Category Archives: Books and Reading!

Book Reviews, Reflections on Reading, all things reader/book related!

The Review of Books – Take 1!

I am bad at writing book reviews.

There, I admitted it.

I have never been good at it. Remember back in elementary school, when you had to write book reports?  Simple things, right? “The book was about this, the main character was so-and-so, I liked this, I disliked this.”

Yeah, nope. Not so simple for me. Probably some of it is my anxiety, and some of it is that anxiety tied with self-esteem that is so worried that I’m going to be WRONG. I did manage to write an annotated bibliography for some of the research books I used for part of my undergraduate thesis without too much trouble but, beyond that, I’ve struggled.

And I would like to write more reviews. When I read awesome books I would like to share how awesome the book is because I know how important those reviews are for authors, and for marketing books further. When I have a book out I hope that people will write reviews for me, so I want to be doing the same for others.

But I sit and stare at the blank box on the screen and freeze up. I read other reviews, eloquent ones that give brief summaries without giving anything away, that talk about the things that were awesome about the book, and anxiety and panic sets in.

It’s ridiculous, but it’s where I’m at.

But I want to change that.  So this year, since I’m undertaking a number of reading challenges and working on my writing, I figured it’s a good year to push myself.

They don’t need to be long. They don’t have to say anything profound. But I figure I might as well give it a go.
So, throughout the year I’ll be posting little posts, likely with multiple reviews in one post (because it’s less pressure on one that way!)  And this post… this is my way to tell you what I’m going to be doing, to help hold myself accountable.

But I also wonder, what do you find helpful in reviews? What kind of things do you look for?  What kind of things do you like to write in them?  What kind of things do you not like?
65692Just a Geek – Wil Wheaton (completed 1/9/2017. Read Harder – Memoir by a Celebrity.)

Not being a hard-core Trekkie, and a casual Wheaton follower on the web I think I maybe would have gotten more out of this book if I were a bigger fan — and if it were more recent. However, I really liked the look into the struggle he had to find his place and what he really wanted to do, and that fight with depression/anxiety/proving himself. That part was very relate-able.

 

36013042Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo – Rick Riordan (Completed 1/16. Read Harder – A one-sitting book).

I guess, technically, this is kind of a short story – but I bought it as an ebook, and read it in one sitting (my commute), so it counts.  This is listed as Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5.5, which means I’m completely reading it out of order. I mean, I’m entirely up on Rick Riordan’s writings – I’ve read them all (well, okay, all of the things he’s written since the first Percy Jackson book – I haven’t delved into his earlier works yet), own them all (many of them even in hardcover) and consider myself a fan. But this one just got released as its own short story recently, so I had to transplant my mind to a time before the events of the Apollo books took place.

Once I made that shift, though, I enjoyed this story. It’s a fun little thing, a bit of classic Riordan humor, some interactions with Percy and Grover that we haven’t gotten to see in quite a while. And it is a SUPER FAST read.

 

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Reading in the New Year – 2018 Goals and Plans

A new year, a new set of reading goals!

As with all my goals this year I’m trying to put plans in place that will actually help me achieve them… last year was a real flop when it came to reading, and a super-flop when it came to writing about what I’d been reading.

There are a few things that I’m hoping will help me in my reading (and writing about reading) goals.

First, I’m only participating in a handful of challenges and events:

1515092626-1515092626_goodreads_misc I’ve signed up with the GoodReads challenge to read 75 books – I would love to say I’m going to read more, but I think 75 is a nice, relatively mellow, number to reach for.

ReadHarderChallenge2018-768x994 BookRiots Read Harder challenge has proven to be a challenge for me the past few years (the facebook group I run for a few of us trying to tackle it has reflected this with name-changes that are more and more insistent). But this year I’m taking a little bit of a different tactic. I’ve set up a Trello Board to help me keep track of what I’ve read (and make notes in when I have thoughts and such to contribute to blog posts). And I’ve already selected books to fit most of the categories. These are, of course, subject to change — but my hope is that by having options already listed I’m more likely to read them.

classicsclubThe Classics Club.  Oh, how I love the Classics Club – it’s such a fun group, with a great challenge.  But I kind of want to go back and time and talk some sense into the me that thought it was a good idea to put over 80 books on my Classics Club list.  80 Classics, in 5 years… really? I mean, it’s a nice thought – but reality has certainly gotten in the way.  But I’m going to strive to keep chugging away at this list (even though June 2019, my 5-year mark with the group, is coming up much faster than I’d like). In some cases my BookRiot challenge books have been selected because they’re on my Classics Club list 😀

And that is IT for Book Challenges. No matter what more I see, I’m sticking with these three — that’s enough pressure on myself! Especially for something that I am supposed to (and want to continue to) enjoy doing! There are, of course, some events that I hope to participate in as well — but even those I’m trying to keep limited.

 

NLW.FB.Cover.OIF.851x480When the Banned Book list comes out later this winter I’ll be taking a look at those books and selecting a few of them to read and write about for Banned Book Week in September. I’ve been participating in that for a long time, and have no plans to stop.  Depending on which ones make the top list for last year, I may go back to just picking some of the most-commonly-banned over the past couple years, or I may draw from the list of the year.  Either way – there’ll be banned book talk the whole week of Banned Book Week.

24hrreading2-thumb And, of course, there is Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. This awesome event happens twice a year – in April and October.  Every year I put it on my calendar, and every year I end up scheduling something else in that time.  This year, though… I’m keeping that April date CLEAR. I can’t say about October (things at work start picking up around then), but I’ve got plans for April, and have already started to think about what books I might save for the day (and what snacks I might prepare).

…And because I’m SO GOOD at sticking to my plans… since last week when I wrote this I’ve added two reading challenges to my list.  One is the 50 Book pledge (because, really, I’m doing that anyhow – I signed up to read 75 books since that’s my GoodReads goal.

I’m also going to participate in some of the Bout of Books activities – I think that the semi-regular check-in and challenges there might help keep me on track.. we’ll see!

les_miserables_readalong_finalAnd then, this came along… the Les Miserables Chapter-a-day read-along…. So.. yeah, I’m going to try that because I WOULD like to get through Les Miserables again, and it WILL help complete that for Classics Club….

Adding to this, and of course with a few exceptions, I am trying to mostly make use of the library and books I already own. Mostly because I just have so darn many books, and am trying to minimize my book budget.

What are you looking forward to in the reading world this year?  Any exciting books you know are coming out? Any reading challenges you’re trying or events you’re looking forward to?

Banned Books Week: Eleanor and Park

I may be a little late with this one – but one final Banned Books week post!

eleanorparkThis is another book that has been challenged because it’s “Unsuited for age-level,” and it has been removed from a few locations (including one removal that was reconsidered when it was realized the objections were actually about fan art, and not the book itself).

The reasons vary – the one cited on the ALA list is because of its language, and you can’t deny that swearing is scattered about, like, a lot. The author, Rainbow Rowell addresses this point very nicely, and I have to agree with her assessment. The use of swearing was, first of all, very real. And second, helped to create the atmosphere that these kids were living in. It became a part of the stage setting.

I really liked the book – for a number of reasons but one of them was the unique approach to the point-of-view of the story. The narration switches between Eleanor and Park, sometimes for as short as a few sentences, other times a few pages. We see the world through both of their eyes, and to me it helped to draw me closer to the characters. And in some ways, my own self. As Eleanor sat hating certain things about herself, Park would ponder on the ways those same things drew him in. I wonder what it would have meant to me to read something like that when I was younger, to see the ways that the things I hold as my greatest flaws – the things I like least about myself – might be things that someone else would love.

There are so many articles about the banning of this book, challenges made to it, and responses.  Personally I find the idea of banning it from shelves due to the language to be ridiculous (what teenagers aren’t at least hearing swear words?), and if it was challenged due to harsh content – like topic of abuse – I feel it’s equally ridiculous. These are topics that teenagers DEAL with in their lives, how does pretending it doesn’t exist help anyone?

What are your thoughts?

 

Banned Books Week: George

George, by Alex Gino

george1

“Be who you are. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.” (Goodreads)

This book has been awarded a Stonewall Award and a Lambda Literary award.  It tells about George, a fourth grade student who everyone thinks is a boy, but who knows she is a girl.  Told in a close perspective from George’s point of view, using female pronouns throughout the book, it follows George through a portion of her school year – a very small portion really.  But an important one, as she begins to actually share with her family and closest friends her true self.

This book has been banned and challenged because of the main character – a transgender child – and “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”

I loved this book, and I can imagine that it could be powerful for a kid to read it. For kids struggling to be able to express their true selves, regardless of what challenge may be getting in the way of that. And I can’t even begin to imagine how powerful it could be for a child who is struggling with being identified by the gender they were assigned at birth, when they know in their heart that they are not that gender, to be able to read a story about a kid like them.

I came across just a few articles about this book – one from NPR with a talk to Alex Gino, who speaks about the story, how they related to it, and how they would have named it differently now.

“If I were going to name [the book] now, I would not have done that,” Gino says. “Because it is the assigned name, not her chosen name. When I started the book in 2003, the name of the book was Girl George — which was clearly an homage to Boy George. And then when Scholastic got it, one of the first things they did was, they cut off ‘Girl’ because they wanted to open up the audience. And I didn’t even notice, in all of the things that happened, that I have effectively dead-named my main character.”

Office of Intellectual Freedom (American Library Association) Blog article on George.

Article from Christian Today talking about the reason behind one of the Challenges to George.

Banned Books Week – Looking Local

I decided to explore a little bit some of the censorship that happens right in my own backyard.  The Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse (OIFC) has some great resources, including a list of all library material challenges in Oregon going back to 1988 (the current list runs to June 30, 2017).

In the 2016-2017 academic calendar (July through June) there were 20 reported challenges in Oregon, from six different public libraries.  The challenges were to books, videos, magazines, and sound recordings.

“Included among the challenges are seven videos that a patron removed from a library’s shelves and hid inside the library. Library staff found some of the videos and purchased replacements for others, according to their Collection Development Policy. The videos all had LGBT+ characters featured in the cover art. The Library Director identified the patron and learned that they were hiding the videos in an attempt to restrict other patrons’ access to LGBT+ films and prevent “potential harm” to children. The Library Director explained the library’s collection development policy, responsibility to represent diversity, and non-endorsement of materials/ideas in the collection to the patron. According to the library’s Code of Conduct, the patron was trespassed for six months.” (OIFC Annual Report)

What’s interesting to look at with some of these challenges is that the challenges come from many different viewpoints.  For example, the movie “2 Days in Paris” was challenged by a patron due to “anti-gay content.” While the movie “Beautiful Things” was included in the incident mentioned above, where a patron objected to the LGBT content.

The books that made it onto the challenged list in Oregon this year?

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, by Clair Legrand
Objection: Violence (Patron asked it to be moved from the juvenile section to the teen section due to the content and themes).
Outcome: Retained.

George, by Alex Gino
Objection: Sexual (unsuited to age)
Outcome: Retained

Pretty Little Liars: Ali’s Pretty Little Lies. By Sara Shepard
Objection: Values (offensive language)
Outcome: Retained

Curious George by H.A. Rey
Objection: 1: Values (Racism) 2: Other (Unsuited to age).
Outcome: Retained