Banned Books Week – Eleanor & Park

So this is Banned Books Week.  It is a week to celebrate our freedom to read.  Our freedom to read whatever we like, with no interference, because we are a free people and free people read freely.  I’m admittedly not a fan of certain genres and your political and religious beliefs may not mirror mine.  But I do believe in your right, the right of every free person, to read anything and everything.  It is the way that we learn, explore new ideas, escape, find solace and understanding, and become inspired.

Unfortunately, not everyone believes in the freedom to read.  Recently the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota and the public library cancelled contracted appearances by the author Rainbow Rowell.  Her young adult book, Eleanor & Park, was selected for their summer reading program and the author had been invited to the local schools and the public library.  Cancelling her appearances wasn’t enough.  Now a group of parents has engaged the Parents Action League and are pushing for the removal of the book from the library and disciplinary action for the librarians that chose the book.  Their complaints are centered on profanity and “crude and sexually charged material”.

OK, I read Eleanor & Park.  I loved Eleanor & Park.  There is profanity, but it comes out of the mouths of the “bad guys”, the bullies and Eleanor’s abusive stepfather.  Does any parent of a teenager really believe that their child has not heard, and probably occasionally used, profanity? Is it really all that shocking to these teenagers?  And while Eleanor and Park have all the sweetness of first teenage love, and the author can describe intimately what it feels like to hold someone’s hand, they never get past second base and actually make a conscious decision to NOT have sex!  If your teenagers don’t know what sex is, or you haven’t talked to them about making responsible choices regarding sex, maybe now would be the time…

While I am a librarian and an advocate for the freedom to read, I also have a 12-year old daughter and a 17-year old son.  Above all other things that I am, I am a mom.  And I would let either of my children read this book.  There is NOTHING in this book that would shock my son in the least.  My daughter is younger, but mature, and I would happily share this story with her.  Why?  Because the issues in this book are important.  It heartbreaking story about not belonging, being uncomfortable in your own skin, about bullying and abusive situations at home.  It is also a beautiful story about first love and honesty and friendship, about finding your place and loving and accepting who you are.  This is a story about being a teenager, and being a teenager is hard.  The issues that they face, that my kids face along with thousands of others, are painful and difficult and raw.  But they are REAL.  Books like Eleanor & Park give parents a chance to share these stories and issues with their teenagers, to open up a real and meaningful dialog.

As Rainbow Rowell said in an interview with The Toast’s Mallory Ortberg:

Eleanor & Park isn’t some dystopian fantasy about a world where teenagers swear and are cruel to each other, and some kids have terrible parents.

Teenagers swear and are cruel to each other. Some kids have terrible parents.

Some girls have terrible stepdads who shout profanity at them and call them sluts – and some of those girls still manage to rise above it.

When these people call Eleanor & Park an obscene story, I feel like they’re saying that rising above your situation isn’t possible.

That if you grow up in an ugly situation, your story isn’t even fit for good people’s ears.  That ugly things cancel out everything beautiful.

While I loved the book, and regularly recommend it to others (please don’t discipline me!), I respect a parent’s right to not want their child to read it.  As much as we all have the freedom to read, we equally have the freedom to not read.  My issue is with the parents that suddenly feel it is their duty to provide a moral compass to an entire county school and library system.  Let these children, along with their parents, decide for themselves.  Keep your kid home if you don’t want them to meet the dangerous Rainbow Rowell.  It is not my job as a librarian to censor what your children read – that is your job as a parent.  If you don’t like it, take it away from your kids and tell them why, realizing that your disapproval will only make them more eager to read it.  Oh – and wait – they’re actually reading!  That might be a good thing…

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Tuesday Top Ten

top ten sequels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the ten best sequels.  There are plenty of series that I have highly enjoyed, but it is often difficult to pick out the best in series, the sequel that is truly the highlight, and most times I can’t even remember what happened in which book, but I’ll give it a try!

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – It may be the only time that the final book in a series didn’t let me down in some way…  The only let down was that it was over.
  2. Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny – A heartbreakingly beautiful novel, far more about the characters than the mystery, although that is fascinating as well.
  3. How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny – The sequel that I have most anticipated (OK – after the Harry Potter series!) and it did not disappoint!
  4. Son by Lois Lowry – This sequel to The Giver brought together the three previous novels beautifully and answered a lot of questions within an engrossing story.
  5. Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls – This story of the author’s grandmother is gripping and a wonderful sequel to her memoir The Glass Castle.
  6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth – Maybe it’s just because I am anxiously awaiting the final book in the series, but this novel did not disappoint as so many middle books in a trilogy often do.
  7. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larrson – As raw and gripping as the first!
  8. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith – While I have enjoyed all of the books in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, finding the language and cadence of the stories like a mini-vacation, this one has always been one of my favorites.
  9. The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer – This is when some of the first indications appear that Artemis Fowl may actually have emotions…
  10. Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman – One of my favorites of the Moe Prager series, gritty and sad.

How the Light Gets In

light gets in

Fantastic!  Amazing!  Wonderful!  I gasped, I held my breath, I hoped, and I despaired.  I have been waiting for this book for a year, ever since I cried and gasped at the end of A Beautiful Mystery and it did not disappoint for a moment.  If you are a fan of wonderful literature, in-depth amazing characters that you want to know (and feel that you DO know), and well-developed mysteries, I encourage you to start the Chief Inspector Gamache series as soon as possible!  I read a lot of mysteries, some better than others, but few fall into this category of excellence.  Even if you don’t typically read mysteries, give this series a chance.  The mysteries are secondary to the wonderful characters and their relationships.

There is little that I can, or will, say about the plot.  Gamache is back in Three Pines, investigating the murder of one of the famous Ouellett quintuplets.  But more importantly, he is once again pitted against Chief Superintendent Francoeur, his malignant boss who has gutted his department and stolen his protégé, Jean-Guy, leading him back into a world of drug-dependence.    Ultimately, things will come to a head, putting Gamache, his friends, Jean-Guy, and Three Pines itself in danger of decimation.  Heartbreaking and inspiring, Penny artfully balances good and evil, despair and hope.

Title:  How the Light Gets In
Author:  Louise Penny
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 416
Publication: Minotaur Books, August 2013

Tuesday Top Ten

top ten fall tbr

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten list of books that I want to read this fall.  There are WAY more than ten, there are always way more than ten books on my TBR list, and I am probably forgetting some or there are some that will hop to the top of the list later this year when I realize they are coming out, but here’s what I’m looking forward to right now…

  1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth – This is a series that I have been reading along with my daughter this summer and I am eager to read the final book!
  2. Sycamore Row by John Grisham – Grisham’s legal thrillers are always a fast and fun read and I am looking forward to a return to the setting of A Time to Kill.
  3. The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom – I’ve been a fan of Albom’s work in the past but found The Time Keeper to be a disappointment.  I’m hopeful for better things with his next book.
  4. Just One Year by Gayle Forman – I read Just One Day earlier this year, not realizing that it was part of a series, and now I want to finish the story!
  5. Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich – The one series that always makes me laugh out loud!
  6. Loss of Innocence by Richard North Patterson – This novel is a prequel to Fall from Grace which I devoured in a day!
  7. Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith – This series always entertains me, yet always leaves me feeling relaxed and peaceful – must be something to do with the main character’s personality.
  8. Death of Santini by Pat Conroy – An author I have always enjoyed, with much of his work based on his life – this autobiographical story is sure to be worthwhile.
  9. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore – I am interested in learning about Ben’s little sister who apparently had quite an active part in history as well.
  10. Edison and the Rise of Innovation by Leonard DeGraaf – The dork in me is always interested in the great scientific and engineering minds throughout history.

Mystery Mayhem

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of a good (and even some not-so-good) mysteries.  I thought I’d share some more quick thoughts on what’s new in some of my favorite series.

last word

The Spellman Novels follow the antics of Izzy Spellman as she fumbles her way along as a private investigator working for the family business, Spellman Investigations.  Izzy is a disaster, professionally and personally, but she knows it, and that’s what makes these books so much fun.  Most of the mysteries are pretty low key, not a lot of death or blood or high-stakes crime, but it’s not really about the mystery anyway – you know that is going to work itself out.   The real joy comes from reading about this amazingly dysfunctional family and their interactions.  Hilarious and touching at the same time.

In this latest installment, The Last Word, Izzy has arranged a hostile takeover of the family business and has discovered that being the boss isn’t that much fun.  Her parents are boycotting work and if they do show up at the office it may be in their underwear.  And are they having marital difficulties?  Dad didn’t come home last night…  Her sister is off starting her own questionable side business with the help of another wayward employee.  Her brother keeps trying to make her babysit his completely obnoxious toddler.  Her benefactor is literally losing his mind, but someone seems to be trying to rush it along, and he wants Izzy to have a conversation with his assistant about personal hygiene.  Like real life, not everything has a happy ending, but getting there is worth it.

Title: The Last Word
Author: Lisa Lutz
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 352
Publication: Simon & Schuster, July 2013

bombshell

The FBI Thriller novels follow Savich and Sherlock as they solve crimes as part of the FBI.  The crimes ten to be pretty gruesome, but the bad guys never win for long with this married couple on the case.  Their relationship is warming as they balance doing their job with raising a family and their urge to protect one another.

In this latest installment, Bombshell, they are joined by Griffin Hammersmith, last seen in Backfire, who has been recruited by Savich to join their unit of the FBI.  On his way to D.C. Hammersmith decides to stop in Maestro, Virginia to visit his sister Delsey, a music student.  Before he gets there he receives a phone call telling him that his sister has been found naked and unconscious in a pool of blood that is not her own.  As Hammersmith tries to protect his sister and solve the mystery of what is going on in Maestro, Savich and Sherlock are dealing with the dead body of a young man that was found displayed in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

The book jumps back and forth between the stories of what is happening in Maestro and D.C., but it isn’t distracting, instead keeping to book moving along at the quick pace I’ve come to expect from Coulter’s FBI novels.  Hammersmith is a nice addition to the team, his seeming ability to “see” what is going to happen is not overplayed, but an interesting twist.  A fun, fast ride through two completely different worlds of crime.

Title: Bombshell
Author: Catherine Coulter
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 400
Publication: Putnam, July 2013

never go back

The Jack Reacher series follows the former MP as he wanders the country aimlessly, with no possessions to weight him down, and becomes entrenched in one disastrous situation after another, usually to help out a beautiful woman.  These books are mysteries, but are heavy on the action and suspense, with healthy doses of romance and humor.

In this latest installment, Never Go Back, Reacher has finally made it to Virginia to look up Susan – the woman currently running his old MP unit – who he felt a connection with during a series of phone calls made several books previously.  When he gets there a number of surprises are waiting for him – Susan is in jail, he’s being accused of murder, and he may be the father of a teenager.  Forcefully re-enlisted into the military Reacher will need to unravel this latest mystery and find out what’s really going on.  Overall, what we’ve come to expect from a Jack Reacher book, fast-paced and fun.

Title: Never Go Back
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 416
Publication: Delacorte Press, September 2013

davidson

The Goldy Schulz novels follow the caterer as she manages to blunder over one dead body after another in Aspen Meadow, Colorado.  And no matter how much the police chief (who also happens to be her husband) wants her out of harm’s way, she seems to stumble into that as well as she tries to get justice for the recently deceased.

In this latest installment, The Whole Enchilada, her friend Holly drops dead after leaving a birthday party catered by Goldy.   Even as the police try to figure out whether she was actually murdered, and if so, how, it becomes apparent that Holly had plenty of secrets and there are plenty of available suspects.  Why was she broke?  Who were all those boyfriends she kept talking about?  Why did someone also try to hurt Holly’s son and their priest?  And who’s after Goldy and why?  She doesn’t think she knows anything, but someone is convinced that she does.  Joined by her friend Marla, some friends from the police department, her catering partner Julian, and her husband Goldy unravels yet another mystery.

Title: The Whole Enchilada
Author: Diane Mott Davidson
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Publication: William Morrow, August 2013