 in Cardiff, Wales, the son of a tax inspector. He was educated at state schools and graduated from University College, London, with an Honours degree in philosophy. He was made a Fellow of the college in 1995.

He became a reporter, first with his home-town newspaper the South Wales Echo and later with the London Evening News. While working on the Evening News he wrote his first novel, which was published but did not become a bestseller. He then went to work for a small London publishing house, Everest Books, eventually becoming Deputy Managing Director. He continued to write novels in his spare time. Eye of the Needle was his eleventh book, and his first success. Around 100 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide.

Ken Follett has written under several pen names, including Martin Martinsen, Simon Myles, Bernard L. Ross, Zachary Stone. (Source: Library Thing)

The Pillars of the Earth is on the ALA list of most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000 (#91).

Parents say novel pornographic

By Pete Kendall/

Dr. Ted and Maureen Benke say it was never their intention to try to have the Ken Follett book, “Pillars of the Earth,” banned from the Cleburne High School library.

But they did want it eliminated from a reading list of a CHS senior English class of which their son is a member. And they’re gratified that Cleburne Superintendent Dr. Ronny Beard granted that desire.

“He said an alternate choice [of books] would be made,” Ted Benke told Times-Review editor Dale Gosser on Thursday. “That was this Tuesday.”

“We’re thrilled with the superintendent’s decision to remove the book,” Maureen Benke told Gosser. “We feel he made the right decision for all future students of Cleburne High School and that it was indeed worth the effort to have this kind of outcome.”

Members of Concerned Parents and Citizens, whose membership includes the Benkes, are expected to request time to speak in the public forum segment of Monday’s school board meeting. Likewise, citizens in favor of the book’s inclusion on the reading list. CPAC was formed in early October, when the Benkes filed a grievance against use of the book.

“We started out with four members,” Maureen Benke said. “I can provide you with a list of 900 names now.”

The issue began last summer when English IV dual/AP students were directed to read the Follett book.

“You will be asked to read your novel during the summer and participate in an online discussion with a small group of your peers,” a three-page typed directive from English department chairman Sherri Bell said in part. “There is no definitive timeline concerning the online discussions since everyone reads at different rates, and everyone will have different schedules through the summer. However, I expect everyone to post one entry for each assignment that is at least 7-10 sentences (more if you are so inclined) in length and to respond to two other members of the group (more if you wish).”

The directive also included a statement reading, “Alternate assignment is Edward Rutherford’s “London” if you find reading occasional sex, violence and language unacceptable.”

The Benkes say they didn’t become aware of the sexual content in Follett’s book until their son began reading it.

“We read the book and found it to be pornographic,” Maureen Benke said. “We made an appointment to meet with Mrs. Bell, and Mrs. Bell asked [Prinicipal] Monte Pritchett to be at the meeting, which was fine with nus. At the time of the meeting, we told Mrs. Bell and Mr. Pritchett that we thought the book was inappropriate for curriculum use. We asked them to please remove it from the curriculum. We gave them the reasons we thought the pornographic nature of the book made it unacceptable.”

“The key points we made were that the American Library Association did not recommend the book for anyone under the age of 18,” Ted Benke added, “that the book had no special merit and had not won any awards. It wasn’t on any special list except for Oprah’s Book Club. We checked with approximately 15 school districts in this area including Keller, Southlake and Highland Park, and none of them had the book on their summer reading lists.”

The Benkes said the reading list directive did not include space for parents to voice their objections to the books.

“There is a general belief system in place that parents are ignorant of many things that their children read because of trust,” Maureen Benke said. “We trusted [Bell] to choose reasonable material. Without our knowledge or permission, she was assigning this book to our son.”

Bell did not return a phone call from the Times-Review seeking comment. Pritchett referred all questions to school district spokesperson Lisa Magers.

The Benkes said they also objected to the directive for students to chat about the book in an online format.

“No parental control is too loose for us to be comfortable,” Maureen Benke said.

They said their meeting with Bell and Pritchett culminated “with Mr. Pritchett saying he would read the book,” Maureen Benke said. “We had sent him a list of references for pages to read if he didn’t have time to read the whole book. We understood that. It’s 1,200 pages. I don’t believe we ever got a direct answer whether he had read all the excerpts.”

“He said he had read some reviews,” Ted Benke said, “that maybe there were some racy parts. However, he thought it was okay. He said if we wanted to take it further, we would need to fill out an Exhibit A to go to the curriculum committee to appeal his decision. We started that process around October. We got the material to Dr. [Darlene] Callender [assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction] and asked her to review our grievance.”

The Benkes said Callender initially told them a curriculum committee had ruled in 1998 that the book was acceptable as reading list curriculum.

“She said the school district attorney told her the district would never have to convene on that book again because it had already done so,” Maureen Benke said. “Then we got another call from Dr. Callender’s office, telling us that it had been over 10 years, so the district had consented to form a new committee. They were in the process of forming that committee when the superintendent made his executive decision to excuse the book from the curriculum.”  (Source: Cleburne Times-Review)

My commentary:

Probably my most favorite historical novel of all time, it's a shame that some people (students) will be prevented from reading it.  I think this book is an excellent one to be used as a teaching tool.

Shogun by James Clavell

James Clavell, born Charles Edmund Dumaresq Clavell (10 October 1924 – 7 September 1994) was a British (later naturalized American) novelist, screenwriter, director and World War II veteran and prisoner of war. Clavell is best known for his epic Asian Saga series of novels and their televised adaptations, along with such films as The Great Escape and To Sir, with Love.

Born in Australia, Clavell, was the son of Commander Richard Clavell, a British Royal Navy officer who was stationed in Australia on secondment from the Royal Navy to the Royal Australian Navy. In 1940, when Clavell finished his secondary schooling at Portsmouth Grammar School, he joined the Royal Artillery to follow his family tradition.

Following the outbreak of World War II, at the age of 16 he joined the Royal Artillery in 1940, and was sent to Malaya to fight the Japanese. Wounded by machine gun fire, he was eventually captured and sent to a Japanese prisoner of war camp on Java. Later he was transferred to Changi Prison in Singapore.

Clavell suffered greatly at the hands of his Japanese captors. Changi was notorious for its poor living conditions and according to the introduction to King Rat, written by Clavell's daughter Michaela, over 90% of the prisoners who entered Changi never walked out — although the actual figure was under 1%.[1] Clavell was reportedly saved, along with an entire battalion, by an American prisoner of war who later became the model for "The King" in Clavell's King Rat.

By 1946, Clavell had risen to the rank of Captain, but a motorcycle accident ended his military career. He enrolled at the University of Birmingham, where he met April Stride, an actress, whom he married in 1951.
(Source:  Wikipedia)

Challenged in Fairfax (VA) school libraries by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools for "profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct and torture". (2003) (Source: Marshall University)

My commentary:

I read this many years ago and absolutely loved it.  It is VERY long, but you do not notice because it is so good.  I believe that to be historically accurate, sometimes a historical novel must portray the brutality of the time.  It's a shame that this wonderful book would be challenged for attempting to be historically correct.

If you have not read these books, I highly recommend them if you're looking for a fulfilling reading experience.

Happy (Banned) Reading!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banned Books Week 2009--Favorite Fantasy Authors

Today I am featuring two of my favorite fantasy authors who have had works challenged/banned.


Ray Bradbury, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938.Although his formal education ended there, he became a "student of life," selling newspapers on L.A. street corners from 1938 to 1942, spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter.He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival, in 1947.

His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences.Next came The Illustrated Man and then, in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury's masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden.In an attempt to salvage their history and culture, a group of rebels memorize entire works of literature and philosophy as their books are burned by the totalitarian state.Other works include The October Country, Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy, Something Wicked This Way Comes, I Sing the Body Electric!, Quicker Than the Eye, and Driving Blind.In all, Bradbury has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays.His short stories have appeared in more than 1,000 school curriculum "recommended reading" anthologies.

Ray Bradbury's work has been included in four Best American Short Story collections. He has been awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America, the PEN Center USA West Lifetime Achievement Award, among others.In November 2000, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters was conferred upon Mr. Bradbury at the 2000 National Book Awards Ceremony in New York City.

On the occasion of his 80th birthday in August 2000, Bradbury said, "The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me.The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve.In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me.I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you'll come along."

Perhaps the most ironic case of challenging/banning a book is of Fahrenheit 451, a book that is about the censorship of books in the future.  In this frightening future, firemen are not employed to put out fires, but to set fire to any households that own books. 

"Copies of "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, a science-fiction novel about book-burning and censorship, had some words blacked-out before being given to middle-school students, thus proving that irony is not dead." (source:  Associated Content

February 1, 1999

West Marion High School in Foxworth, a rural Mississippi town, is the place where recent events aimed at censorship occurred. The book, Fahenreit 451, was on the reading list for several of the English classes. However, after a parent complained to the superintendent about the use of the word "God damn" in the book, the book was removed from the required reading list. Interestingly, the complaint did not surface until the book report was due -- more than a month after the reading assignment was given. (source:  bannedbooksweek(dot)com)


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on the 3rd January, 1892 at Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, but at the age of four he and his brother were taken back to England by their mother. After his father's death the family moved to Sarehole, on the south-eastern edge of Birmingham. Tolkien spent a happy childhood in the countryside and his sensibility to the rural landscape can clearly be seen in his writing and his pictures.

His mother died when he was only twelve and both he and his brother were made wards of the local priest and sent to King Edward's School, Birmingham, where Tolkien shone in his classical work. After completing a First in English Language and Literature at Oxford, Tolkien married Edith Bratt. He was also commissioned in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought in the battle of the Somme. After the war, he obtained a post on the 'New English Dictionary' and began to write the mythological and legendary cycle which he originally called 'The Book of Lost Tales' but which eventually became known as 'The Silmarillion'.

In 1920 Tolkien was appointed Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds which was the beginning of a distinguished academic career culminating with his election as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. Meanwhile Tolkien wrote for his children and told them the story of 'The Hobbit'. It was his publisher, Stanley Unwin, who asked for a sequel to 'The Hobbit' and gradually Tolkien wrote 'The Lord of the Rings', a huge story that took twelve years to complete and which was not published until Tolkien was approaching retirement. After retirement Tolkien and his wife lived near Oxford, but then moved to Bournemouth. Tolkien returned to Oxford after his wife's death in 1971. He died on 2 September 1973 leaving 'The Silmarillion' to be edited for publication by his son, Christopher.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, perhaps two of the most celebrated fantasy works of all time, challenged/banned (even burned)!

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are banned from schools and libraries across the USA with some regularity. The ALA Banned Books Week website has J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings listed as “Burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic. Source: Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, Mar. 2002, p. 61.” (source:  Tolkien Guide)

"...they blame him for Dungeons & Dragons and all other Role Play Games, computer games other than chess, heavy metal music, Columbine (& all other acts of teenage violence) and all other activities enjoyed by the young (mostly males). I am not sure if they have managed to blame Tolkien for sex yet, but that is only a matter of time." (source:  samizdata)

What do you think of the challenging/banning of the works of these great authors? 

If you have not read these books, I highly recommend that you do.

Happy (Banned) Reading!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday a meme from Marcia at The Printed Page

Here is the bounty in books I received/purchased over the past week!


Raucous Royals from Enchanted by Josephine

This entertaining collective biography looks at rumors about a dozen royal figures and presents evidence of each tale’s truth or falsehood. The discussion begins with Prince Dracula (a real vampire?) and Richard III (a hunchback? murdered his nephews?), spotlights five colorful Tudors, then moves on to six later figures, including Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”?) and Catherine the Great (crushed by her horse?). Noting the invention of the printing press in 1440, Beccia draws an intriguing connection between today’s rumor-filled tabloids and fifteenth-century pamphlets smearing Vlad Dracula (aka Vlad the Impaler). Nicely designed and fully illustrated with caricatured digital images sometimes inspired by period portraits, the book looks inviting and the lively text is consistently entertaining. The final section suggests how students can research historical rumors. A bibliography and a few source notes are appended. Though other history books have more substance, choose this one to engage readers in critical thinking about the “facts.” Grades 4-7. --Carolyn Phelan  (from Booklist via Amazon)

The Heretic Queen from The Burton Review

In ancient Egypt, a forgotten princess must overcome her family's past and remake history.

The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty's royal family - all with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl's deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. A relic of a previous reign, Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh's aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.

Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family's history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history.

Sweeping in scope and meticulous in detail, The Heretic Queen is a novel of passion and power, heartbreak and redemption. (from Fantastic Fiction)

The Lace Reader from Bookin' with Bingo

Look into the lace... When the eyes begin to fill with tears and the patience is long exhausted, there will appear a glimpse of something not quite seen... In this moment, an image will begin to form... in the space between what is real and what is only imagined. Can you read your future in a piece of lace? All of the Whitney women can. But the last time Towner read, it killed her sister and nearly robbed Towner of her own sanity. Vowing never to read lace again, her resolve is tested when faced with the mysterious, unsolvable disappearance of her beloved Great Aunt Eva, Salem s original Lace Reader. Told from opposing and often unreliable perspectives, the story engages the reader s own beliefs. Should we listen to Towner, who may be losing her mind for the second time? Or should we believe John Rafferty, a no nonsense New York detective, who ran away from the city to a simpler place only to find himself inextricably involved in a psychic tug of war with all three generations of Whitney women? Does either have the whole story? Or does the truth lie somewhere in the swirling pattern of the lace? (from Fantastic Fiction)

Primitive from Bell Bridge Books (bound galley from BBAW giveaway)

A neo-primitive cult, possessing secret government documents filled with terrifying information about global warming, kidnaps a famous fashion model and holds her hostage, forcing her to act as their spokesperson. As time runs out, her estranged daughter allies with a dangerous activist group to rescue her, while battling dark agendas from the government and Big Oil. (from Amazon)

Soul Catcher from Bell Bridge Books (bound galley from BBAW giveaway)

From the gothic eccentricity of Asheville, North Carolina to the terrifying recesses of the Appalachian wilderness, from modern demonology to ancient Cherokee mythology, SOUL CATCHER follows the tormented journey of folk artist Livia Belane, who has been stalked through many lives by a sadistic and vengeful demon.

Livia and her loved ones, including her frontier-era soulmate and husband, Ian, a Soul Hunter, have never beaten the demon before. Now, in this life, he s found them again. (from Amazon)

In The Mail:

-For review...Creeping Shadows from author Brandon Ford

FROM THE PUBLISHER OF SINISTER LANDSCAPES COMES THREE TERRIFYING NOVELLAS Monsters come in many shapes and sizes-from the creature in the shadows to the darkness of the human mind. Join three cutting edge authors as they weave fables of mayhem and murder. ALAN DRAVEN'S VENGEANCE IS MINE London, 1888. Jack the Ripper leaves a trail of mutilated bodies as he terrorizes the district of Whitechapel and baffles the authorities. From beyond death, one of his victims returns to haunt him and shows him the meaning of living in fear. BRANDON FORD'S MERCILESS Kidnapped by a madman, two teenage girls form an instant bond in the back of a speeding SUV. Bound and gagged, they face a night of unspeakable horrors. Inspired by a true story, Merciless is a tale of murder, madness, and survival. JESSICA LYNNE GARDNER'S SUGAR SKULL After the strange murder of her father, Annabel Perez must discover her family's secret to solve an ancient Aztec curse and stop the mass killings. A sinister Mexican sugar skull found in her father's old cigar box might just be the answer-or the means to her death. (from Amazon)

-from past giveaway...How to Make Life Work from Book Giveaways

Bestselling diva Michelle McKinney Hammond dishes on her tips for making the most of every day in this sassy "owner's guide" to living the life you want.

Are circumstances of life pushing you around? Are you tired of feeling like a victim? It's time to stand up and live large! In this hands-on owners guide to life, Michelle McKinney Hammond teaches you to take a deep breath, stand tall, and take charge of your situation.  Taking a look at readers' innate gifts, Michelle studies the clues to finding our purpose, nurturing our spirits, minds, and bodies, and establishing balance in our many different relationships. Through it all, Michelle gives us a refreshing picture of what life is supposed to look like according to the Manufacturer's design. HOW TO MAKE LIFE WORK includes a fun, high-design interior that makes it a breezy, playful read. (from Amazon)


List of books I purchased at a used book sale during their bag sale...ALL for $5.00!!!

The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn

"Powers of the air, be here now. So mote it be."

Nell is a wild child. Conceived on May Morning, she is claimed by the piskies and faeries as a merrybegot, one of their own. She is the village cunning woman's granddaughter: herb gatherer and healer, spell-weaver and midwife...and, some say, a witch.

Grace is a Puritan minister's daughter: beautiful and refined, innocent and those who think they know her. But she is hiding a secret -- a secret that will bring everlasting shame to her family should it ever come to light.

A merrybegot and minister's daughter -- two girls who could not have less in common. Yet their fates collide when Grace and her younger sister, Patience, are suddenly spitting pins, struck with fits, and speaking in fevered tongues. The minister is convinced his daughters are the victims of witchcraft. And all signs point to Nell as the source of the trouble.... (from

A Southern Exposure by Alice Adams

It is 1939, a brief, hopeful moment between the Depression and war. The Baird family--Harry, Cynthia, and their precocious daughter Abby--have escaped the burdens of their Connecticut life to salvage themselves in the sleepy southern town of Pinehill, North Carolina. But the Bairds soon discover that their new home is not quite as idyllic as it seemed up north. And while the family's fondest desire is to be enveloped by the timeless town and its eccentric characters, clouds of war loom darkly, suggesting the possibility of change. But who among them will change, and in what startling ways, remains to be seen. . . . (from

The Glimpse of the Moon by Edith Wharton

In 1922, two years after winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton wrote a novel that was acclaimed by The New York Times and quickly became an international bestseller. Out of print for decades, The Glimpses of the Moon details the romantic misadventures of a 1920's couple with the right connections but no money. (from fantastic fiction)

The Book of Sorrows by Walter Wangerin Jr.

This moving allegory of the Christian life is one of the best Christian fantasies to be found anywhere. It is a sequel to the award-winning "The Book of the Dun Cow".

Walter Wangerin Jr. first came to prominence as the award-winning author of The Book of the Dun Cow. He has since won many other awards and honors for his books, including the best-selling Book of God. Wangerin holds the Jochum Chair at Valparaiso University in Indiana, where he is writer-in-residence. (from Amazon)

The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff

Baird Colleges Mendenhall echoes with the footsteps of students heading home for Thanksgiving break, and Robin Stone, who wont be going home, swears she can feel the creepy, hundred-year-old residence hall breathe a sigh of relief for its long-awaited solitude. As a massive storm approaches, four other lonely students reveal themselves to Robin: Patrick, a handsome jock; Lisa, a manipulative tease; Cain, a brooding musician; and Martin, a scholarly eccentric. Each has forsaken a long weekend at home for their own secret reasons. The five unlikely companions establish a tentative rapport, but they soon become aware of another presence disturbing the buildings ominous silence. Are they the victims of an elaborate prank, or is the energy evidence of something genuinesomething intent on using them for its own terrifying ends? Together, theyll face three long days and dark nights before the world returns to find out whats become of five students nobody wants and no one will miss. (from Fantastic Fiction)

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (Hardcover Ed. to replace my trade PB)
(note:  it has since been determined by the publisher and author that this work is not entirely non-fiction)
Intense, unpredictable, and instantly engaging, A Million Little Pieces is a story of drug and alcohol abuse and rehabilitation as it has never been told before. Recounted in visceral, kinetic prose, and crafted with a forthrightness that rejects piety, cynicism, and self-pity, it brings us face-to-face with a provocative new understanding of the nature of addiction and the meaning of recovery.

By the time he entered a drug and alcohol treatment facility, James Frey had taken his addictions to near-deadly extremes. He had so thoroughly ravaged his body that the facilityís doctors were shocked he was still alive. The ensuing torments of detoxification and withdrawal, and the never-ending urge to use chemicals, are captured with a vitality and directness that recalls the seminal eye-opening power of William Burroughsís Junky.

But A Million Little Pieces refuses to fit any mold of drug literature. Inside the clinic, James is surrounded by patients as troubled as he is -- including a judge, a mobster, a one-time world-champion boxer, and a fragile former prostitute to whom he is not allowed to speak ó but their friendship and advice strikes James as stronger and truer than the clinicís droning dogma of How to Recover. James refuses to consider himself a victim of anything but his own bad decisions, and insists on accepting sole accountability for the person he has been and the person he may become--which runs directly counter to his counselors' recipes for recovery.

James has to fight to find his own way to confront the consequences of the life he has lived so far, and to determine what future, if any, he holds. It is this fight, told with the charismatic energy and power of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, that is at the heart of A Million Little Pieces: the fight between one young manís will and the ever-tempting chemical trip to oblivion, the fight to survive on his own terms, for reasons close to his own heart. (from Fantastic Fiction except note)

Lambrusco by Ellen Cooney

The extraordinary Resistance movement of the Italian people in the Second World War is brought to life in a captivating, deeply moving story of a mother's search for her son, by the author of the widely acclaimed A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies.

The year is 1943. Nazis have invaded Italy; American troops have landed. At Aldo's restaurant on the Adriatic coast, Lucia Fantini, wife of the late Aldo, entertained customers for years with her marvelous opera singing, but normal operations have ceased; the restaurant has been seized by nazifascisti, and a resistance squad of waiters and tradesmen has been formed, led by Lucia's son Beppino. When he disappears after acting on his own to destroy a German truck, Lucia asks, 'What kind of a partisan are you, blowing something up without telling your mother?' and sets off to look for him.

Lucia is aided in her efforts by a richly drawn cast of characters, including Annmarie Malone, the American Army Intelligence officer who's a professional golfer back home; Tito Roncuzzi, the butcher who taught neighborhood dogs to pee on Fascists' boots, Etto Renzetti, the factory owner who scoffs at Dante, and Ugo Fantini, Aldo's physician cousin, who has reasons of his own for wanting to be near Lucia.

Lucia's journey across a war-devastated Italy is operatic in its scope and intensity. Ellen Cooney has drawn on her heritage as a third-generation Italian-American to invoke not only a country in crisis but also its literature, its moods, and, most of all, its music. This is a tale told with lyrical grace and an effervescent comic spirit to match the wine that nourishes them all--Lambrusco. (from Fantastic Fiction)

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

The Bonfire of the Vanities is a masterpiece, a riotous, exuberant and passionate epic that captures the greed and corruption of eighties New York and examines it under the microscope of Wolfe's famed satiric wit. Sherman McCoy, Wall Street wunderkind, seems to have it all; a salary like a telephone number, a home on Park Avenue, a beautiful wife and child, a mistress, a Mercedes. He is a Master of the Universel But then he gets lost one dark night in the Bronx, and his mercedes hits something. That something turns out to be Henry Lamb, a young black man who is now in a coma; for Sherman meanwhile, everything is about to unravel so fast he will hardly have time to change his thousand dollar suit...  (from Fantastic Fiction)

Upon a Midnight Clear-Collection of Holiday Stories by Jude Deveraux, Linda Howard and others

In a collection of holiday romances by contributors Jude Deveraux, Linda Howard, Margaret Allison, Stef Ann Holm, and Mariah Stewart, love is found in early America, at a berry-picking contest, and in the middle of a snowstorm. (from Fantastic Fiction)

So what did you get that was divine this past week?


Banned Books Week 2009...Childhood Favorites

Today I'm featuring some of my favorite authors from when I was a child whose books have been challenged/banned in the past.  Luckily, I have parents who believe in intellectual freedom so I was never prevented from reading these wonderful authors.  Unfortunately, in some places, children are prevented from reading them.

Judy Blume reflects upon why she never stops writing, despite the challenges and pressures to top herself. “I have so many more stories to tell,” she explains.  (Watch video)

Judy has this to say about censorship:

Censors don't want children exposed to ideas different from their own. If every individual with an agenda had his/her way, the shelves in the school library would be close to empty. I wish the censors could read the letters kids write.

Dear Judy,
I don't know where I stand in the world. I don't know who I am.
That's why I read, to find myself.
Elizabeth, age 13

But it's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.  (Source:

Here are two of my most favorite books by Judy Blume:

Madeleine L'Engle (November 29, 1918-September 6, 2007) won the Newbery Medal for children's literature in 1963 for her novel A Wrinkle in Time, a story of trans-dimensional derring-do. She wrote several other novels for children, many of which involved the same cast of characters in science-based, philosophical adventures. (Source:

“Wrinkle” has been one of the most banned books in the United States, accused by religious conservatives of offering an inaccurate portrayal of God and nurturing in the young an unholy belief in myth and fantasy.

Ms. L’Engle, who often wrote about her Christian faith, was taken aback by the attacks. “It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it,” Ms. L’Engle said in an interview with The New York Times in 2001. “Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, ‘Ah, the hell with it.’ It’s great publicity, really.” (source)

We miss you Ms. L'Engle...may you rest in peace.

One of my favorite fantasy books of all time:

The Diary of Anne Frank was a book I was very passionate about when I was a girl.  I admired her courage and her passion for books and writing.  When I heard that her book has been challenged in the past, I was shocked.  What about this book could be questionable?  Perhaps most shocking is the reason the book has been challenged/banned...too depressing! Are they kidding me?

Annelies Marie Frank (1929-1945) is the best-known victim of the Jewish genocide known as the Holocaust, which was ordered by Germany's Adolf Hitler during World War II. When German troops occupied the Netherlands, Frank and her family spent two years hiding from the Nazis in a small set of rooms in Amsterdam, protected by non-Jewish friends. The Franks were finally discovered in August of 1944 and sent to concentration camps; Anne died the next year in a typhus epidemic at the camp at Bergen-Belsen. Her diary was published in 1947 in the Netherlands under the title Het Achterhuis (in English The Annex). The diary was translated into more than 50 languages and sold millions of copies. Now more commonly known as The Diary of Anne Frank, it has remained in print into the 21st century. (source)

I hope you will take a moment to recognize these wonderful authors and their spectacular works of art.  Please encourage your children to read them (at the appropriate age) and read them yourself, if you haven't yet. 

Happy (Banned) Reading!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Profound Passages

In honor of Banned Books Week:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

— On Liberty, John Stuart Mill


Banned Books Week 2009


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

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century

*Titles in bold are the ones I have read

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
10. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov

11. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
12. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

13. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
14. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

15. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
16. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
17. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
18. Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

19. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
20. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
21. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
22. Native Son by Richard Wright
23. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
24. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
25. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
26. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

27. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

28. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

29. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

30. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence

31. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
32. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

33. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

34. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence

35. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

36. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
37. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

38. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence

39. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

40. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

41. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

42. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Click Here for the reasons these books were challenged.

All information was obtained from

Happy (banned) Reading!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Profound Passages

In honor of Banned Books Week:

Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.

~Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas ("The One Un-American Act." Nieman Reports, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 1953, p. 20)

Banned Books Week-September 26-October 3, 2009

Banned Books Week

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 26–October 3, 2009

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2009, marks BBW's 28th anniversary (September 26 through October 3).

BBW 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. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

(All information was obtained from you would like further information, please visit their website)

Exercise your rights! Check out or re-read a favorite banned book. Encourage your book group to read and discuss one of the books. Give one of your favorite books as a gift.

Click here to see a book censorship map that shows documented cases of book challenges across the United States.  This map really shows that book banning is a big problem!

Here is a list of the top 100 banned/challenged books from 2000 to 2007:

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books in 2000-2007

1 Harry Potter J.K. Rowling

2 Alice series Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

3 The Chocolate War Robert Cormier

4 Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck

5 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou

6 Scary Stories Alvin Schwartz

7 Fallen Angels Walter Dean Myers

8 It's Perfectly Normal Robie Harris

9 And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell

10 Captain Underpants Dav Pilkey

11 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

12 The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison

13 Forever Judy Blume

14 The Color Purple Alice Walker

15 The Perks of Being A Wallflower Stephen Chbosky

16 Killing Mr. Griffin Lois Duncan

17 Go Ask Alice Anonymous

18 King and King Linda de Haan

19 Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger

20 Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson

21 The Giver Lois Lowry

22 We All Fall Down Robert Cormier

23 To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee..

24 Beloved Toni Morrison

25 The Face on the Milk Carton Caroline Cooney

26 Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson

27 My Brother Sam Is Dead James Lincoln Collier

28 In the Night Kitchen Maurice Sendak

29 His Dark Materials series Philip Pullman

30 Gossip Girl series Cecily von Ziegesar

31 What My Mother Doesn't Know Sonya Sones

32 Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging Louise Rennison

33 It's So Amazing Robie Harris

34 Arming America Michael Bellasiles

35 Kaffir Boy Mark Mathabane

36 Blubber Judy Blume

37 Brave New World Aldous Huxley

38 Athletic Shorts Chris Crutcher

39 Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo Anaya

40 Life is Funny E.R. Frank

41 Daughters of Eve Lois Duncan

42 Crazy Lady Jane Leslie Conly

43 The Great Gilly Hopkins Katherine Paterson

44 You Hear Me Betsy Franco

45 Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut

46 Whale Talk Chris Crutcher

47 The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby Dav Pilkey

48 The Facts Speak for Themselves Brock Cole

49 The Terrorist Caroline Cooney

50 Mick Harte Was Here Barbara Park

51 Summer of My German Soldier Bette Green

52 The Upstairs Room Johanna Reiss

53 When Dad Killed Mom Julius Lester

54 Blood and Chocolate Annette Curtis Klause

55 The Fighting Ground Avi

56 The Things They Carried Tim O'Brien

57 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Mildred Taylor

58 Fat Kid Rules the World K.L. Going

59 The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things Carolyn Mackler

60 A Time To Kill John Grisham

61 Rainbow Boys Alex Sanchez

62 Olive's Ocean Kevin Henkes

63 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey

64 A Day No Pigs Would Die Robert Newton Peck

65 Speak Laurie Halse Anderson

66 Always Running Luis Rodriguez

67 Black Boy Richard Wright

68 Julie of the Wolves Jean Craighead George

69 Deal With It! Esther Drill

70 Detour for Emmy Marilyn Reynolds

71 Draw Me A Star Eric Carle

72 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury

73 Harris and Me Gary Paulsen

74 Junie B. Jones series Barbara Park

75 So Far From the Bamboo Grove Yoko Watkins

76 Song of Solomon Toni Morrison

77 Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes Chris Crutcher

78 What's Happening to My Body Book Lynda Madaras

79 The Boy Who Lost His Face Louis Sachar

80 The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold

81 Anastasia Again! Lois Lowry

82 Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Judy Blume

83 Bumps In the Night Harry Allard

84 Goosebumps series R.L. Stine

85 Shade's Children Garth Nix

86 Cut Patricia McCormick

87 Grendel John Gardner

88 The House of Spirits Isabel Allende

89 I Saw Esau Iona Opte

90 Ironman Chris Crutcher

91 The Stupids series Harry Allard

92 Taming the Star Runner S.E. Hinton

93 Then Again, Maybe I Won't Judy Blume

94 Tiger Eyes Judy Blume

95 Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel

96 Nathan's Run John Gilstrap

97 Pinkerton, Behave! Steven Kellog

98 Freaky Friday Mary Rodgers

99 Halloween ABC Eve Merriam

100 Heather Has Two Mommies Leslea Newman

Out of 3,869 challenges reported to or recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, as compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom does not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges. Research suggests that for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five which go unreported.

Visit every day this week...I will have new BBW content daily!

Happy (banned) Reading!


Superior Scribbler Award: Part Deux

I received this for a second time from Christy at Christy's Book Blog.  Thank you so much Christy! Please be sure to stop by her blog and leave a comment.  She is great!

In keeping with the rules of the award, which are:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
Now, to continue the tradition and follow the rules, here are my 5 Award Winners:

Take a moment to visit these great blogs and see the 'superior scribbling'
 of which I speak.

Happy Reading!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Finds!

Credit goes to MizB from Should Be Reading.

Here are a couple of scary looking books I saw advertised in Book Page...perfect for the Halloween season or if you're joining the RIP Challenge!

About the book:

After witnessing the horrific murder of her twin sister Lilin, Agnes Hahn developed a multiple personality disorder in the form of her dead sibling and was admitted to the Napa State Mental Institution, simply known as "Imola" to its residents. By controlling her sister's body, Lilin escapes from the institution and begins a killing spree throughout northern California. Calling on the lessons learned in her therapy sessions and with the support of investigative reporter Jason Powers, Agnes begins to challange her maniacal sister. Wrestling with the secrets of her dark past and her persistent inner demon, Agnes finds herself in the ultimate battle to regain her life.

About the author:

Richard Satterlie is the author of the novels Agnes Hahn, Phoenix, and Something Bad and the short story “The Stick,” which is included in the horror-and-suspense anthology Fear. He is a former Fulbright Scholar, a recent Guggenheim Fellow, and the author of many articles published in scientific journals. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.

(book & author blurbs from Amazon)

About the book:

Jake Helman, an elite member of the New York Special Homicide Task Force, faces what every cop dreads—an elusive serial killer. While investigating a series of bloodletting sacrifice rituals executed by an ominous perpetrator known as the Cipher, Jake refuses to submit to a drug test and resigns from the police department. While battling a cocaine addiction, Jake starts a high-pressure position as the director of security at Tower International, a controversial genetic-engineering company. Beneath the polished exterior of the corporate identity and the CEO—who has a reputation as the frontiersman on the cutting edge of science—is a deranged mind. As Jake delves deeper into this frightening laboratory, he discovers much more than unethical practices performed in the name of human progress. Sequestered in rooms veiled in secrecy is the worst crime the world will ever see—the theft of the human soul. Horrifying and gruesome, this is a gripping, suspense-filled novel that offers intense arguments about science, ethics, and human life.

About the author:

Gregory Lamberson is the writer and director of the horror films Naked Fear, Slime City, and Undying Love. He is the author of Johnny Gruesome and a contributor to Cheap Scares: Horror Filmmakers Share Their Experience. He lives in Cheektowaga, New York.

(book & author blurbs from Amazon)

Happy (scary) Reading!

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