Thursday, September 30, 2010

CAT THURSDAY...LATE EDITION!

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! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Sorry for my being late with Cat Thursday today.  I've been a little under the weather and I had physical therapy today (lymphedema therapy for my leg that had the cellulitis)...fun!

Anyway, here is a cat's reaction to the banning of books....



LOL!!!



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BANNED BOOKS WEEK--THE LOVELY BONES by ALICE SEBOLD

This Banned Books Week, I'm focusing on books that I have read that have been challenged/banned.  Today's book is one that I actually read this year and it happens to be one of my favorite reads this year.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold--challenged dates, most to least recent: 

Details:

2008/2009
Moved to the faculty section of the John W. McDevitt Middle School library in Waltham, Mass. (2008) because its content was too frightening for middle school students. Source: May 2008, p.
97. (from ALA)

2007/2008
Moved to the faculty section of the John W. McDevitt Middle School library in Waltham, Mass. (2008) because its content was too frightening for middle school students. Source: May 2008, p. 97. (from ALA)

2006/2007
Challenged at the Coleytown Middle School Library in Westport, Conn. (2007).  The school superintendent acknowledged that the book is "for mature readers" and also acknowledged that "the book is appropriate to be part of a middle school library collection serving students from ages 11-14, many of whom possess the maturity level to read this book."  Source: Mar. 2007, p. 71. (from ALA)

My thoughts:
I think that this book is important for kids of middle school and high school age to read because (as I stated in my review) they need to be aware of what can happen and to take caution.  Predators like the villain in The Lovely Bones are out in the world and, as I've stated before, we can't shield our kids from the truths of our world.  They will find out for themselves soon enough and being informed is the best preparation. (You can read my review of The Lovely Bones HERE)

About the book (from Library Thing):
My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer. This is Susie Salmon. Watching from heaven, Susie sees her happy suburban family devastated by her death, isolated even from one another as they each try to cope with their terrible loss alone. Over the years, her friends and siblings grow up, fall in love, do all the things she never had the chance to do herself. But life is not quite finished with Susie yet ..."The Lovely Bones" is a luminous and astonishing novel about life and death, forgiveness and vengeance, memory and forgetting - but, above all, about finding light in the darkest of places.

About the author (from Wikepedia):
Sebold was born in Madison, Wisconsin. She grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and graduated from Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania in 1980. She then enrolled in Syracuse University. Sebold was finishing her freshman year at Syracuse University when she was raped while walking home through a park off campus. She reported the crime to the police, who remarked that a young woman had once been murdered in the same location. Thus, they told her, she was "lucky."

Alice Sebold's first published book, many years in the making, was a memoir of her rape as an eighteen-year-old college freshman. She later returned to Syracuse University, the scene of the rape, and finished her degree.  She studied writing, and wanted to write her story then, but kept failing. "I wrote tons of bad poetry about it and a couple of bad novels about it--lots of bad stuff," Sebold told Dennis McLellan of the Los Angeles Times. She explained to McLellan why the novels were not successful: "I felt the burden of trying to write a story that would encompass all rape victims' stories and that immediately killed the idea of this individual character in the novel. So [the novels] tended to be kind of fuzzy and bland, and I didn't want to make any political missteps."

While at UCI, Sebold began writing Lucky, a memoir of her rape. The police had told Sebold that she was lucky to be alive; not long before Sebold's attack, another young woman had been killed and dismembered in the same tunnel.  The story began while writing a ten-page assignment, though Sebold eventually wrote 40 pages for her class.

After Lucky, Sebold published the bestselling novel The Lovely Bones. The book is a novel about a 14-year-old girl who is raped, murdered and dismembered. The main character tells her story from her personalized version of Heaven, looking down as her family tries to cope with her death and her killer escapes the police. While working on The Lovely Bones in 1995, Sebold met her husband Glen David Gold at UCI. He arrived late for one of his classes and couldn't take his hat off, and they began talking. They were married in November 2001.

In an interview conducted by Ann Darby of Publishers Weekly, Sebold said of The Lovely Bones: "I was motivated to write about violence because I believe it's not unusual. I see it as just a part of life, and I think we get in trouble when we separate people who've experienced it from those who haven't. Though it's a horrible experience, it's not as if violence hasn't affected many of us."

Sebold's second novel, The Almost Moon, continued what The New Yorker called "Sebold's fixation on terror." It begins: "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily."

Sebold won the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction in 2003 for The Lovely Bones and the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel in 2002. She was also nominated in the Novel category in that year.  Sebold is an alumna of the Ragdale Foundation.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MAILBOX MONDAY (TUESDAY EDITION)

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page.  This weekly meme is now on monthly blog tours.  This month's host is Bermudaonion's Weblog.

(Click titles for book descriptions)

In the mail:

Won:

A Pale View of the Hills--Kazuo Ishiguro from Brizmus Blogs Books.  I tied for first place in Brizmus's Japanese Friday button contest! Thank you for all who voted for mine!

Emma and the Vampires--Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson from Jennifer at Reading with Tequila

Every Cat's Survival Guide to Living with a Neurotic Owner--Beth Adelman Blogmania win from Crazy Cat Lady's Library and also everything else shown in the picture.  Goodies for me and Alice!

The House of Special Purpose: A Novel of the Romanovs--John Boyne Blogfest win from leeswammes' blog.

For review:

Once Wicked, Always Dead--T. Marie Benchley

Blood and Silk: The Hidden Story of Mary of Magdala and Jesus of Nazareth--Carol McKay

Bought (via mail order):

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--Steig Larsson from BOMC2.com










Monday, September 27, 2010

BANNED BOOKS WEEK--VAMPIRE ACADEMY by RICHELLE MEAD

I will be posting my Banned Books Week commentary later in the evening/night this week because I'm coming down with some kind of cold/laryngitis crud and I feel like total crap!

I'm kicking off with a book that I'm currently reading that was banned in Texas in 2009.  It's Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (actually the entire series was banned) and here are the details:

Banned at Henderson Junior High School in the Stephenville, Tex. Independent School District (2009). The entire teen vampire series was banned for sexual content or nudity. Since the series has not been completed, “Stephenville ISD actually banned books that have not yet been published and perhaps even books that have yet to be written. There is no way the district could know the content of these books, and yet they have been banned.” Source: Nov. 2009, pp. 197–98, 225. (from ALA)

As I stated, I am currently reading the first book in the series and I haven't really noticed anything overtly wrong.  I mean, these Moroi and Dhampirs talk like normal teenagers.  And Rose, one of the main characters in the first book, is still a virgin.  I mean sure she messes around and makes out with guys, but I see this as normal teenage behavior.  I mean does it really do any good to shield our kids from this information.  I'm in the camp that believes that being informed is better.  If you allow your children to read these books, discuss them with your child and explain the things they don't understand.  And if you don't allow your kids to read them, leave it at that.  Don't ruin it for everyone else!

Here is part of Richelle's reaction to this occurence from her blog in October 2009 (read the rest HERE):

What are my thoughts on this? Well, the short answer is that I think banning books violates the U.S.'s first amendment. I'm not always thrilled by my country's choices, but freedom of speech is one of our most precious and amazing features. Am I mad or upset about this school district's decision? No, not at all! If anything, I'm kind of humbled and amazed that I would actually join the banned ranks of greats like To Kill a Mockingbird and 1984. I keep trying to imagine a book banning committee saying something like, "Well, that concludes our discussion on the social messages in Lord of the Flies. Let's move on to...Vampire Academy." Really?

As a former teacher, I absolutely respect and encourage parents to be a part of what their children are reading. However, banning books outright from schools and libraries takes this right away from families and denies them the chance to make their own decisions. It also flies in the face of the rights our country has always prided itself on, freedom of speech being the biggest. In my experience, many banned books are some of the greatest and most thought-provoking pieces of literature out there. Being in the company of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Cormier is an honor.

About the book (from Goodreads):
St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

About the author (from Goodreads):
Scorpio Richelle Mead is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy books for both adults and teens. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington where she works on her three series full-time. Before becoming a writer, she considered a few different career paths. She received a liberal arts degree from the University of Michigan, an MA in Comparative Religion from Western Michigan University, and a Master in Teaching (Middle & High School English) degree from the University of Washington. In the end, she decided writing was the way for her but believes all of her education prepared her for it.

A life-long reader, Richelle has always had a particular fascination with mythology and folklore. When she can actually tear herself away from books (either reading or writing them), she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses that she then hardly ever wears. She is a self-professed coffee addict, runs on a nocturnal schedule, and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous.

Weigh in...what do you think?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

FALL CATCH-UP READ-A-THON WRAP UP

Well, the fun is over. *sob*  I did not accomplish as much reading as I would have hoped.  As usual, life got in the way.  I was doing pretty well and then the weekend kind of went down the drain.  I've got a lot of personal stuff going on right now and it was hard to concentrate on reading.  Here is my sad readathon accomplishments:

I read 75 pages of Vampire Academy--Richelle Mead (I was not planning on reading this for the read-a-thon, but I couldn't put it down!).

I read 102 pages of Labyrinth--Kate Mosse (for my TuesBookTalk chat on Twitter)

I finished The Queen's Pawn--Christy English.

Started Dracula in Love--Karen Essex on Friday...have read 100 pages =O(

I will say that the read-a-thon was a success though because of all the lovely participants.  It really seemed like everyone was having fun and some even got a lot of reading done (you know who you are).  I also enjoyed the mini-challenge where read-a-thoners talked about a banned book they have read.  It's interesting to find out what other people think about the banned books issue.  Thank you to all who participated and helping me to make this a successful event.  I'm thinking of making this a seasonal read-a-thon (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer), but haven't decided yet.  I know I will have this one again next year, if nothing else. 

If you would like to do a wrap up post and link here, feel free.  The linky is below.  In regards to the giveaways, I will announce the winners by the end of the week.  If I can locate an email address, I will email the winners.

Edit:  I was remiss in neglecting to thank Charlie Courtland for generously donating copies of her books for the mini-challenge giveaway and for joining us for the read-a-thon.  You rock, Charlie!

Now it's time to look forward to Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon and the Halloween Read-A-Thon and the fun festivities of Halloween!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

BANNED BOOKS WEEK SEPTEMBER 25-OCTOBER 2, 2010

(All information was taken from the ALA site)

This is going to be an information only post because I'm on the last leg of my Fall Catch-Up Read-A-Thon (if you're participating in the read-a-thon, I hope you're enjoying it!).  I will have daily BBW posts and commentary every day starting Monday and extending through Friday.  I hope you will stop by!

BOOKS BANNED OR CHALLENGED IN 2009/2010 by Robert P. Doyle

Banned Books Week 2010 is the twenty-ninth annual celebration of the freedom to read. This freedom, not only to choose what we read, but also to select from a full array of possibilities, is fi rmly rooted in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Although we enjoy an increasing quantity and availability of information and reading material, we must remain vigilant to ensure that access to this material is preserved; would-be censors who continue to threaten the freedom to read come from all quarters and all political persuasions. Even if well intentioned, censors try to limit the freedom of others to choose what they read, see, or hear.

Sex, profanity, and racism remain the primary categories of objections, and most occur in schools and school libraries. Frequently, challenges are motivated by the desire to protect children. While the intent is commendable, this method of protection contains hazards far greater than exposure to the “evil” against which it is leveled. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, in Texas v. Johnson, said, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society fi nds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Individuals may restrict what they themselves or their children read, but they must not call on governmental or public agencies to prevent others from reading or seeing that material.

The challenges documented in this list are not brought by people merely expressing a point of view; rather, they represent requests to remove materials from schools or libraries, thus restricting access to them by others. Even when the eventual outcome allows the book to stay on the library shelves and even when the person is a lone protester, the censorship attempt is real. Someone has tried to restrict another person’s ability to choose.

Challenges are as important to document as actual bannings, in which a book is removed from the shelves of a library or bookstore or from the curriculum at a school. Attempts to censor can lead to voluntary restriction of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy; in these cases, material may not be published at all or may not be purchased by a bookstore, library, or school district.

It should be noted that this bibliography is incomplete because many prohibitions against free speech and expression remain undocumented. Surveys indicate approximately 85 percent of the challenges to library materials receive no media attention and remain unreported. Moreover, this list is limited to books and does not include challenges to magazines, newspapers, films, broadcasts, plays, performances, electronic publications, or exhibits.


This bibliography represents books challenged, restricted, removed, or banned in 2009 and 2010 as reported in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom from May 2009−May 2010. (A date prior to May 2009 indicates the controversy began earlier, but continues into 2010.) 

I've included a basic description of the reasons these books were challenged/banned.  For full descriptions, go HERE.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian--Sherman Alexie (language vulgar and racist)
  • Twisted--Laurie Halse Anderson (foul language & cover topics such as sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings--Maya Angelou (book's contents inappropriate for children)
  • Baby Be-Bop--Francesca Lia Block (specific words used in the book are derogatory and
    slanderous to all males)
  • The Tortilla Curtain--T. Coraghessan Boyle
  • Buster's Sugartime--Marc Tolon Brown (features 2 same sex couples and their children)
  • Running with Scissors--Augusten Burroughs (contained explicit homosexual and heterosexual situations, profanity, underage drinking and smoking, extreme moral shortcomings, child molesters, graphic pedophile situations and total lack of negative consequences throughout the book)
  • House of Night series--P.C. and Kristin Cast (sexual content and nudity)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower--Stephen Chbosky (homosexuality, drug use,
    and sexual behavior)
  • Joy of Sex--Alex Comfort (“harmful to minors under state law)
  • Deadline--Chris Crutcher (foul language and covering topics — including sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse)
  • Deal with It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a gURL--Esther Drill (pornographic and worse than an R-rated movie)
  • Sex for Busy People: The Art of the Quickie for Lovers on the Go--Emily Dubberley (harmful to minors under state law)
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America--Barbara Ehrenreich (promotes “economic fallacies” and socialist ideas, as well as advocating the use of illegal drugs and belittling Christians)
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl--Anne Frank (book includes sexual material and homosexual themes)
  • Aura--Carlos Fuentes (contains a brief romantic encounter beneath a crucifix)
  • Mastering Multiple Position Sex--Eric Marlowe Garrison
  • The Dead Man in Indian Creek--Mary Downing Hahn (because of the drugs and drug smuggling activities in the book)
  • Lesbian Kama Sutra--Kat Harding (harmful to minors under state law)
  • Geography Club--Brent Hartinger (obscene or child pornography)

  • Hills Like White Elephants: A Short Story: The Complete Short Stories of  Ernest Hemingway--Ernest Hemingway (subject matters including abortion, cannibalism, homosexuality, and drug use)

  • Mein Kampf--Adolf Hitler (the book could fuel support for far-right groups)

  • A Prayer for Owen Meaney--John Irving (objectionable language and sexuality)

  • The Bermudez Triangle--Maureen Johnson (sexual innuendo, drug references, and other adult topics)

  • Survivor Type: A Short Story from Skeleton Crew--Stephen King (subject matters including abortion, cannibalism, homosexuality, and drug use)

  • The Bean Trees--Barbara KingsolverThe Cartoons that Shook the World--Jytte Klausen (sexual scenes and vulgar language)
  • Lessons from a Dead Girl--Jo Knowles (Johanna Beth) (foul language and cover topics — including sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse)
  • To Kill a Mocking Bird--Harper Lee (language used in the novel, including the word “nigger.”)
  • The Crack Cocaine Diet: A Short Story from Hardly Knew Her--Laura Lippman (subject matters including abortion, cannibalism, homosexuality, and drug use)
  • Kurt Cobain--Michael Martin (“very dark and violent and made references to the use of Ritalin as being a precursor to the use of illicit drugs.  It also covered topics such as mental illness and suicide.”)
  • In the Middle of the Night: The Shocking True Story of a Family Killed in Cold Blood--Brian McDonald (Complainants want the book kept off the library shelves until the men accused of the crime have been tried)
  • Vampire Academy series--Richelle Mead (sexual content and nudity)
  • Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary--Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff (parent complained when a child came across the term “oral sex.”)
  • Twilight series--Stephenie Meyer (content is too sexual and goes against religious beliefs)
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier--Alan Moore (depict sexual acts and constituted a public safety issue in that they encourage sexual predators)
  • Song of Solomon--Toni Morrison 
  • ttyl--Lauren Myracle (foul language, sexual content, and questionable sexual behavior)
  • And Tango Makes Three--Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (book wasn’t age-appropriate, didn’t follow the district’s policy on human sexuality education, and tries to indoctrinate children about homosexuality)
  • Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age--Ariel Schrag, ed. (bullying and boy-girl awkwardness. Masturbation and marijuana show up in passing)
  • Living Dead Girl--Elizabeth Scott (graphic content and the unsatisfactory ending)
  • I Like Guys: A Short Story from Naked--David Sedaris (subject matters including abortion, cannibalism, homosexuality, and drug use and promoted bad behavior and a "political agenda")
  • The Bookseller of Kabul--Åsne Seierstad (concerns about sexual content)
  • How to Get Suspended and Influence People--Adam Selzer (cover included an abstract drawing of a nude woman and the back cover contains some profanity)
  • Unwind--Neal Shusterman (foul language and cover topics — including sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse)
  • The Joy of Gay Sex--Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano ("harmful to minors under state law")
  • The Egypt Game--Zilpha Keatley Snyder (includes scenes depicting Egyptian worship rituals)
  • One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies--Sonya Sones (“sexual content was too mature for eleven- to fourteen-year-olds.”)
  • Dragon Ball: The Monkey King--Akira Toriyama (depict some violence and show nudity)
  • Only in Your Dreams: A Gossip Girl Novel--Cecily Von Ziegesar (sexual innuendo, drug references, and other adult topics)
  • Jubilee--Margaret Walker (“offensive” and “trashy” and a novel about the way of life in the Old South. “We believe it is to promote superiority for white people and to step on black people and make them feel inferior.”)
  • The Glass Castle: A Memoir--Jeannette Walls (profanity, criticisms of Christianity, and accounts of sexual abuse and prostitution)
  • Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems--WritersCorps (profanity and details a violent relationship between an adult and child)

To protect your right to read, get involved! Here's what you can do:

Stay Informed
  • Be aware of what’s happening
  • Attend school board, library board, and PTA meetings
  • Subscribe to print and online news publications
  • Join groups committed to preserving the right to read
Challenge Censorship
  • Report censorship to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
  • Attend and participate in public hearings
  • Write letters to public officials
  • Send a letter or an op-ed article to local news organizations
  • Work with community group
  • Form a coalition to oppose censorshi in your community
  • Seek assistance from national groups
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES
  • Join Friends of the Libraries and PTAs
  • Participate in Banned Books Week
(For more detailed information, go HERE)

Support Banned Books Week!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

CAT THURSDAY

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! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

This week's cat fun is in honor of my Fall Catch-Up Read-a-thon going on now.

Read-a-thons are pretty tricky, what with life getting in the way in the form of kids, husbands, work, etc.  Then you also have the cat that is constantly wanting you to read to him/her...LOL!





Wednesday, September 22, 2010

HAPPY FALL AND READ-A-THON UPDATE

HAPPY FALL!

Read-a-thon Update:

I read 75 pages of Vampire Academy--Richelle Mead (I was not planning on reading this for the read-a-thon, but I couldn't put it down!).

I read 102 pages of Labyrinth--Kate Mosse (for my TuesBookTalk chat on Twitter)

Currently reading The Queen's Pawn--Christy English--have read 66 pages.  I'm hoping to finish it tonight! *fingers crossed*

How are you doing on the read-a-thon?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MINI-CHALLENGE: FALL CATCH-UP READ-A-THON

This mini-challenge and giveaway has now ended.

I was trying to think of a great mini-challenge for the read-a-thon and then it dawned on me....Banned Books Week starts Saturday! So that is what this mini-challenge is about.  I'm making it relatively simple in keeping with the theme of the read-a-thon and for the people who do not have blogs (I have a few participants who do not). 

Your task for this mini-challenge is to go the the American Library Association (ALA) banned books page HERE and look on the left sidebar.  There is a menu titled Frequently Challenged Books organized by years, authors, decades, etc.  Take a look at these lists and pick one book that you have read, then tell me why you read it (did you read it specifically because of its banned status?), what your thoughts on the book were and anything else you might want to share about the book (why you would recommend it or why not).  If you have not read any of the books, pick one you would like to read and tell me about the book and why you want to read it.

RULES:
--If you have a blog, you must do a blog post and then place your link in the Mr. Linky on this post.
--If you do not have a blog, you can leave your responses in the comments (I have a new comment system where you can comment as a guest so you don't have to have a blogger account)
--This challenge will be open until Sunday, September 26 at 8:00pm CT.
--In the linky, please leave your name and what country you are in (non-bloggers leave your country info in your comment).

And now....

THE PRIZES!

Charlie Courtland was generous enough to donate hard copies and e-copies of her novel, Dandelions in the Garden and her new novel, the sequel to Dandelions, The Hidden Will of the Dragon.

About the books (product details from Amazon):

Amara Borbala is certain she is the only living person in the sane world with intimate knowledge concerning the life and exploits of the Countess Elizabeth Bathory. After all, she was Elizabeth s companion and confidant since her eleventh year. In 1573, after the death of her mother, Amara is sent by her cousin to serve as a lady-in-waiting at the castles of Sarvar, Varanno, and Cachtice. Now it is years later, 1628, and Amara is aging, alone, and reduced to eavesdropping at her favorite cafe around the corner from her townhouse in Vienna. Befuddled by gossiping ladies, Amara determines perhaps it is time to finally put a stop to the rumors and once and for all, answer the question, Is it true? Did Elizabeth Bathory, a descendant of Vlad Tepes really commit the horrible acts of torture, bathe in the blood of slaughtered virgins, and dabble in the dark magic that she was accused of during her trial? One thing is certain, Amara knows the truth, but will it be enough to explain the habits of her friend? Dandelions In The Garden is book one in a two-part series that begins with the journey of Amara, an impressionable girl who follows the Blood Countess through all the horrid events that lead to her rise and secure her place in history.


The year is 1628, Vienna, and the aging Lady Amara Borbala has collapsed before fulfilling her promise to Count Drugeth to record the historical truth about the infamous Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory. In her last entry, Amara writes, "It'd been nearly 130 years since Vlad Tepes, known as the Dragon, arranged the secret agreement." Was it truly possible that the kin of his ancient advisor would honor the contract? And if so, how would it change history?

In the sequel to "Dandelions in the Garden," the journey of history's most intriguing noble female murderer continues. Come following Elizabeth and Amara through the canals of Venice and high into the Carpathian Mountains to discover the inevitable. How the story of the Blood Countess really ends!

PRIZE DETAILS:
--There will be two winners. 
--Winner's choice of both hard copies or a 100% discount code to obtain e-copies of both books at Smashwords.
--International (outside of US/Canada) will automatically receive the e-books.

Thank you, Charlie, for providing these wonderful prizes!

To find out more about Charlie Courtland, visit her at the following:

website:  http://www.bitsyblingbooks.com/
blog:  http://www.charliecourtland.com/
blog:  http://ccourtland.blogspot.com/

Copies of both books (e-format) can be purchased at Smashwords.
Copies can also be purchased at Amazon HERE and HERE.

GOOD LUCK WITH THE MINI-CHALLENGE...CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOUR ENTRIES!



Monday, September 20, 2010

STARTING LINE--FALL CATCH-UP READ-A-THON

It's time to start the read-a-thon! This is the starting line.  Sign up in the linky with your starting post (or other link, if you don't have a blog).  Everyone who signs in here and participates in the read-a-thon will be entered for a $20 gift certificate to BetterWorldBooks! They ship free in the U.S. and for a small fee worldwide.  I will also be hosting a mini-challenge which will probably start on Tuesday and there will be a book(s) prize from author Charlie Courtland for this one.  Both the mini-challenge and the main giveaway will be open until Sunday, September 26 at 8pm CT. 

Remember, if you can't sign in today, no problem.  I made this read-a-thon a week long so that people could participate when they could.

If you're on Twitter, be sure to come on over and chat with other read-a-thoners.  The hashtag is #readathon.

I hope I haven't forgotten anything! Let me know if I have or if you have any questions, leave me a comment.

Now, here is my list of books that I hope to finish. *fingers crossed*

The Queen's Pawn--Christy English (already started...will be finishing)
Dracula in Love--Karen Essex
By Fire, By Water--Mitchell James Kaplan
Quicksilver--Joy Spraycar
The Red Door--Charles Todd
Adam & Eve--Sena Jeter Naslund

Alternates:

Under the Dome--Stephen King (will read this periodically to break up the monotony...LOL!)
Labyrinth--Kate Mosse (have to read 100 pages for my Tuesday night book chat on Twitter, #TuesBookTalk)

So...there we have it.  Wish me luck!

Here's the linky:



GUEST POST--ROBERT PARRY, AUTHOR OF VIRGIN AND THE CRAB (AND BOOK REVIEW)

AN ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE

With history there is something always to be kept in mind: that an absence of evidence does not necessarily always indicate evidence of absence. There is, for example, no evidence that in the middle of the 16th century a secret group of influential men and women, mostly Cambridge university scholars, would have helped the then princess Elizabeth withstand numerous attempts upon her life and to steer her safely through the most dangerous of her formative years to ultimately become Queen of England. But that does not mean that it could not have happened. And this is where the writer of fiction can step up and fill in the details. The writer of fiction, in other words can, provide some of that ‘absence of evidence’ in the form of a good yarn or two and get us all thinking of what might have been going on in-between all those dry facts and figures, all those dates and names of battles and so on that we learn in our history books. That is why we love it, of course.

My novel, ‘Virgin and the Crab,’ which Michelle has very kindly reviewed here, is just that kind of thing, an exercise in speculation. It’s not one of those ‘what-if’ stories, but rather one that fills in the gaps between real events. That’s how I like my historical fiction. And this is where we meet the hero of the story, a gentleman by the name of John Dee.

Recently, in 2009 there was a conference at Cambridge in England in which a number of eminent scholars and historians met over a period of two days to try to restore the somewhat tarnished reputation of one of England’s greatest minds, the 16th century astronomer, mathematician, geographer and antiquarian John Dee. Dee was born in 1527. He was at a very early age regarded as one of the leading intellectuals in Europe and even in his 20’s when lecturing at the Sorbonne, for example, it was said that people would clamber upon window sills outside the crowded lecture halls, to press their ears against the windows to hear what he had to say. He helped introduce Euclidean geometry to Europe; his library at his home in Mortlake became the most extensive in Europe, far greater than that of Oxford university, becoming a hub of excellence in all matters of learning, visited by everyone of note in England at the time; and he may even have had a hand in the invention of the telescope long before it first appeared in Holland and Italy and was subsequently adopted for use by Galileo in 1607. Dee advised on all of the great voyages of exploration undertaken by the Elizabethan seamen such as Drake, Raleigh, Gilbert and Frobisher. He advised on super novae, on comets, and he was an early advocate of the sun-centred view of the solar system as outlined by Copernicus.

More excitingly, however, Dee was also a secret agent - the original 007, in fact (he actually signed some of his more personal documents with a 007 symbol). During the turbulent decade following the death of Henry VIII – one of the most cruel and unsettling periods of English history when the nation managed to get through no less than five different monarchs (Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I and finally Elizabeth), he was employed at Court and became tutor to the young King and also to Elizabeth’s life-long friend Robert Dudley. Dee was a close friend not only of Robert Dudley, but also a colleague of William Cecil, Elizabeth’s chief minister and closest of confidants. Those, at least, are the facts.

Now what about ‘Virgin and the Crab?’ Well, there is no hard evidence that John Dee knew Elizabeth during her childhood, or that he was her tutor. There is no evidence that he guided and protected her and kept her from harm’s way during her younger years - as my story suggests. There is no evidence that he was not devoted to the cause of the Reformation or to the English Renaissance with all the passion, romanticism and selfless dedication of a medieval knight - or that he put his own life on the line again and again to make it all happen. There is not a shred of evidence, in fact, that he ever believed for one minute that the brilliant young Elizabeth was destined in some magical sense to succeed to the throne or that she would ultimately take England forward into its most golden of all ages. But none of this is evidence of absence. It’s just where this article leaves off, and the story begins …

Thank you, Robert, for this excellent guest post!

About Robert:

Author of the novel 'VIRGIN AND THE CRAB' Robert Parry is a UK-based writer with special interests in Tudor and Elizabethan history, Victorian Gothic and Pre-Raphaelite art. Also keen on astrology, cooking, good wine and gardening (though not always undertaken in that order).

He is the author of several successful works of non-fiction - some of which have been translated into foreign language editions. 'VIRGIN AND THE CRAB' is his debut novel.

Connect with Robert:


Robert is hosting a "guess the title of his next novel" competition.  Go to his blog (listed above) for details.

Review

Virgin and the Crab:  Sketches, Fables & Mysteries from the early life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor--Robert Parry
Finished reading on July 31, 2010

My thoughts:

When I finished reading 'Virgin', I told Robert that it should be recognized by a major publisher.  He responded by saying that most publishers will not touch a debut novel of over 100,000 words.  'Virgin' is close to 200,000.  It's a shame because this book is one of the best historical novels I have ever read.  There's no fluff in the pages of this book.  Just straight historical fiction that reads almost like non-fiction, but nowhere near as boring.  Not that I generally think that non-fiction is boring, but some can be real yawners, if you know what I mean.  What I enjoyed most about the book was that I was able to follow what was transpiring with Elizabeth directly parallel to what occurred from before Mary's (Elizabeth's sister) reign and then from the beginning until the end of Mary's reign.  I enjoyed the intrigue that was involved in this plot to protect Elizabeth and to ensure that she would someday take the throne.  There was a lot of breath holding on my part, even though I already knew the outcome.  I liked the way Lady Jane Grey was portrayed here...more as a pawn then a willing participant in seizing the crown.  Which made her end all the more tragic.  Mary was not portrayed in a favorable light.  She comes across as pias, petty and prudish and so full of hatred and the need for revenge for what happened to her mother that she takes religious fanaticism to a new extreme and many people die as a consequence.  I'm on the fence about Mary.  The character of John Dee was very interesting.  I do not know much about him outside of this book, but after reading 'Virgin', I'm compelled to find out more.  Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it portrays my favorite historical figure in the best possible light.  Elizabeth was an enigma...a skillful and powerful ruler who chose to be married to her country instead of a man.  How much of what we know is true?  And what do we not know?  Here in this favorite quote of mine from the book, Elizabeth speaks about the mystique that surrounds her (and John Dee):

Men say he has his darker side.  And many, I know, go in fear of him.  Like Us, a mystique has surrounded our friend, John Dee.  It is good that this has occurred, and We shall keep it so.  But really, in truth, he is a darling of a man - and no more a Crab than I might be a Virgin - though we'll say no more of that!


I highly recommend 'Virgin and the Crab' to all historical fiction lovers and especially to all who adore Elizabeth Tudor.  It's an exciting twist on Elizabeth's path to the throne.  Historically compelling and deliciously suspenseful! I'm looking forward to Robert's next novel!

Book description from Goodreads:

The brilliant young mathematician and astronomer John Dee has one overwhelming obsession: liberty. Abandoned and humiliated, Elizabeth Tudor has one simple aim: survival. This is their story. Against the background of the English Reformation, and threatened by a vengeful and unforgiving Queen, the mysterious brotherhood of the Rose Lodge attempts to guide the nation towards enlightenment and stability. Here, the special alchemy of the Virgin and the Crab works its magic: growing from childhood friendship, through adolescent flirtation, to mutual respect and admiration as together they prepare to sacrifice everything for the world they wish to inherit.

Qualifies for the following reading challenges:

Pages Read Challenge
New Authors Challenge
100+ Reading Challenge
Tudor Book Challenge
Historical Fiction Reading Challenge



FTC Disclosure:  I received this book for review from the author.  I was not monetarily compensated for reading and reviewing this book.

BOOK REVIEW--ANGEL STAR BY JENNIFER MURGIA (The Great Review Catch-Up)

Angel Star--Jennifer Murgia
Finished reading on July 27, 2010

My thoughts:

I'm going to break my review down into what I liked and what I disliked because I had such mixed feelings about this book.

What I disliked--As soon as I started reading and was introduced to Teagan and Garreth, the Twilight bells started going off.  Teagan is down on herself, thinks herself inadequate (sound like someone you know?).  Garreth is this perfect guy (of course, he is an angel) that Teagan just cannot believe would have any interest in her (again, sound familiar?).  Then, throw into the mix the "bad"angel, Hadrian, and you have yourself one heck of a love triangle, because Teagan is inexplicably drawn to Hadrian.  The similarities abound! I mean, at least Jacob is a nice person...yeah, he's a werewolf...but he's still good.  Hadrian is a baddy through and through...so why would Teagan be attracted to him?  Oh, yeah...the old "bad boy" attraction I guess.  Also, I guess the concept of good cannot exist without evil so maybe Teagan has an evil streak in her.  I don't know, I'm done speculating!

What I liked--I really liked Jennifer's concept of heaven.  In the book, Garreth tells Teagan that Heaven is inside your mind.  That heaven isn't technically a place, but a place inside of a person.  A place that a person tries to reach by constantly changing and striving for good in their life.  This quote kind of summed it up for me (it's very good):

Your judgement is your own, and when you can look inward and see that you are changed and like what you see, then it is by your own hand that you are judged.

This statement pretty much redeemed the book for me.  I can see that this book would appeal to young adults because these are the kind of books they like and are reading like crazy.  The good thing about this book is that it has a message for young people to keep striving to change and "live your best life." (oh, dear...I'm quoting Oprah now!

Book description from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Teagan McNeel falls for captivating Garreth Adams and soon discovers that her crush has an eight-point star etched into the palm of his right hand-the mark of an angel.

But where there is light, dark follows, and she and Garreth suddenly find themselves vulnerable to a dark angel's malicious plan that could threaten not only her life, but the lives of everyone she knows, and now, she is torn between one angel's sacrifice and another angel's vicious ambition.

Divinely woven together, Angel Star takes readers on a reflective journey when one angel's sacrifice collides with another angel's vicious ambition in a way that is sure to have readers searching for their own willpower.


This book was read in conjunction with a tour for Other Shelf Tours.

Qualifies for the following reading challenges:

100+ Reading Challenge
New Authors Challenge
Pages Read Challenge
Horns and Halos Reading Challenge 2010
2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge



FTC Disclosure:  I received this book in conjunction with a blog tour.  The book was sent on to the next tour recipient.  I did not receive any monetary compensation for reading and reviewing this book.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

INTENSE DEBATE

I just installed the Intense Debate comment system.  I'm hoping it will help me to better keep up with responding to comments, etc.  Please let me know if you have any problems with it.  Hopefully, it will be a smooth transition.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP FOR THE FALL CATCH-UP READ-A-THON?

Just two more days until the Fall Catch-Up Read-A-Thon and there's still time to sign up! Go HERE for complete details and sign up.  The read-a-thon starts on Monday, September 20 at 8am and goes through Sunday, September 26 at 8pm (times can be according to your individual time zone).  It's going to be a lot of fun! I'm having a giveaway for a $20 BetterWorldBooks gift certificate.  All you have to do is be sure to sign in at the starting line post, which will be up here on Monday morning, and participate in the read-a-thon.  Don't worry if you can't start on Monday, just sign in on the day you start.  I made this read-a-thon a week long so people can participate when they can...we all have jobs and obligations, after all! Also, I will announce a mini-challenge on Monday that will last for the entire week...and the prize?  Author Charlie Courtland (who is also joining us for the read-a-thon) has generously donated copies of her books for my mini-challenge prize.  How cool is that! If any of you participants would like to host your own mini-challenge, you are more than welcome.  Just let me know so I can help promote it.  Also, we will be chatting on Twitter as well.  Follow the hashtag #readathon.  Who knows...people may do some giveaways over there too (again, feel free)!

Let me know when you've posted your reading list, either in the comments here or in the comments on the sign up post--OR--use your reading list post as your starting post at the starting line sign in.  I'm looking forward to catching up on a lot of reading next week and interacting with everyone.  See you on Monday!

SPREAD THE WORD...THE MORE, THE MERRIER!!!