Sep 30, 2011

Banned Books Week Awesomeness Part 4

Another day of BBW, another post about some awesome stuff. All images will lead you to the goodies. Find day 3 HERE, day 2 HERE, and day 1 HERE.

Carolyn always has the coolest stuff for sale and has been generous to donate her banned inspired jewelry to this blog. She is now an ABFFE affiliate so when she sells to bookstores, ABFFE gets 10%. I have bought several things from her. Check out her new pins! 

Love this cartoon from Unshelved

Yes, the Hunger Games series has definitely been challenged - violence. I LOVE this pumpkin and Novel Novice is giving one away! *crosses fingers* 

This shirt is calling my name!!! 

Thank you sticking around this week! 

Confessions from a Book Challenge Part 2

Yesterday I had a guest post from Allison in Texas where she talks about her experiences when a book was challenged. If you missed that, you can catch it HERE.

If you are a librarian and have been through something similar, please feel to share in the comments section.

Jen from Ontario:

I remember when I was interviewing for the job I have now, that one of the questions I was asked was about how I would respond to being questioned or challenged on the material on our shelves. Coming from a customer service background my go-to answer had always been “the customer is always right”. But when it came to this I knew that wasn’t the right answer.
Showing understanding and listening to the “customer’s concerns” were important but I knew (I felt) that freedom of information, the right for everyone to choose was more important. 
This is the only book I’ve been officially challenged on. It (was) in our picture book section. The author and Illustrators are Canadian and have a popular children’s series. 

The parent who complained about this one wrote a 3 page letter about why she was so offended. The book is about a dog that eagerly awaits the mailman. He arrives and the dog devours him across the pages. It’s pretty graphic. But you can see on the front cover there is even a warning label. What shocked me was the parent talked about reading the entire book to her 4 year old. I would have thought that after realizing the material wasn’t preschool friendly she would have stopped. We contacted her, and listened to her concerns again; but explained that the book would not be removed from the library. We did however relocate the book to a different section. 
Challenges don’t happen very often but if they do we have an online form on our library website where we can direct customers to fill it out if they concerns. It’s called a “Material Re-Consideration” form. After it’s filled out, it goes to whichever department the book is housed in. The head of that department calls the customer and listens to their concerns and then explains our “intellectual freedom” policy.  
You can read that policy here:

Thank you, Jen for for sharing your experience with us!

Sep 29, 2011

Confessions from a Book Challenge Part 1

All this week we have been talking (and celebrating) "banned" books. I've pointed out frequently challenged books, ways you can be an Intellectual Freedom Fighter, and even given some of my favorite books away that are chronically on the naughty list to willing readers.

Yesterday, I had an interview with Jo Knowles about her experience having her first published book, Lessons From a Dead Girl, challenged in Kentucky. Today, I want to share a story with you from a youth librarian who has been through a challenge. In fact, two. This story will enlighten anyone not in a library about what happens when a complaint is received. Yes, all libraries respond/act differently depending on the population they serve and what their collection development policy entails.

If you are a librarian and have been through something similar, please feel to share in the comments section.

Allison from Texas:

I've had two of my books challenged since starting in libraries.  I say "my" books because they were ones I had selected, purchased, and put on the shelf.  
My first challenge was GOSSIP GIRLS by Cecily von Ziegesar.  I was working in a very small public library as a part-time Youth Services Assistant while I was working on my Masters degree. I was the half in our one and a half department. I immediately took over the Young Adult collection and started ordering more current, popular books.  One was the GOSSIP GIRLS series.  Everyone was happy until a mother of a teenage girl filled out a challenge form for the book.  My library director went nuts.  Suddenly, I had to look up every library in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex to see where they located this title--if they owned it.  The Youth Services librarian had to read the book to decide whether my findings and judgment were accurate.  I was a little overwhelmed and pissed off.  

I wanted to shake my fist at this mom because here's the thing: she hadn't even read the book.  That's right.  She made her judgment and basis for her complaint by flipping thru the book.  The woman isolated words without context such as drugs, sex, alcohol.  She also failed to completely fill out the "Request for Reconsideration" form.  If you are going to take the time to question someone else's judgment, I believe you should at least do two things. One, read the book you are objecting to.  Second, go thru the formal complaint process if you are serious about having a book removed because it's a BIG DEAL.
In the end, this book challenge amounted to nothing because the patron did not follow the proper steps for filing an official challenge.  It eventually was forgotten and made into "no big deal."  But it made me suspicious, it made me question MY judgment.  And it left a bad taste in my mouth.  I wasn't out of library school, and yet my nerves were already rattled.  It was an eye-opener.
Now my second challenge came from my current job.  I'm the Teen Services Librarian for the Central location of a public library.  This was a very different challenge.  It was made formally using the proper measures sent to my supervisor and our library director.  It was for a young adult non-fiction title, TWEAK by Nic Sheff.  

The parent thought that the book was not suited for her 13 year old son.  This particular mother had read the book specifically referencing several passages that I must admit I was not fully aware of.  However, she did not ask that the book be removed from our collection, but rather requested that it be relocated to the adult non-fiction section.  I pulled all the book's reviews from professional journals and polled local libraries to see where they had the book located.  About half had it in adult non-fiction and half had it in young adult non-fiction.
When a book challenge is made, it is up to the librarians to come down with a decision.  If the patron does not agree with that ruling, he or she is able to appeal the decision to the library board.  So basically, my supervisor asked me what I thought.  It came down to this... Our Young Adult collection development policy states that we select titles for high school readers.  It is strictly 9th thru 12th grade.  This book falls squarely in that category according to reviews and recommendations.  Also, the reason we have a young adult non-fiction is due to the fact that teens rarely browse and check-out titles from our adult collection which is located on another floor.  Move the book out of the Teen Area (where it was circulating like crazy!), and it would hardly ever leave the shelf lost in the stacks.  I could not justify relocating the title based on one person's reading of it.  And my supervisor agreed.
I was genuinely surprised by the full support I received from my supervisors, library director, and get this--the patron.  I fully expected her to challenge my decision, but she actually thanked us for our consideration and accepted our decision.  I did recommend a few things to her.  That if she had any hesitations about her son's choices--to read it first.  Secondly, please ask a librarian for recommendations when in doubt!  We love to help.  Also, I informed her of our YA collection development policy.  That I select for the high school level while juvenile collections include middle school.  (It's this weird split that I've never quite understood, but due to funding it has always worked out okay.)
Oddly enough, I found this book challenge a positive experience because of the support I received from my library.  The willingness of the patron to accept our final decision also helped.  She was willing to listen to my reasons, and it allowed me the opportunity to recommend other titles for her son.  It was very much a "teachable moment."  So I've had both good and bad outcomes with book challenges.  But I always wonder, will this be the next book challenged?  And the truth is, you never know.  Sometimes the books that people choose to challenge surprise me.  But the point is that is hasn't stopped me from buying any books.  I do not censor my selections or purchases based on mine or anyone else's objections.  There's a book for every reader.  
P.S. I just purchased We All Fall Down by Nic Sheff, and a replacement for our well-worn copy of TWEAK.

Thank you, Allison for sharing your story!

Banned Books Week Awesomeness Part 3

Another day of BBW, another post about some awesome stuff. All images will lead you to the goodies. Find day 2 HERE and day 1 HERE.

Buy this for me please....

This kinda cracks me up. Thanks, Shelf Check.

Ohhhh, pretty.

I have this t shirt and I love the bag. Unshelved has all sorts of cool stuff. 

That's it for now, but stay tuned! 

Sep 28, 2011

Interview with "Banned" Author, Jo Knowles

My friend Emily over at The Hate Mongering Tart asked me to interview Jo Knowles for her blog during Banned Books Week. I thought I would post here as well. Thx, Em for the great idea!

Here is a little back ground. Jo Knowles is a fabulous writer and her first book, LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL was published by Candlewick Press in 2007. In 2009, the Montgomery County High School in Kentucky challenged the book. Today, I'm happy to talk with Jo about her "banned" experience. 

Welcome, Jo!

There have been many books published about child abuse at the hands of family or friends, but I don't recall very many about peer abuse. Where did this story originate?
I was at work sifting through research for a booklet on child abuse and came across an article about kids abusing kids. It resonated with me in a really powerful way, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. On my drive home that night, the first scene of Lessons began to form in my head. I started writing as soon as I got home.

During the first stages of LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL, did it ever cross your mind that the content would be controversial?
You know, when I was writing the book, publishing was such a distant dream that I wasn't thinking about content in that way. I was just focusing on writing the story in the truest way I could, without being too explicit--not because I was worried about being censored, but because I didn't think Laine would tell her story that way.

Your book was removed from classroom use and approved curriculum from Montgomery County High School in Kentucky (2009). How did you learn of the news? 
The teacher, Risha Mullins, contacted me to tell me. I'd actually done a phone visit with her class the year before, because she was so excited by her students' response to the book. In particular, her "reluctant" readers. She told me some of the parents had gotten together to try to remove the book, and whether I knew anyone who could help her. That was how it all started.

What was your first reaction when you heard a parent called your book "soft pornography?"
When people started talking about how explicit the book was, I felt very cheated and falsely accused. There are no explicit descriptions in the book.It's hard to explain, but for a little while, I also felt ashamed. It's a horrible feeling to be accused of doing something "bad" even when you know in your heart you didn't do anything of the sort.

Generally, people want material removed from a school/ public library out of fear. What do you think these parents and other adults were so afraid of?
I think in the case of my book, there was a fear of homosexuality. This is ironic, since the two girls are clearly not homosexual. One of the main character's friends later in the book is gay, but it's not an "issue" in the story and I'm fairly certain this wasn't what the banners were focusing on. They were classifying the abuse as homosexual because it was between two girls.

Did the challenge of LESSONS influence your further writing?
It stalled my writing because I suddenly became ultra aware of how anything I wrote might be misinterpreted or misunderstood or taken out of context. What finally helped me was pulling out all the letters I'd received from teens who felt less alone because of the book. That makes everything else worth it.

After all is said and done, would you have changed anything about the controversial themes of LESSONS?
No. I really wouldn't. Because I don't really think the themes are controversial. Sexual abuse happens. That's not controversial, it's just unfortunate. I think the book helped a lot of people finally talk about a type of abuse that, while very common, has been kept in the dark. That's what's so crazy about all this talk about YA lit being too dark. Books are only as dark as reality. Books pull the darkness into the light. And hopefully, by doing so, they help pull readers out of it, too.

Thank you, Jo for sharing your experience with us!  

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You can find Jo at her website and on Twitter

Waiting on Wednesday - Embrace by Jessica Shervington

Embrace by Jessica Shervington
March 1st 2012 from Sourcebooks

I slowly opened my eyes. The sun speared its first bright rays of golden orange into the sky and I leapt from the cliff, with the sorrowful knowledge that no matter what the outcome, at least part of me would die that day...

Violet Eden is dreading her seventeenth birthday dinner. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. The one bright spot is that Lincoln will be there. Sexy, mature and aloof, he is Violet’s idea of perfection. But why does he seem so reluctant to be anything more than a friend?

After he gives her the world’s most incredible kiss – and then abandons her on her front doorstep – Violet is determined to get some answers. But nothing could have prepared her for Lincoln’s explanation: he is Grigori – part angel and part human – and Violet is his eternal partner.

Without warning, Violet’s world is turned upside down. She never believed in God, let alone angels. But there’s no denying the strange changes in her body ... and her feelings for Lincoln. Suddenly, she can’t stand to be around him. Luckily, Phoenix, an exiled angel, has come into her life. He’s intense and enigmatic, but at least he never lied to her.

As Violet gets caught up in an ancient battle between dark and light, she must choose her path. The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity...

I first learned about this YA title through a webinar last week hosted by Sourcebooks. So fun to sit and listen to some great upcoming titles. I highly recommend you jump on those. Anyway, this was one of the featured titles and I really liked the look and sound of it. Lo and behold, it came in the mail the other day! Yipee!

What are you waiting on?

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Sep 27, 2011

Banned Books Week Awesomeness Part 2

So, yesterday I showed some cool things that I love about Banned Books Week. If ya missed it, HERE you go. Today, I have more goodies and funnies for you to see.

First up, my good friends Girls In the Stacks made this totally hilarious BBW video. I love these girls and their creativity. They are willing to have fun and do it all for literature.

Maureen Johnson tweeted about donating all of the proceeds for this YA Saves shirt to Reading is Fundamental. #yasaves was a hashtag created after a war broke out on Twitter after Cox Gurden publicly stated that dark subject matter in young adult literature will harm and endanger a child. (grounds for a book challenge?) The world fought back, including teens, saying that teens and young adults have"dark" experiences and they feel that reading about them has saved their life. Hence....#yasaves. If you missed it, Google - "#yasaves" + Twitter  I'll be buying this shirt!

Love this BBW poster from 2003 with a Warhol feel.

This parody cartoon of the #1 challenged book, And Tango Makes Three, makes me laugh. Maybe I shouldn't. ;)

That's it for now, but stay tuned! Many more to come this week!

A Monster Calls - Interview with Patrick Ness

I am beyond honored to have THE Patrick Ness on the blog today. I jumped at the chance to read his latest, A Monster Calls, and practically fell off the couch for an opportunity to ask him a few questions. 

If you haven't read my review of A Monster Calls, you can find it HERE. If you are too lazy to go take a look and want the bottom line, it's a short story that will leave a lasting impression - a must own. Period. I know many of you readers were lucky to score this ARC at ALA in New Orleans this year. Don't wait a moment more, pick it up and grab a box of tissues. If you didn't get one, the book is available today! Without further ado, Patrick Ness!

You have publicly voiced the relevance and importance of libraries describing yourself as "a child that libraries built." What is your fondest literary memory as a child?
Well, confession time, I didn't actually use that phrase, that was a misquote that's oddly followed me a bit, but I don't mind, it works! The sentiment's a good one. My best library memories are the big secret that no one wants to say about them: their freedom. I could walk in and there was the whole world waiting on the shelves. I'd pick books almost at random. I'd come up with some real duffers (and some really hilariously inappropriate stuff, which I've written about) but also some real discoveries that felt so much more personal since they were purely mine. Freedom, I'd say. I've been a free reader ever since.

I found the BBC article about A Monster Calls enlightening. What was the clincher in the late Siobhan Dowd's work that convinced you to finish her story?
It was that her idea was so potent that it almost involuntarily started triggering my own ideas, and THAT - as any writer will tell you - is the magic moment. When ideas start sparking so fast you barely have time to write them down. Off I went, joyfully.

Can you tell us a little bit about how the illustrator Jim Kay came on board?
My editor and art director suggested a few folks, and they'd particularly liked some drawings Jim had done of beetles. I went to his website (which is great) and saw some terrific drawings of - of all things - electricity pylons and crows that had just the right feel for what I had in mind. So we asked him to do a test drawing, and he came back with the monster leaning on Conor's house, looking in his window. And it was perfect, right from the very first try. That picture hasn't changed since day one, and that's how we knew he was the guy for us. And he's such a lovely, nice guy, too.

Jim Kay/Walker Books

I agree with others that A Monster Calls is a fantastic story for children of all ages and adults alike. Was that intentional or does the universal subject of love and loss naturally make it a fitting crossover?
I only ever really write stories for me. And that sounds selfish, but it's not, it's a real principle of writing, I think, which is that if I don't respond to the story, why would I ever expect anyone else to? It's really got to work for me first, or I think I'm being dishonest and the story will fail. So if I'm writing it for me and responding to it, then I hope that everyone else can, too. If you aim for "crossover" then I think you immediately fail. You just have to set all that aside and write the best story you can. The appropriate audience will come, you just have trust.

When the monster visits Conor, he is told that he will hear three stories before telling his own truth. Where did these three stories originate?
Siobhan had made some notes about how there would be three stories and how excited she was to write them, but she didn't actually leave any notes about what they might be. I really responded to the idea of the stories, though, and thought that was brilliant concept and fit in so well with the theme of the danger/benefit of stories. I like the folkloric feel of them, and I really like the way they turn on themselves after what would be the traditional ending. I'm a big fan of finding out what happens after the "happily ever after..."

Jim Kay/Walker Books

I'm sure you get hundreds of letters from fans that tell you they lived through something similar to what Conor experienced. What do you want the reader to walk away with after reading A Monster Calls?
I really do try not to ever answer this question, sorry! Reading is so personal, so individual (which is why I value it so greatly in my own life) that I wouldn't dream of pushing an interpretation or an expectation on a reader. It's more that I hope that I've opened my own heart and soul and mind to them and said, here's what I think and feel and dream, now what about you?

You moved to the UK in your 20s, what is the one thing you miss most about the US?
You'll laugh, but junk food. Big glasses of raspberry lemonade, peanut butter and chocolate combos, proper Pop Tarts, Mexican fast food, I could go on...

Can you tell us what you are working on right now?
Nope. New projects need protection and privacy to grow into exactly their right shape before anyone lays eyes on them. But I'm working, I'm working.

Thank you, Patrick and Candlewick Press! 

Add A Monster Calls on Goodreads
Patrick Ness can be found on his website and on Twitter
Jim Kay can be found HERE
Siobhan Dowd Trust can be found HERE
Link to BBC article HERE

Check out the book trailer. I think it is one of my favorites, ever!

I loved this book so much that I am sharing my review copy with one lucky winner!

Review - A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
September 27th, 2011 from Candlewick Press

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd – whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself – Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

I cannot gush enough about this touching story of an English boy named Conor who is on the brink of losing his mother to cancer. After Conor is visited by a monster, he must come to grips with his mothers illness and his feelings surrounding the heartbreaking situation of having a father who is absent and a mother in what looks to be her last days. The monster is not there to harm him or even scare him. He is there to tell the boy three stories and then to hear the story - the truth - from the boy himself.

Early on we realize that Conor's mother is probably more sick than Conor lets on. He is only thirteen and still wrestles with the idea that maybe his mother will get better - she always had in the past. Conor need his mother to get better. They are all they have. Conor has no friends at school and has been the punching bag of the resident bully. He takes care of his mum at home, then goes to school and gets assaulted. Day after day this goes on. When the monster comes the first night we meet Conor, he isn't afraid. He deals with monsters everyday, and he is relieved to know that it isn't the one that has been haunting him in his dreams.

The stories the monsters tells remind me of riddles. Your perception changes throughout the telling and in the end, you aren't really sure what to think. It all seemed so clear in the beginning, but by the end you are scratching your head in dismay. Who was the bad guy? Who was the victim? We learn that not everything is black and white, and there are indeed shades of gray in life. These stories upset Conor greatly. He feels tricked and is very confused. Was he to learn a lesson from these tales? I admit, I was fascinated to learn what it all meant.

The illustrations in this story are beyond remarkable. The dark, ominous drawings remind me of a charcoal sketch you would find in a Japanese horror movie. They are chaotic, wild, and untamed. The monster rises from a yew tree and has arms and legs made of tangled branches, and his long beard looks like overgrown roots. The drawings are as important to the story than the words themselves. The two compliment each other, and I often spent more time admiring a picture than reading a passage.

Hands down, one of my favorites of the year! Be sure to read my interview with Patrick Ness HERE

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Patrick Ness can be found on his website and Twitter

Sep 26, 2011

Banned Books Week Awesomeness

I have bookmarked so many awesome things in preparation for this week, Banned Books Week. So, this is where I share them with you. *wink*

I have watched this video at least 5 or 6 times and even shared it way back in July of 2009 on this blog. Too good not to share again!

Aren't these posters rad? They are from 2010, but I love 'em. Thx, Schlow Centre Region Library!

Even the uber talented and dear missed Shel Silverstein has had his books challenged. Notably, A Light In the Attic was challenged because of "suggestive illustrations." It has even been said that the book encourages disobedience and gloried Satan. Whoa! Here is an AUDIO RECORDING from NPR about the wonderful Shel Silverstein recorded just this month. His family members even read poems from his new book, Every Thing On It. Love it!

That's it for now, but stay tuned! Many more to come this week!

Review - All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
September 6th, 2011 from Farrar Straus Giroux

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

I waited in line for this ARC at ALA in New Orleans this summer. They served chocolate and coffee too! Read the review...then you'll understand why that was cool.

Being the daughter of a notorious chocolate crime boss has it's perks. You get into good clubs, you have friends in low places, and you have an endless supply of chocolate. For sixteen-year-old Anya Balanchine, the perks don't outweigh the fact that she is constantly under a watchful eye, people over estimate her, underestimate her, and some would rather she disappear all together. Let me catch you up. The year is 2083 and chocolate and just about everything is illegal. When her piece of bleep boyfriend gets poisoned after eating one Anya's chocolate bars, her life is turned upside down. She spends time in the clink, the pool, and in confession.

I jump at the chance to read absolutely anything set in the future. I suppose I'm a Sci-Geek. Well, this one isn't exactly science fiction, you see. This is a contemporary that happens to be set 70 years in the future. No flying cars, no brain scanners, and no high tech lingo here. Even email is barely mentioned (you have to pay for that, btw). Anya is just a regular girl with the same problems as any girl in 2011. Her ex is a royal jerk, she only has a handful of friends, and she has family issues. Although, her family issues are a bit more complicated than the rest of us. Anya's father was murdered in their apartment in NYC when she was a little girl (mother died of an accidental hit years before that) and she would just like to forget that her family is always on the wrong side of the law. Her family's back story is revealed in little snippets through out the first half of the book. The pacing was great. Not revealing all in one or two chapters kept me tuned to the story and it also added a sense of mystery. Why is Anya being raised by her gravely ill grandmother? What exactly is wrong with her brother? All things come in good time!

As if the whole illegal chocolate thing didn't create enough conflict, Anya gets the attention of a boy. A cute boy. A cute boy that is new to town. A cute boy that is new to town and happens to be the son of the #2 dude in the District Attorney's office. Yeahhhhhh, conflict. Anya and Win truly have an impossible romance. I liked the development of this plot line. It was slow, believable, and Anya was smart when she weighed the pros and cons of being with someone whose father had the potential to ruin her life. I appreciate her maturity and not simply throwing caution to the wind for the sake of love.

All of the characters were believable. Again, you can find them right here in 2011. Her mafia family members are a bunch of hooligans. My skin crawled a few times when certain characters entered the picture. They do all of their "business" at an old pool that was part of a woman's swimming club. Even that is creepy! You just know they are bad news. Anya's relationship with her siblings and grandmother are endearing. Her willingness to put them first showed her maturity and her heart. She really stepped up to the plate after her parents were murdered and was the parent figure. It would have been so easy to paint Anya as a bitter girl out to get the world. She isn't like that, she sticks close to home and stays quiet in order to protect her family.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the religious undertones. I wasn't expecting it, but they were there and it didn't feel forced or preachy. Anya understood why she went to church - to be closer to her dead mother - and she went to confession when her plate was overwhelmingly full. She thought about her beliefs when it came to her relationship with Win. She worried about what sin she would be causing if the two did this or that. Again, this girl had her head on straight!

My only issue (not even a real issue) was the point of view. In the very beginning, Anya is remembering her past by retelling us her story. "The night before junior year-I was sixteen, barely-....." At the end, there is not a wrap-up like, "And that was the best/worst time of my life....." Don't get me wrong, the ending was good, but I just don't think it was inline with the retelling. Hmmm, no matter.

There are no robots, but this futuristic contemporary has a romance that girls will be cheering for.

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Sep 25, 2011

In My Mailbox

IMM is a meme brought to us from The Story Siren. Basically, it's a good way to add books on to your TBR pile, get a head's up on what is coming soon, and to totally brag. Let's get real... ;)

For review:
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Wildfire by Karsten Knight
The Isle of Blood (The Monstrumologist #3) by Rick Yancey (thx, Simon Teen for all 3 books!)

The entire Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld and some awesome signed swag! (thx, Uniquely Moi Books!)
I've read this whole series when it first came out years ago and have recommended it many many times. I borrowed every copy from the library and never had my own - now I do! 

Not a bad week! Those Westerfeld books are going to come in handy when I meet the genius this Saturday at the Austin Teen Book Fest. If you are in Texas...join us! We will be having a get together on the Friday night before the fest and the special screening of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist at the Alamo Drafthouse. Details HERE

I hope you have been hopping like a crazy person over all of these Banned Books Week giveaways going around. I have been hopping by each stop to personally thank everyone. Give me a few days, there are a lot of you, but I promise I'll get there! Thank you all for participating and being Intellectual Freedom Fighters!

Coming soon:
Another banned book inspired giveaway this week! 
Review and interview of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Sep 23, 2011

Banned Books Week Hop

Welcome to the....

It is my pleasure to co-host the Banned Books Week Hop with Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer! I think my blog title says just a little bit about how I feel about the freedom to read, but in case it wasn't quite clear...I Read Banned Books. And, I support others that do as well!

I know, I know....there technically hasn't been a banned book in a very long time here in the US. We are fortunate to live in a place where the government doesn't not absolutely ban us from printing/distributing materials. We use the term "banned" in order to drive the point home - no one can tell me, and shouldn't tell anyone else, what to read. That is a decision I am capable of making, and believe others can as well. If we are talking about young adults - make an informed decision with your child and don't push your decision on others. Let stories be a gateway to deep and meaningful conversations about tough subjects. I have said no to my teenagers several times for their book choices. They weren't happy about it, but we talked about what elements of the story I wasn't ready for them to read about. Together, we made a choice that worked for our family.

If this is the only blog post you read about banned books, I want you to take a look at these sites:
Banned Book Week from ALA
Frequently challenged books are listed HERE 
Two posts about recent examples of book challenges HERE

I will have more blog posts this week about banned and challenged books, but today...I know you all want to hop. So, let's get to it! THANK YOU TO Simon & Schuster, Shooting Stars Promotion, and the fabulous Charles Benoit!

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Illustrated by Henry Cole
April 25th, 2005 by Simon & Schuster

And Tango Makes Three was the #1 challenged book of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010 because the book deals with homosexuality.

Crank by Ellen Hopkins
October 5th, 2004 from Simon Pulse

Ellen Hopkins is a true champion of literacy! She herself has been banned from libraries and schools because her books speak the truth about teen drug use. Crank was the #4 challenged book of 2010.

David Inside Out by Lee Bantle
May 12th, 2009 from Henry Holt

Books with LBTQ themes are often at the top of the challenge list, and DIO is the story of a young man struggling to face his feelings in light of his friends coming out.

You by Charles Benoit
August 24th, 2010 from HarperTeen

YOU was challenged in Florida last year and is a very unique book that speaks to the consequences of ones actions and inaction. This book will shock you in a fantastic way!

There will be FOUR winners. First winner will win TANGO, second will win CRANK, third will win DAVID, and four will win YOU.

*giveaway closed*

Sep 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - After the Snow by S.D. Crockett

After the Snow by S.D. Crockett
March 27tn, 2012 from Macmillan Children's Books

A stunningly beautiful novel about a young boy’s survival during a winter that never ends.

2059. The snow begins to fall. Only the few are prepared. A new ice-age has begun.

Born after the snows, fifteen-year-old straggler kid Willo Blake has never known a life outside hunting and trapping in the hills. When his family mysteriously disappears, leaving him alone on a freezing mountain, Willo sets off into the unknown to find them.

Meanwhile, across Britain, outlawed followers of survivalist John Blovyn are planning an escape to the fabled Islands talked of in a revolutionary book.

When Willo meets an abandoned girl on his trek across the hills, his world collides with outlaws and halfmen on an epic journey that leads him to the new world of the city - a place where the dog spirit inside his head cannot help him.

It is a journey of betrayal and violence. A journey of awakening love and humanity. A journey that changes everything he ever thought he knew.

A few days ago I found myself in the Macmillian catalog and this one stuck out. I don't know if it is the very thought of snow after the horrible summer Texas has had, but this book sounds like something I need to read! I was also intrigued by the interview Crockett gave. Check it:

What was your inspiration for After the Snow? 
Well, apart from the unbelievably cold winter during which I was writing—in an unheated house, chopping logs and digging my car out of the snow; I think much of the inspiration for the settings in After the Snow came from my various travels. In my twenties I worked as a timber buyer in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, and that work led to travels in Eastern Europe and Armenia. As soon as I step off the plane in those places it smells like home. It may sound strange to say, when After the Snow is set in Wales, but really the practical dilemmas in the book come directly from places I’ve been, people I’ve lived with, and the hardships I’ve seen endured with grace and capability. I was in Russia not long after the Soviet Union collapsed and I’ve seen society in freefall. Without realizing it at the time I think those experiences led me to dive into After the Snow with real passion. What would western civilization look like with a few tumbles under its belt? What would happen if the things we took for granted disappeared? I wanted to write a gripping story 
about that scenario, but hardly felt that I was straying into fantasy in the detail.

What do you want readers to most remember about After the Snow?
We all have the capacity to survive, but in what manner? What do we turn to in those times of 
trouble? Those are the questions I would like people to contemplate after reading After the Snow.  

How did Willo’s unique voice come to you? 
Willo’s voice appeared in those crucial first few paragraphs. After that it just grew along 
with his world and the terrible situations that arise. I think his voice is
in all of us. We don’t understand, we try to make good—maybe we find ourselves. 

How did you stay warm while writing this novel? 
I banked up the fire—and was warmed by hopes of spring.

Yeah, so that is my pick this week! What's yours?

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Calli - Winner

Congratulations goes to....

The Jesus Freak Reader

You have won an ARC of Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson. An email has been sent to you and you have 72 hours to reply with an address. Thank you all for entering!

Audio Review - The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

The Boyfriend List 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver (Ruby Oliver #1) by E. Lockhart
July 2005 by Listening Library

Ruby Oliver is 15 and has a shrink. She knows it's unusual, but give her a break—she's had a rough 10 days. In the past 10 days she:

* lost her boyfriend (#13 on the list)
* lost her best friend (Kim)
* lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket)
* did something suspicious with a boy (#10)
* did something advanced with a boy (#15)
* had an argument with a boy (#14)
* drank her first beer (someone handed it to her)
* got caught by her mom (ag!)
* had a panic attack (scary)
* lost a lacrosse game (she's the goalie)
* failed a math test (she'll make it up)
* hurt Meghan's feelings (even though they aren't really friends)
* became a social outcast (no one to sit with at lunch)
* and had graffiti written about her in the girls' bathroom (who knows what was in the boys'!?!).

But don't worry—Ruby lives to tell the tale. And make more lists.

My daughter read this series when she was in middle school and loved it. Yes, I am that old. When this audio book was at the library, I jumped at the chance to read. I've heard a few bloggers say how much they loved it so it was a no brainer.

Ruby made a big fat mistake. She listed all the crushes, dates, and boyfriends she has ever had on personalized stationary, and instead of taking that list home or shredding it, she crumpled it up and threw it in the bin at school. Yeah, we all know what happens from there. The list is printed and plastered all over school humiliating Ruby. She's fifteen-years-old, did they really think those were all the boys she slept with? Why, yes. Yes they did. To make matters worse, her BFF Kim (insert sneer) and her ex (as in two days ago ex) are already swapping spit. Ruby takes us back in time to her first crush all the way up to today where she is the black listed hussy of Tate Prep.

You can't help but feel sorry for Ruby. She's lost all of her friends, her BFF is now with her two-day-old ex boyfriend, and she's dubbed the town slut. Ruby does make some bad choices, but she is a level-headed girl that doesn't deserve the crap she's been served. Her friends ain't no friends at all and I wouldn't exactly be devastated if her ex-boyfriend and new girlfriend (her old BFF) fall off a cliff. By the end of the story, I felt a connection with Ruby and was proud that she recognized that she needed to make some changes for herself.

I loved the voice of Ruby Oliver brought to us by Mandy Siegfried. Her name should ring a bell for you. She was the reader for Laurie Halse Anderson's masterpiece, Speak. Siegfied has such a fresh, young voice. My daughter did comment that she didn't picture Ruby's voice sounding like that, but I thought it was a perfect match.

They story jumps back and forth from past to present and structured around this boyfriend list. We learn about the demise of poor Ruby's reputation, her complicated relations with boys and friends, and how her family life has played a part in her relationships. This is a smart, snarky, and at times, emotional read with lessons for every teenage girl around every corner. How many girls did we know in high school that had that reputation? Looking back now...I wonder how many of those were undeserved.

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Sep 15, 2011

Review - The Downside of Being Up by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

The Downside of Being Up by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
September 15th 2011 from Putnam Juvenile

Thirteen-year-old Bobby Connor is a normal adolescent boy - at least he hopes he is - just trying to survive middle school. But it seems he's being foiled at every turn, and even his own body is conspiring against him. And when his math teacher is seriously injured from the shock and fright of witnessing just how out of control Bobby's changing adolescent body is getting, he starts to worry he's anything but normal.

Faced with expulsion from school for violating the student handbook code, Bobby opts for therapy - Correctional Erectional Therapy. It's official: Bobby Connor is not normal. But in this uproarious and heartfelt novel, he's going to do his darndest to make it seem that he is . . . or maybe just try to make it through middle school.

If you need a go-to reference for slang words for the male reproductive organ, just buy this book! Tired of using the terms: banana, wang, peen, donger, and wiener? Then get out your highlighter and start on page one with words like: weinerschnitzel, pole, south-of-the-border sausage, and baloney bomb. I literally laughed my tail off every five seconds over these terms - and there were literally a million of them! I am impressed with the diverse use of vocabulary, and wonder how Sitomer came up with some of these.

Bobby is a typical thirteen-year-old boy going through the same hardships as any other middle schooler. His family is nuts, his sister hates him, and he has zero play with the ladies. Like, zero. To top that all off, his best friend is the dorkiest kid and the laughing stock of the school. Well, until Bobby himself takes that #1 spot when he sports wood in math class sending the teacher into hysterics. Hysterics turns to into falling and falling turns into breaking bones. The teacher is shipped out in an ambulance, and Bobby is shipped to the principal. There, he finds himself in "Correctional Erectional Therapy." Yes, it's totally a real thing. ;)

This book is full of satire, sarcasm, and of course, ridicule. Bobby struggles with his untimely unipod throughout the entire story and catches flack (and punches to the garbanzo beans) from everyone in school. Just when he resigns to the fact that his reputation is ruined for life, he meets the beautiful Allison. And, as irony would have it, Allison is the new math teacher's daughter. Poor Bobby just can't win!

Every single character in this book is over the top! The best friend, Finkelstein, makes me laugh every time he appears. His laugh and the way he says girls want to "taste his taste buds"  are pure entertainment. Finkelstein is obsessed with girls and has these absurd outlooks on women and want they need and want. Again, quality entertainment. Throw in a chronically naked grandfather with no filter on his mouth and a neurotic mother who simply cannot keep up with "The Joneses," and you have yourself a hilarious tale about the pains of growing up.

Boys will be signing up to get their own library card just to read this book!

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You can find Sitomer on his website and on Twitter
You can catch Sitomer at the Tweens Book Festival in Houston on October 29th. 

Sep 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne
February 2nd 2012 from Putnam Juvenile

Girl, Interrupted meets Beautiful Creatures in this fast-paced thriller

When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn’t expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she’s going crazy. Fast.

But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she’s come home. She’s even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red.

Faye knows she’s the reason, but what does it all mean? The handsome Kel tries to help her unravel the mystery, but Faye is certain she can’t trust him; in fact, he may be trying to kill her—and the rest of the world too.

I love a spooky read and this sounds like a chilling one! It does remind me a bit of Hex Hall, but this one sounds scarier and more sinister. I'm all over it! I heard Lisa McMann wrote the blurb for it....can't wait to see what she says. 

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You can find Sara at the Apocalypsies and on her blog

Sep 12, 2011

Austin Teen Book Festival - October 1st - Updates!

What in the holy heck took me so long to write a blog post about this event? I have ZERO clue! This book fest is SO gonna rock your face off, so get on a plane, train, or hop in your car and truck your way down here October 1st! There are so many cool things in store for the authors and guests. I'm a lucky girl to help out with this event again this year. I think it is the most creative and fun event to be a part of. Here is the lo down:

You guessed it! With a wicked awesome Keynote like Scott Westerfeld, the theme is steampunk! You know him....he wrote the Uglies series and the Leviathan series. I've been a fan for a long, long time! The rest of the line-up is stellar. The authors were broken up into panels and they will be chatting about their books and writing during the breakout session. Here is how the panels broke down and the schedule:

Here are a few answers to your burning questions.

YES, they will have a ton of books for sale
YES, they take credit cards
YES, you can bring some books from home
YES, you can bring a bag with wheels
YES, food will be for sale
YES, you can have your picture taken with your favorite author

We are working on getting a list of exactly what books will be for sale up on the website - stay tuned!

Signing rules and food info are HERE

There will also be a steampunk band called Darwin's Prophet.  There will be a cool green screen photo booth with artwork from Westerfeld's Leviathan. Bring your camera!

We could always use some more hands to help out for the day. If you are interested, send an email to and let them know you're available.

Here is a map to the Palmer Events Center - parking is $7.

Austin bloggers will be hosting a get together on Friday night if anyone wants to meet up. Bloggers, bookers, friends....everyone is welcome! Here is the info:

Threadgills' - South (walking distance of Homestead) - 8pm

Feel free to grab the poster above and blog!

Can't wait!


We are still in need of volunteers for the afternoon of fest day! Please shoot an email to if you can help out.

The website now has list of what books will be for sale and their prices. Check it HERE

There will be a special screening with a Q&A with co-author David Levithan at the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse at 10pm! Tickets are on sale NOW. Seating is limited...get there at least 30 minutes early.

We will still meet at Threadgill's in case people are not able to make it to the movie. If you can stay for a short time, come on by!

Blood Wounds & Back to the Books Hop Winners

Congrats goes to....


You won an ARC of Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer. An email has been sent your way. Thank you to everyone who entered and left comments on the review.

Congrats goes to...

Amy S. @ Amy's Book World

You won an ARC of Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison on the Back to the Books Hop. An email has been sent your way. Thank you to everyone who entered - there were a lot of you!

Sep 11, 2011

In My Mailbox

IMM is a meme brought to us from The Story Siren. Basically, it's a good way to add books on to your TBR pile, get a head's up on what is coming soon, and to totally brag. Let's get real... ;)

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey
Variant by Robison Wells (thx, Jeremy from Novel Thoughts!)

That's it! I've been pretty good not buying books and trying to get through the giant that is the TBR pile. 

Currently reading:
The Downside of Being Up by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
Fateful by Claudia Gray
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart- audio (about 1/2 way and liking it)

CALLI giveaway ends 9/16
Sign up for the Banned Books Week Hop!
Wanna trade books?

Coming soon:
Winner of Blood Wounds
Winner of the Back To Books Hop
Review of The Predicteds by Christine Seifert
Austin Teen Book Festival lo down