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Showing posts from September, 2011

Banned Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury was first published back in 1950 as "The Fire Man," a shorter version that appeared in the magazine Galaxy Science Fiction. It was published as Fahrenheit 451 in 1953. This classic dystopian novel was the perfect choice to read during Banned Books Week.

I must admit I had never read this book before. I knew it was about a fireman, Guy Montag, whose job is not to put out fires but instead to start them, burning books which are banned in the future world in which he lives. That's about all I knew. When we first meet Montag, he is seemingly content with his job and his life. But then he meets a girl who starts asking questions and opens his eyes to the reality of the world around him. A world in which people no longer read, but it's more than that. They no longer talk with each another about anything meaningful. They spend their days in their parlors watching wall-to-wall televisions, interacting with their "friends" who appear o…

Book Review: Revenge: A Travis Mays Novel by Mark Young

When the woman Travis Mays cares about is murdered, he blames himself and gives up his career as a detective. He moves to Idaho, to a cabin along a river where he is completely disconnected ~ no phone, no pager, no computer. But when Travis decides to take a kayaking lesson on the river with Jesse White Eagle, a beautiful Nez Perce guide, he suddenly finds himself right in the middle of a new case that he was destined to be a part of.

In Revenge: A Travis Mays Novel, Mark Young weaves a thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. Jesse convinces Travis to help her father, who is the Nez Perce police chief, find her missing brother. What he doesn't realize is that Tommy's disappearance is linked to his own past, despite the fact that they've never met. Someone is out for revenge, and Travis is the real target.

This was a fast-paced novel, full of suspense. It was hard to know who was really good, who was really bad and how everyone was connected. It took a…

Books on the Most Challenged Lists: Surprises

As part of my Banned Books Week giveaway, I asked readers to look at the ALA's Most Challenged Books lists and tell me which one they were most surprised to see there. I thought it would be fun to share some of the responses so far.

The books that surprised most people were The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series. Both are challenged books despite their widespread popularity. About 40% of the giveaway entries mentioned one of these two books/series.

The Hunger Games has been challenged because of the level of violence in the book. This is the first year it appears on the list. The Harry Potter series has generally been challenged because it supposedly promotes witchcraft.

Other books with multiple responses in my survey included Twilight, Captain Underpants, Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials and Fahrenheit 451. Several readers mentioned they were surprised these books were on the list.

People were also surprised by some of the classics that have been challenged over the …

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Good morning. I have had a very busy weekend so didn't get to much blogging or reading, unfortunately. But I did have a very busy week here at My Book Retreat last week, so here's what's been happening.

First up, it's Banned Books Week, in case you didn't hear. I have a GIVEAWAY up right now where you can win a challenged book of your choice. Be sure to enter by Saturday! I also reviewed the most challenged book of 2010: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.

Last week also marked the beginning of Fall, so I put my list together for the Fall Into Reading challenge.

I reviewed two books last week:
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
The Homeplace Revisited by William Leverne Smith

And as far as reading goes, I finished The Homeplace Revisited, and read The Sandburg Connection by Mark de Castrique. I'll put my review for that one up this week, along with my review for Revenge: A Travis Mays Novel by Mark Young, which I…

Banned Book Review: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson andPeter Parnell

Today is the first day of the 2011 Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association's website:
Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States. The ALA explains that every year, there are hundreds of attempts to remove books from schools and libraries. Many classics, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mocking Bird are among those challenged by parents, administrators and members of the community who believe they should be banned from children in their communities. Rather than making the books available to all, and putting the responsibility on individual families to decide if their children should read …

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop

This year, Banned Books Week takes place from September 24 through October 1. I've decided to participate in the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and I Read Banned Books.

I'm giving away a book of your choice that is on an 
ALA Frequently Challenged Books List.
It can be any genre as long as it appears on one of the ALA's Frequently Challenged Books lists. Just go to the ALA site and click on one of the links on the left sidebar to see lists by year, author, decade or other criteria. Choose any book from any of these lists (up to $15).

This giveaway is open to international entries as long as Book Depository ships to your address. The contest ends on Saturday, October 1 at midnight Eastern Time. The winner will be picked using Random.org and notified by e-mail. If they do not respond within 48 hours, a new winner will be drawn. To enter, complete this form:

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Fall Into Reading Challenge 2011

I'm so excited to get started on this year's Fall Into Reading Challenge hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days. This will be my third year participating, and it's always such a great motivation for reading the books on my shelf. This is the challenge that drew me into the book blogging world two years ago. This year, I'm even more excited because I'm focusing more on my own books and less on review book obligations. So here is the list of books I'm hoping to read between today and December 21st.

First up, the last few review books I have for this year:
Before the Last All Clear by Ray Evans (review)The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen (review)Commune of Women by Suzan Still (review) Book club selections:
What Alice Forgot by Leane Moriarty (review)Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (review) And several books on my shelf that I've been wanting to read:
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (for Banned Books Week) (review)Beyond the Darkness by Leonard D. Hilley II (review)

Book Review: The Homeplace Revisited by William Leverne Smith

The Homeplace Revisited is the second in a series by William Leverne Smith that began with Back to the Homeplace last year. (Click here to read my review) The series is the ongoing saga of the family of Mildred Bevins, who left her estate to her four children when she died, provided that they agree to return to the homeplace and work the land there for two years. All four children returned, and the first book in the series was all about their experience going back home and adjusting to their new lives.

In The Homeplace Revisited, ten years has passed, and the characters who were teens in the previous novel are now grown. This novel is focused on them as they build their careers and their families. Christopher has followed in his father, Carter's, footsteps and become a lawyer. Jennifer is now a veterinarian, and both are looking for love. Matt is also returning to town with his wife and their children to start a new Internet Service Provider (the novel takes place in 1996). They a…

Book Review: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

Iris Lockhart receives a phone call from a psychiatric hospital informing her that she's been given power of attorney over her great-aunt, Esme, who has been a "resident" of the hospital for 61 years. But Iris has never heard of Esme Lennox, who is supposedly her grandmother, Kitty's sister. Her grandmother now has Alzheimer's and her father is dead. The hospital is closing and Iris doesn't know what to do with this woman who may be out of her mind.

In The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, Maggie O'Farrell creates a haunting story of a girl who was locked away in an institution at the age of 16. Esme's life before her institutionalization is revealed slowly through Esme's thoughts and those of her sister, Kitty. Iris's own story is intermingled with that of her great aunt. I love how O'Farrell shows the similarities between Esme and Iris in the way they rebel from societal rules. Esme does so through her disregard for the proper dress and for…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Good morning. I hope you had a good week. Thanks for stopping by. It's been a very busy week for me in all aspects ~ reading, blogging and life in general. I feel like I accomplished a lot, though, so that's a nice feeling. First off, the reading. I finished reading Revenge: A Travis Mays Novel by Mark Young. I'll put up my review this week.

I also read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell. I actually read that one in just two days, over the weekend. The kids are getting to the point where they'll spend hours playing outside with their friends on the weekend, and instead of cleaning, as I should have been, I sat and read. It was so nice!

Finally, I read several Mercer Mayer books with my kids since my daughter's school had Mercer Mayer Day last week.

Last week was also Book Blogger Appreciation Week and I managed to participate almost every day with the following posts:
Bloggers who have inspired me
Finding and keeping community
How blogging affe…

What My Children Are Reading - Mercer Mayer

On Wednesday, M's school had a Mercer Mayer Day, so we brought in all the books we have by Mercer Mayer (some are by Gina and Mercer Mayer). A couple years ago, my cousin gave us five of these books that her son had outgrown. At the time, I didn't know much about this Little Critter series. And since then, we honestly haven't read them much. But they have such great messages that I wanted to highlight some of the books we have.

In Just Going to the Dentist, Little Critter goes into the dentist for a routine check up. He tells about playing with the toys in the waiting room and getting his teeth cleaned. Then he has X-Rays and has to have a cavity filled. He talks about the medicine they gave him (they show the needle but don't say it's a shot) and how his mouth got all numb. But he says it doesn't hurt and he got a treat at the end. I wish I had shown this one to C before he had a cavity filled recently. Although he was fine with it at the time too.

In Just a …

BBAW 2011: Essential Blogging Practices

Today's topic for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is Blogging. We're supposed to share three tried and true practices for every blogger, as well as a new trend or tool we use or would like to try in the future.

1. Tracking System. I think one of the most important tools I use every day is a tracking system for the books I read and review. I've tried a few different formats, but the one that has worked best for me is a simple Word document with a table. Here's what it looks like:

For some books, the Review On column is set, particularly for those that are part of tours. For others, the Read By and Review On dates change as I read. When I add in a new book, I revise the dates for the others to keep track. I've also included notes on publishing dates, giveaways or interviews. And I added a column for 2011 to keep track of the state where the book takes place for a challenge I'm participating in. Finally, I change the shade of the row based on where I am in the proc…

BBAW 2011: How Blogging Affects Reading

Today's topic for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is Reading. There are four questions posed, and I'm going to focus on three of them.

Has book blogging changed the way you read? 
I'm a much more critical reader now. I find that I don't want to waste my time on books that aren't well-written and don't pull me in fairly quickly. There are so many books available to me and I have a limited amount of time to read. So I want to be sure I'm using that time doing something I enjoy, not struggling to read a book I don't like. 

Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? 
Absolutely. Five of my ten favorite books read in 2010 came from authors or publicists (A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper, The Last Christian by David Gregory, City of Dreams by William Martin, Insignificant Moments by Jeremy Asher, and Patch by Mucheru Njaga). I never would have read those books if I wasn't a blogger. Some aren't even available in my…

BBAW 2011: Community

Today's topic for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is once again Community. This time we're supposed to: "Share your tips for finding and keeping community in book blogging despite the hectic demands made on your time and the overwhelming number of blogs out there."

This topic definitely strikes a cord with me. I honestly don't think I am successful in this area and so it's good to think about, write about it and hopefully do something to improve my ability to find and keep community.

Memes
My primary resource for community is through memes. I've participated in different memes throughout the past two years, including It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Book Blogger Hop, and Teaser Tuesdays. Each has introduced me to new bloggers, brought me followers and given me new blogs to read. I think the key to using memes as a resource for fostering community is commenting on other meme participants. You can't just put up a post, link up and be done with i…

Tackling the TBR Pile - Finally!

I'm so excited! I currently have just six books for review left in my TBR pile. That's it for the rest of the year! I've decided not to accept anymore, and I'm staying away from NetGalley so I don't get tempted. I am determined to spend the rest of the year (after I'm done with these six) reading the books I've been wanting to read but never get around to. I should be done with the review books by mid-October.

So what's in that TBR pile that I am excited to read? Here are the ones I really want to read, in no particular order:
The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora WeltyGodmother by Carolyn TurgeonThe Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany BakerCaptivity by Deborah NoyesFantasy in Death by J.D. RobbThe Thieves of Darkness by Richard DoetschSweet Dates in Basra by Jessica JijiThe Forgotten Garden by Kate MortonSomeone Knows My Name by Lawrence HillAll Over But the Shoutin' by Rick BraggShoot the Moon by Billie LettsThe Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smi…

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I'm excited to participate for the first time. I'm not sure how much or how little I'll participate but I do hope to join in on some of the daily topics. Today, the topic is community. The overall theme for the year is Cultivating a Community of Bloggers and Readers, so today we're supposed to highlight bloggers who have made book blogging a unique experience for us.

I read a lot of book blogs but I do have a couple that I can highlight for different reasons.

The first is Book Journey. Sheila inspires me with her dedication to her blog. Every day, she posts an interesting, engaging article on her blog. Every day. She encourages discussion and is always responsive. I would love to have this level of dedication to my blog and my readers, but my "real life" often gets in the way. What really amazes me about Sheila is that she seems to have a lot going on in her daily life too, but she still manages to write on her blog e…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Hello. I'm posting this a little earlier than usual. I hope you had a great week. Mine was pretty good. And our weekend was a nice mix of getting things done and relaxing. We ended the weekend with the kids playing outside with their friends and us watching football. Very nice.

I didn't get much reading done last week, except That Day In September by Artie Van Why, a memoir about his experience during 9/11. This is a very moving little book. Artie also shared a guest post about the importance of sharing our memories with others.

I also reviewed Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield. I'm giving away a copy and the giveaway ends tonight, so be sure to click through to enter now!

Finally, I shared some of the books my kids have been reading lately.

Currently Reading
I'm now reading Revenge: A Travis Mays Novel by Mark Young. 

Up Next
Next I'll be reading The Homeplace Revisited by William Leverne Smith. I'll also be participating in Book Blogger Appr…

Guest Post: Reflections on 9/11 by Artie Van Why

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Last week, I reviewed a book called That Day in September by Artie Van Why. Click on the title to read my review. Today, I wanted to share some additional thoughts from the author about the reason he decided to write about his experience.

Every one of us has our personal 9/11 story; no matter where we were that day. My story happens to be that I was there at the World Trade Center that morning. That doesn’t make my story any more significant than anyone else's. It just makes it “my story.” A story I felt I had to put down in written words. 

I didn’t set out to write a play or the book initially. I just began writing about that day for my own personal healing and coping. The more I wrote, though, the more I was able to face the emotions, the nightmares, the “survivor’s guilt.”

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of something I saw, or heard, or felt that morning of 9/11. In putting my story d…

What My Children Are Reading

We've been doing more reading at night these days, and the kids have actually picked up some new books that I can tell you about. C has been really focused on non-fiction lately, both at school and at home. It's funny because he only has a couple more Magic Tree House books to read and he hasn't wanted to read them. He'd rather look through some non-fiction books he has.

Two of those books are about rocks and minerals, and his interest in them was sparked by the video game Minecraft. The main book he got from the library is DK Eye Wonder Rocks and Minerals. He has a pocket version of the book as well: DK Eyewitness Explorers Rocks and Minerals. Both books are great resources for anyone looking to learn a bit more about rocks and minerals, metals, crystals and gems. The books tell how rocks are formed, how they have been used in history and what rocks, minerals and metals are used for today. The larger Eye Wonder book gives more detail, but both books are informative a…

Book Review: Just My Type by Simon Garfield

As an editor, I find myself noticing grammatical and spelling errors in advertisements, books and product packaging all the time. After reading Just My Type by Simon Garfield, I'll be noticing the fonts as well. Although I must admit, I won't be able to identify them. I don't think I ever realized there were so many different fonts out there!

Garfield has taken what could be a very dry subject ~ fonts ~ and made it into an engaging book. I really enjoyed reading about the reasons why certain fonts were developed and how they satisfied specific needs, whether it be for street signs that had to be legible to drivers speeding down the road or newspapers that had to be easily read in small print. I also enjoyed reading about some of the people who have designed typefaces since the beginning, as well as the development of some of the fonts I know and use, such as Times New Roman, Gill Sans, Comic Sans and Verdana.

Throughout the book, Garfield infuses humor and interesting fa…

Book Review: That Day in September by Artie Van Why

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001? Artie Van Why was in New York City, working in his office building across the street from the World Trade Center. In That Day In September (a personal remembrance of 9/11), Van Why offers his story of the shock and devastation of that morning, life in the city in the weeks that followed, and the impact of the experience on his future.

This is an incredibly moving, vivid and personal description of one man's experience on the ground on 9/11. From the initial sound of the first plane hitting the tower, to the feelings of despair and uncertainty, Van Why brings the reader into his heart and mind that day and the days that followed.

This brief, 84-page memoir reads like a diary, offering a glimpse of what it was like for the author to be in New York as the towers were struck and fell. Van Why shows the compassion people in the city had for one another during and after the attacks, and the way the horror of what happened brought peo…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Good morning (for a few more minutes). It's hard getting these posts up on holiday Mondays. I hope everyone in the US is enjoying their Labor Day weekend! We had some friends over on Saturday night but mostly have had a fairly relaxing weekend. It's been nice.

Last week, I finished reading The Rules of the Tunnel: My Brief Period of Madness by Ned Zeman. I've put up my review and am also giving away a copy of the book. The giveaway ends tonight so be sure to click through and register to win now!

I also published my Month in Review for August. I got a lot accomplished during the month.

Currently Reading
I'm now reading Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield. I'll be reviewing that one on Thursday and will have a giveaway as well.

Up Next
Next I'll be reading Revenge: A Travis Mays Novel by Mark Young and That Day in September by Artie Van Why.

What are you reading this week? This meme is being hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if y…

Month in Review: August 2011

We had such a fun August full of traveling, and visiting with family and friends. It's hard to believe summer is almost over, but I think we're ready. The kids are back to school ~ C is in second grade now and M is in Pre-K. So far the school year has started off well.

Here's what happened in August in terms of reading and reviewing.

Books Read in August: 6
I read six books in August. Three were nonfiction books:
Sabbath by Wayne Muller
What Language Is by John McWhorter
The Rules of the Tunnel by Ned Zeman

... and three were thrillers:
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen The Summoner by Layton Green
The Egyptian by Layton Green
Reviews Written: 8
This month, I wrote eight reviews. First, I wrote reviews for two books I read in July:
Murder in the 11th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis
Listen by Rene Gutteridge

I also wrote reviews of five of the books I read in August. You can click on the links above to read them.

And I wrote a review for a book my son read: Artsy Fartsy by …