Friday, August 26, 2011


I discovered an article today that addresses another case of book censorship at a high school in New Jersey, specifically Williamstown high school.  In this case, two titles are removed from the summer reading lists -- for honors English students entering grade 10 for the first, and for senior honors English students for the second.
Norwegian WoodThe first title is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, and its removal was due to the parents' complaints about a certain passage in the book, which depicts a “graphic lesbian sex scene between a 31-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl.” I find it interesting that the article would not use the obvious description of pedophilia for this passage. I don't think I need to address why it is wrong that anyone should be required to read something of this nature.
Tweak: Growing Up on MethamphetaminesThe second title is Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff. The book was removed due to a passage detailing a “drug-fueled homosexual orgy.” While the legality of this issue is not as certain as in the previous title, it can be no less offensive, especially to someone with conservative tastes. Again, I do not believe that this should be required reading.
While I am completely against book banning, I feel I must point out that this is not a book-banning issue, nor even a true censorship issue, since the students are still free to go and buy or borrow these books outside of the classroom. This is merely a case of altering the required reading lists of a few classes, an act which likely happens regularly all across the country every year.
Ironically, I am nearly as much against the "required" part of these summer reading lists as I am against book banning. Forcing books onto students can have the effect of scaring them away from reading, especially if those books clash with personal religion, culture, etc. While this can certainly get out of hand, there are ways to wisely use choice on these summer reading lists.
I know of one title in particular that I still resent being forced to read because of both the style of writing and the content -- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I know there were other books that had both myself and my classmates wondering the value in forcing high school students to read them.
In the case of this high school, I am glad that some of those parents bothered to say something about the material being forced onto their children.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1)Book Details:
Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1)
By J.R. Ward
Genre: Fantasy
Published 2005, Penguin Group
Paperback, 393 pages
ISBN: 9780451216953

          In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there's a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing more than Wrath, the leader of The Black Dagger Brotherhood.
The only purebred vampire left on earth, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But, when one of his most trusted fighters is killed-leaving his half-breed daughter unaware of his existence or her fate-Wrath must usher her into the world of the undead-a world of sensuality beyond her wildest dreams.
I have read many good recommendations for this series, so I finally decided to try it out for myself to see how I would like it. I had some difficulty getting into the book in the beginning, especially with a glossary of terms that I had to sift through before I even began. I do appreciate intricate world-building though, and J.R. Ward weaves a very convincing, if complicated, world for her characters to live in.
The main character from the Black Dagger Brotherhood featured in this first book is Wrath, the blind king of the vampires who refuses to acknowledge his calling. The fact that he is near-blind is what I find most intriguing, especially since he hides it extremely well and seems to be as ashamed of it as his heritage. The descriptions that Ward uses to illustrate his lack of sight are quite beautiful and detailed and some of the best parts of the book.
The Lessening Society is the name of the group of people who's sole job is to hunt and kill the vampire race. The reader follows along on the leader of this organization's plans in parallel to the workings of the Brotherhood, so I got to know Mr. X as well as Wrath. The descriptions of the members of this society fit closer to that of zombies, and I disliked them right from the beginning. While I get that there must be an "ultimate evil" for the good guys to battle, I wish this group would just disappear.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood is a perplexing blend of male vampires, with names like Rhage and Tohrment, but I could see right away that their group was too small for such a big task set before them. Wrath's solution at the end was somewhat predictable in that way.
Butch's role in the book takes quite a different turn from what I expected, and I am more interested in how he develops in the series than many of the other characters. Hopefully, this will be part of the plot of the next book in the series, Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 2).

The Cover: There is not much that can be gathered from the cover, other than the obvious vampire reference and a blurry tattoo. I can't say that I really care for the cover.

First Line: "Darius looked around the club, taking in the teeming, half-naked bodies on the dance floor."
I am not sure how reading about a dance club is supposed to entice me to continue reading, but I am curious as to who Darius is.

Favorite Quote"Welcome to the wonderful world of jealousy, he thought. For the price of admission, you get a splitting headache, a nearly irresistable urge to commit murder, and an inferiority complex. Yippee."

Read For: 101 Fantasy Challenge, Black Dagger Brotherhood Challenge

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
Heart Most Worthy, A
          While Julietta was talking with Angelo, Luciana was back on Beacon Hill.She'd been sent to retrieve the sample books from Mrs. Quinn. And this time, Billy wasn't going out to The Tennis and Racquet Club, he was coming back. He jogged up the steps behind her and opened the door for her. What good fortune! What great luck!
She was wearing the same gown she'd worn the day before, an ivory color, in fabric so insubstantial it seemed to float in the air around her. It was done up with a sash that het him know that underneath all those layers she was as slender as she was lithe. He wondered anew what country she was from. Had he had the advantage of a classical education, he would have known how to speak Italian. Proper Italian. Her Italian. As it was, his mother had never let him learn it. It was the one point from which his father could never sway her.
'For what purpose?' she had always asked. 'So that he can speak to those filthy, destitute immigrants? Why should he have to learn to speak to them? They ought to be learning to speak to him.' - pg. 126, A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell

What are you reading this week?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: Kiss of Death by Rachel Caine

Kiss of Death (Morganville Vampires, Book 8)Book Details:
Kiss of Death (Morganville Vampires, Book 8)
By Rachel Caine
Genre: Fantasy
Published 2010, Penguin Group
Paperback, 241 pages
ISBN: 9780451229731

          A new chapter in the New York Times bestselling Morganville Vampires saga.
Vampire musician Michael Glass has attracted the attention of a big- time producer who wants to cut a demo and play some gigs-which means Michael will have to enter the human world. For this, he's been assigned escorts that include both a dangerous immortal as well as Michael's all-too-human friends. And with that mix of personalities, this is going to be a road trip from hell...
I think Rachel Caine could make a trip to the grocery store intoxicating, as long as it took place in Morganville. Kiss of Death introduced a wide variety of variables to play with by allowing the residents of Glass House a road trip outside of town, in the company of the less-than-companionable Oliver. Little did they know that they would not be truly leaving Morganville's craziness behind. From a near-death experience at a late-night truck stop to the destruction of Eve's beloved vehicle, from the surprising usefulness of Eve's brother Jason to the after-effects of Bishop's passage through Texas, Claire, Eve, Shane, and Michael were forced to fight for their lives and freedom from cover to cover, with barely enough time to throw out a few Buffy-esque quips to keep me laughing as I read as fast as I could.
The progression of the various relationships of the main characters were quite interesting. Eve and Michael's relationship is filled with angst and stress over their biological differences, but ironically still makes for typical young love issues. Shane and Claire's relationship lacks the drama of Eve and Michael's, but provides a solid foundation for the two in the midst of the chaos of their lives without becoming sickly sweet. Eve's brother Jason also seems to be in pursuit of redemption with the relationship he has with Eve, even despite his ignoble views about life in Morganville. The reader even gets a broader view of Oliver that shows he may actually have some concern for the lowly humans.
The town of Blacke and its inhabitants could possibly add a new dimension to the series that I hope to see in the next book, Ghost Town (Morganville Vampires, Book 9).

The Cover: So I had to read the entire book to understand the pink hair, but other than that, it is still a great cover.

First Line: "The way the Glass House worked, on a practical level, was that there was a schedule for the stuff that had to be done -- cooking, cleaning, fixing things, laundry."
While this opening may expound on some of the nuances of the Glass House for devout fans of the series, it in no way compels a person new to the series to continue past this opening line.

Favorite Quote"My dad used to say that life's a journey, but somebody screwed up and lost the map."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: If God, Why Evil? by Norman L. Geisler

If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the QuestionBook Details:
If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question
By Norman L. Geisler
Genre: Christian Non-Fiction
Published February 2011, Bethany House Publishers
Paperback, 167 pages
ISBN: 9780764208126

          Bestselling author and apologist takes on one of the most difficult questions Christians face. How can an omnipotent, loving God preside over a world filled with evil and suffering? The author's approach is concise, systematic, and clearly communicated, just what Geisler fans have grown to expect. In addition to relying on time-tested solutions to the problem of evil, the author also presents a compelling new way to think about this puzzle.
Norman Geisler takes a very systematic approach to a very broad and generalized question by breaking down the topic of evil into all its facets, such as nature, origin, and purpose. He also works in related topics like miracles and expands on the topics in three appendices. He uses both the rules of logic and debate as well as Bible scripture to support his conclusions.
I have read other books in the realm of Christian Apologetics, but nothing quite so detailed on a single topic as this book. While I was previously familiar with the arguments regarding the problem of evil, this book taught me why those arguments either work or don't work. Without getting into the specifics of what each argument entailed, I can safely say that Geisler did a thorough job of laying to rest the title question and addressing every possible side.
This book would be an excellent addition to any theology book collection.

The Cover: The cover is quite simple, a cloudy view to symbolize spirituality, with a small picture of artwork symbolizing when Cain slew Abel - an act of evil. It's to the point without being ostentatious.

First Line: "In my fifty years of studying difficult questions, none is asked more often than 'If God exists, why is there so much evil in the world?' "
While this is not the first time I have studied this question, I am interested in what Norman Geisler has to say on the subject.

Favorite Quote: "As to why He does not do it more, only an infinite Mind knows exactly how much is enough."

Read For: Off the Shelf Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths series)Book Details:
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths series)
By Margaret Atwood
Genre: Fiction
Published October 2005, Random House
Hardback, 196 pages
ISBN: 067697418x

          Margaret Atwood returns with a shrewd, funny, and insightful retelling of the myth of Odysseus from the point of view of Penelope. Describing her own remarkable vision, the author writes in the foreword, “I’ve chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to the twelve hanged maids. The maids form a chanting and singing Chorus, which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of the Odyssey: What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in the Odyssey doesn’t hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I’ve always been haunted by the hanged maids and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself.” One of the high points of literary fiction in 2005, this critically acclaimed story found a vast audience and is finally available in paperback.
This book was a very easy read and quite interesting, too. I have never read The Odyssey, (though that would be an ideal goal to keep in mind) but I am familiar enough with the plot to keep up with the many subtle references throughout The Penelopiad. This book was told from the point-of-view of Penelope, Odysseus's eternally-loyal wife, with the Chorus of maids chiming in with their opinions every other chapter.
Margaret Atwood does an excellent job of portraying the character of Penelope in a unique way without disrupting what we know of her from the original text. In this book, Penelope tells her story from beyond the grave, interspersed with her interactions with other known characters of that time, such as her self-involved cousin, Helen of Troy. Penelope balances many opposing traits into one body - from the bitter housewife, to the scheming seductress, to the self-sacrificing devotee - and still comes out as an admirable woman and wife that few could emulate so convincingly.
The chorus of maids served as both a comedic interlude in a rather tragic story and as further commentary of Penelope's story and their shared fate. Irony played a large part in the maids' story and final demise. Margaret Atwood's explanation for their cumulative death following the deaths of the numerous suitors made perfect sense according to the arrogance and bravado attributed to Odysseus from Penelope's account.
In many ways, this book bears strong themes of feminism, despite Penelope's loyalty to Odysseus. Though I imagine that The Odyssey portrays Odysseus as a grand hero worthy of respect, Penelope's narrative of him both in life and in death makes him out to be at times a philandering womanizer with immeasurable luck and other times a melodramatic little boy with an overactive imagination and an insatiable appetite for adventure. The ones who seemed to endure the most suffering in this plot were the ones that were shown the least respect and recognition - the women.

The Cover: The cover is an interesting modern art design that focuses on Penelope, with Odysseus's boat in the background. I like it.

First Line: "Now that I'm dead I know everything."
I think this is kind of an ironic way to open the story, especially since I am familiar with a Bible verse that says the direct opposite. I'm intrigued.

Favorite Quote: "Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does."

Read For: Read a Myth Challenge, I Want More Challenge

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Dark Lover by J. R. Ward

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1)
          A chill went through her. Something was very off.
She looked carefully at the sunglasses he wore.
She remembered his fingertips searching her face that first night they were together, as if he'd been trying to see her through touch. And then thought of the fact that he always wore those lenses, as if he weren't just blocking out light, but covering his eyes.
"Wrath?" she said softly.
He reached out for his wineglass, his hand not closing around it until the crystal hit his palm. - pg. 197, Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1) by J. R. Ward

What are you reading this week?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

Summers at Castle AuburnBook Details:
Summers at Castle Auburn
By Sharon Shinn
Genre: Fantasy
Published 2001, Ace Books
Paperback, 342 pages
ISBN: 044100928x

          As a child, Coriel Halsing spent many glorious summers at Castle Auburn with her half-sister-and fell in love with a handsome prince who could never be hers. But now that she is a young woman, she begins to see the dark side of this magical place...
With all of the series that I constantly fight to keep up with, this was a nice change with an all-in-one plot. The story is told entirely from Coriel Halsing's point of view, so the reader only gets to know things when she learns of them. Sometimes first person P.O.V. is limiting and somewhat claustrophobic, but in this case it simplified the story line and helped me to better get inside the mind of Coriel.
I grew to love Coriel as her story progressed and she matured into a strong, independent young woman. I love that she is not just a pretty face, but possesses both intelligence and wit. In many ways, this book is her coming-of-age story with a fantasy background that could have easily been traded for some other setting without compromising the character of Coriel Halsing.
I also love that Coriel is not the center of royal attention - like her sister, Elisandra - and the "handsome prince" is neither meant for her nor remotely appealing to me, the reader. It was quite entertaining for me to be constantly guessing as to whom Coriel would eventually wind up with. When the man was finally revealed, I was very happy with the results, though I would have enjoyed a bit more wooing on his part.
All of the different characters are well-developed and unique, from the narcissistic handsome prince Bryan, to the always-composed Elisandra, to the many aliora that populate the book. The aliora are quite fascinating, comparable to fairies or elves in description, but still unique to Sharon Shinn's design. In many ways, the aliora act as catalysts for political intrigue within Castle Auburn, as well as Coriel's personal development and maturation.
As an adult fairy-tale, this book can easily appeal to both teens and adults, as the romance is tastefully done and the risque topics, such as slavery, suicide, and illigitimacy, are handled with care and respect. Personally, I loved this book as much as I have loved everything else I have read from Sharon Shinn.

The Cover: The cover is a simplistic scenic design that features the likeness of Coriel. I would have liked some image to represent an aliora, but it is still nice.

First Line: "The summer I was fourteen, my uncle Jaxon took me with him on an expedition to hunt for aliora."
Right away I want to know what the aliora are - a great way to hook the reader!

Favorite Quote"For the rest of it is glitter and noise," he said. "At the heart of it all is love. You make that choice, and you go forward from there." 

Read For: I Want More Challenge
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