Thursday, September 30, 2010

Banned Books Week - Harry Potter Series

Oh, Harry Potter. You've been through some majorly rough times. That's not even including all the challenges you faced while attending Hogwarts. You've been banned for promoting witchcraft and wizardry by people who were never going to give you a snowball's chance.

We've heard the protests against all of the Harry Potter books because it has to be one of the more prominent banned books in recent years. Therefore, this is going to be my OMG, I LOVE HARRY POTTER entry.

Why YES, I LOVE Harry Potter! My love affair with Harry, Ron, and Hermione has been relatively short (I only started reading the series in 2008) but that doesn't mean it hasn't been meaningful. You see, I put off reading Harry Potter because the genre wasn't really my thing. Sure, there were plenty of people urging me to read them because of the fantastic story and writing but I kept with my decision not to read them.

My longest online bestie (Allie..11 years!) and I made a deal. She would read Twilight while I read Harry Potter (not an even trade but be it as it may) and when I told my friend and Wildlife classmate about it, she was all about letting me borrow her books. For the next couple of months she would bring me one book at a time and we'd swap before class, discuss it after class and on our breaks between classes. Needless to say, I became hooked. The storyline is just so intricate and re-reading the series is a must. The writing is magical and I would love to be J.K. Rowling when I grow up.

Beginning the series was an experience I never expected to have just as I never expected to fall in love with it as much as I did. Now I have a Harry Potter collection that includes the hardback boxed set, t-shirts, a stuffed Hedwig, 2 movie posters and numerous other items. I have also been to Harry Potter: The Exhibition and the real happiest place on Earth, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. How can you want to ban books that have their own little theme park?! Crazy. 

So thank you Allie for humoring me and making a deal and thank you friend for lending me your books. Only 50 days left until  part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hits theaters (and also the Weasley Wedding Party Party Anna and I are going to!)

I leave you with a picture of Hogwarts from my vacation.

OH! Check this out, Emma, Daniel, and Rupert took part in ALA's Celebrity READ project. You can view and order the posters here if you'd like.

Banned Book Week - The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Next on my Banned Books Week list is Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This book was listed on the American Library Association's top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2006 (and other years) and has been challenged for several reasons. Most notably are for homosexuality, sexually explicit content, and for inappropriate content for age group.

So yeah, I can see where parents might see the 4th grade reading level as inappropriate and slightly too mature for their eight year olds, but that doesn't mean teachers are using it in the classroom.

As for the complaints of homosexuality, was this really part of the reason it was challenged? In 2006?! I really thought our country had come farther than that. I honestly just don't know what to say about this. Growing up, I was taught not to judge others and if they weren't hurting anyone, it shouldn't matter how people live their own lives. Call me naive or say I lived in some little bubble, but I thought homosexuality wasn't as big an issue in 2006 as it was in previous years. Maybe I thought this because I've been around people that had this lifestyle choice since I was in jr. high/high school.

Sexually explicit content seems to be a big one when banning is involved and it just doesn't seem like it should be as big of an issue. People are getting up in arms over the fact that they don't think young people have the same thoughts, feelings, and urges they did when they were younger. It's not like sexuality dies off with one generation. To think that teens don't curse, masturbate, or force themselves on others (yes, we live in a world where this unfortunately does happen), is lacking logic.

I remember when I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I was at work one day and one of my co-workers gave me her extra copy because she was really loving this book. I read it and I must admit, I wasn't expecting some of the stuff that was in there. When I was growing up, MG/YA books consisted of Sweet Valley (kids, twins, high, college, etc), The Babysitters Club, and R.L. Stine so reading something like Perks was completely different for me. It was refreshing to read something that seemed real. Things real teenagers would think, see, and do. How can you NOT like a book where they dress up and act out parts to The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

I may have only read this book once (and I'm definitely long overdue for a re-read) but The Perks of Being a Wallflower remains on my top 10 list of most memorable books read.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Book Week - The Outsiders

One of my all-time favorite books is, hands down, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It all started when I was in the 6th grade and a classmate had just discovered this book and told me that I just HAD to read it. She later lent me her copy to read and the rest is history. The Outsiders was the first non-kids book I ever re-read and to this day, I still go back to it. Sure, it has been at least six or seven years since I last read it, but this book had a lasting impression on me.

I love this book so much because it's a story that still speaks to its target audience. There's a character for everyone to identify with, whether it be through their personality, home life, love of sunsets, or social status.

The Outsiders has been challenged numerous times (it was #43 on the list of 100 most frequently challenged books from 1990-2000) since it was published in 1967 due to the use of profane language, violence, alcohol & tobacco use, and for depicting a less than perfect (and unconventional) family. People are really challenging it for these reasons? Sometimes you have to wonder if people are actually aware of what is going on around them.When I was in high school these things were a part of every day life for some. Trying to pretend it isn't reality is just plain dumb.

I really think this is where people go wrong, they (they usually being officials, parents, whomever) challenge and try to ban books because they don't agree with the topic or what characters are doing because they're worried the young minds will become corrupted, but it should be the opposite. Saying things are bad and that they shouldn't do something (drinking, smoking, cursing, etc) is fine so long as you talk about the reasons why you think it's wrong. Instead of challenging and banning books, why not be an adult and use them as tools and openly discuss the issues you have a problem with.

Kids and teens are highly underestimated when it comes to what you think they know. To think they must remain naive until you deem them old enough to know the "ways of the world" is naive in and of itself.

Banned Book Week - Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl

Most of us have either heard of or read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl at one point in our lives. Did you know that places in Virginia and Texas challenged it because of it's graphic, pornographic nature? To the students in Texas who fought for this book, I give you a "job well done." The Alabama State Text Book Committee also asked to remove it because of it's depressing content.

The reason Anne Frank's Diary was banned was because of it's sexual offensiveness but because it is considered to be a downer. Seriously people? Life is full of ups and downs, and this was one of the world's biggest downs. Just because you don't talk about it doesn't mean it's going to go away.

What kind of world do you live in where you have to ban something that was written during one of the biggest and most atrocious events in history just because you don't think a young girl's sexuality is appropriate for a specific audience? Don't you think that the lessons learned and keeping the memory of all those lost souls is more important that feeling sad over a book?

As far as the "sexually explicit passages" go, what person Anne's age doesn't think about those same exact things? You wouldn't have a problem with it if it were coming from an older person, would you? Most likely not. I wonder if the people who wanted this book banned know that teenagers have the same feelings and questions they once had. Sexuality is a part of life, just as it always has been and for parents to think otherwise is just plain silly. The sexual nature of this book is NOTHING compared to what is shown on any given television show, so get over it and leave this book alone.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl should definitely not be banned anywhere. The story Anne tells is so much more than what these people are focusing on and it's a shame that any actions that lead to taking this book away from students was even allowed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In My Mailbox (1)

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren and all you have to do is post about what books you received that week by mail, library, or store.

Well it looks like I'm starting my IMM entries from scratch and I'm doing it with some awesome books.

Wednesday night I had my book club meeting at a local Books-A-Million and after we had finished I went on the hunt for Diana Gabaldon's new graphic novel, The Exile. I've just flipped through it so far, but the images are amazing! If you're a fan of the Outlander series, I highly recommend checking it out.

Yesterday morning I woke up to find an e-mail that I thought was spam. I then went to my local newspaper's website and found that it was NOT spam and that it was like the universe saying "we heard you, we heard you!" and found out that Birmingham now has a new and FANTASTIC used bookstore called 2nd and Charles. As soon as I read the article I asked my husband if we could go (yesterday just happened to be the Grand Opening) and this store is massive my book nerd dream come true!

I stopped looking at all the books because I was already up to thirteen books after only looking at the YA section and two aisles of the Fiction section.

From 2nd and Charles I got:
The Summoning - Kelley Armstrong
Impossible - Nancy Werlin
Catch Me If You Can - Frank W. Abagnale 
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
Girl at Sea - Maureen Johnson
The Naughty List - Suzanne Young
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
The Myths of the North American Indians - Lewis Spence
From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris (for my mother-in-law)
Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson (2 copies)

So what do you think? Is there something on my list that you've read and enjoyed? Let me know!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Banned Book Week - Day 1

In honor of Banned Book Week, I'm going to be featuring seven of my favorite banned books (starting tomorrow) as well as hosting a discussion on the affect banning has, whether it be good or bad. 

I wanted to take today to post about this whole Wesley Scroggins thing. If you haven't heard the whole story you can read about it here. In short, Scroggins, stated that Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak should be classified as soft porn because of its filthy and demeaning nature. Scroggins also claims that the school board and administration should know better than to let Speak, along with Twenty Boy Summer, and Slaughterhouse Five, be a part of the curriculum because they're Christians and are exposing their children to immorality by doing so. Being a Christian is about helping people and witnessing to them not about judging and putting people down. Get over yourself. I mean, there are people out there that might say you're being immoral by reading the Bible because it's not all puppy dogs and unicorns farting rainbows.

I, along with the rest of the book community, am enraged over this. How in the world does one view RAPE as soft porn? A sadistic moron if you ask me.

I personally have not yet read Speak, although it has been on my radar for quite some time (I DID buy two copies today though). I have seen the movie and I think having something like Speak available to teens is a good thing. Yes, the content can be disturbing at times but let's face it, it's based off real experiences.

What if Speak's main character, Melinda, had read a book with like this. Would she have had the courage to tell someone what happened sooner? Would she have gone through all that extra unnecessary heartache? Probably not. Having a connection with someone (whether in real life or a character in a movie/book) can make all the difference. I remember as a teen that finding something I could identify with gave me not only comfort but strength as well.

You can read Laurie's response to Scroggins here, check out other authors and bloggers who have something to say on the matter here, and you can also check out the twitter hashtag #SpeakLoudly.

I hate the fact that Speak is being challenged but what better time to stand up and say this man is wrong, than banned book week.

Which brings me to my next thing. I have a gently used copy of Speak that I will giveaway at the end of banned book week. Just fill out this form by Midnight (Central time) on October 2nd. As with past contests I held on my review blog, you will have 48 hours to reply to my email and I'll pick another winner.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Well, Howdy there

So by now you are officially in the know. I have created another blog that does not focus on reviewing books. Some of you probably don't care while others are probably wondering why I decided to do this.

Are you ready? Make sure your seat-backs and tray tables are in their upright position. Here we go.

Reviewing made me not want to read as much. Whew, there, I said it. I started off my blog as a way for me to keep track of everything I read and for it to be a written documentation of what I thought of all those books. As the months went on, the relationship I had with reviewing just went downward and it became more of a chore for me.

I would read books and have to run to blogger the SECOND I finished a book to get my thoughts down because if I didn't, I most likely would not post about it (even those books I loved). As of right now there are about six un-reviewed drafts sitting in what I consider to be the shed of blogger.

I'm not sure what this blog will become or even what will happen with my other blog but as of right now, the idea is just to have it as a reading, writing, and sometimes personal blog. I will be finishing up my recap of the Decatur Book Festival here, posting things related to my writing, and even plan on moving my contests over here.

I hope you guys will join me in this new journey of mine. It should be an interesting ride!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Auburn Writers Conference

For those of you who know me whether it be online or in real life, you know that one thing I love is Auburn; not just because I lived there or went to school there for a few years. Why you ask? Not only do I love the town or when everything turns orange on gameday (Go Tigers!) but I love how Auburn is not just a community, it's a family.

I moved to Auburn in 2006 and lived there until this past February. Of all the places I've lived in my twenty-five years (16 places), Auburn is tied for the top spot and will always have a place in my heart for the things I learned (academically and about myself), things I did, and for being the place where my husband and I had our first home.

When I heard that Auburn University would be holding the first annual Auburn Writers Conference in October I was VERY excited. Earlier this year I started my foray into writing thanks to Rachel Hawkins and Irene Latham for daring me to suck and telling me that everyone has a story to tell (and BOTH of them will be teaching workshops at AWC!). Then I found out that two of my internet-turned-real-life besties (Anna and Heather) would be going I had even more of a reason to sign up, and sign up I did!

Now with the conference only mere weeks away, my excitement level has risen considerably because not only do I get to take a trip back to the Loveliest Village on the Plains, but I get to spend time with wonderful friends, learn how to better my writing, meet new people, and bring others together.

If you're able to, I really hope you consider going to AWC this year. I know it's going to be an amazing and unforgettable experience. If the conference isn't enough to sway you, let me tempt you with the famous Toomer's Lemonade and Momma G's. I'll be there, will you?

You can also check out Chantel Acevedo's blog and a podcast where she talks about AWC to Offbeat Auburn.

I leave you with a few of my favorite Auburn memories:

My first fall as an Auburn student with Aubie and my now husband

One of our engagement pictures on the steps of Samford Hall

I was a volunteer at the Auburn University Southeastern Raptor Center

The graduate husband in front of the beautiful Samford Hall

Finally, many fall Saturday's were spent in Jordan-Hare (and yes, this was taken about 10 minutes AFTER the 2007 Iron Bowl ended :-))


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Decatur Book Festival - Part 2

One thing we weren't expecting was a meet and great with Diana Gabaldon. When Anna, Natalie, and I were on our way to Emily Giffin's panel, we stopped by the AJC tent to get our picture taken.

There happened to be a small table set up and hanging from the bottom it said, "Diana Gabaldon 1-2." Of course we asked the guy standing there what that was all about and when he said the words "meet" and "greet" we were so going to be there for that. The only downside? It was at the same time as Terra Elan McVoy and David Levithan's panel  so we missed out on hearing them speak. Thanks to Julie, Heather, and Leah who went and were able to get my books signed for me, including my first edition of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist!

Anyway, after we left Emily Giffin's signing tent, we headed back to the AJC tent. Anna got in line while Natalie and I went to her car to get my 23 lbs (yes, 23) of Diana Gabaldon books. On the way back, Natalie tried blocking for me because if I went down, I'd look like this:

Once we got back to the tent, the line hadn't grown too much so we got at the end and OMG you guys, cue the uber-excitedness. I was literally shaking!

When it was finally my turn, I started rambling and I don't remember much. Oh wait, Yes I do! I told her about owning every single form of the series I could, having to get rid of the MMP copies so I could order the hardbacks, that I majored in Zoology and lived in Arizona. Somewhere in there she started telling me about the Outlander Musical and seemed very excited about it. What made her even more awesome was that Natalie told her that I was gushing about the books and it made her want to read Outlander. Diana gave her a promotional copy and signed it for her! Isn't that sweet?!

Here's me with Diana.

Later on at 3:00 she had her All Things Outlander panel, so of course the three of us were in that audience.

The panel took place in the Decatur Presbyterian Church sanctuary and it was filled to capacity. She talked about future books (in no particular order: The Outlander Companion 2, book 8, Lord John, Jamie's Parents, and Master Raymond), the musical (Allan Scott is now her Jamie), The Exile (even had a copy to look at!), the film option, and kilts. You can't talk Jamie without mention of a kilt. There was also a guy in the audience wearing a kilt and not only did Diana appreciate it, but he got a roaring applause.

Meeting Diana Gabaldon was my reason for going to DBF (which I also told her) and meeting her was all I hoped it would be and momre. She's sweet, funny, generous, and I loved hearing her speak. If you get a chance to hear her, don't pass it up.

I also have some video I'm going to try and post of everyone, I just need to figure out how to cut it.

If you're interested in checking out Diana Gabaldon you can visit her website, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, and buy her books

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Decatur Book Festival - Part 1

I know you've all heard me mention the Decatur Book Festival (DBF from here on out) numerous times, whether it be tweets, here, or facebook and I thought I'd do a recap for you.

Each day I'm going to post about a different panel I attended and provide pictures, video, and links to their website. I can't tell you how much fun I had and how awesome everyone was, but I'm going to try.

I went with a bunch of my internet/blogger friends (Julie, Heather, Anna, Leah, and Natalie) whom I have gotten to know so well since the beginning of the year and I considered them some of the best friends I have EVER had.

To start things off, Natalie and I stayed the night at Anna's on Friday since we were going to be getting up insanely early to drive to Atlanta. We got to DBF a little later than planned so we met up with Julie and Leah at Emily Giffin's panel and it had already started.

Now I've never read any of her books but I had won a copy of Something Borrowed from Goodreads over a year ago and I had purchased a copy of Love The One You're With on the bargain shelf at Books-A-Million so I wanted to get these books signed. Her type of book is not something I usually read and I wasn't really sure what to expect from her panel. You guys, this woman blew me away! She was smart, insightful, and funny. Her advice on writing? Move to a place you have no friends and it rains all the time and treat it like your eight hour job. Ha!

I was very excited to meet her after hearing her speak and while we were waiting in the signing line, Natalie wondered how she felt about all these people waiting in line for her autograph, so when it was finally out turn, she asked Emily. Her response to that was also something not expected. Instead of saying that she couldn't believe it or that she was flattered she said that she doesn't look at it that way, that she sees it as a great way to meet new women and girls.

You could really tell that relationships drive everything she does. From what she writes to the way she answered Natalie's question, to how she wanted to make sure our picture was as perfect as could be (she kept moving us around so the background wouldn't be too bright or so that the garbage cans wouldn't show up) a connection with other people is very important to her. There could not have been a better person to hear and meet to kickoff our DBF experience.

Not only was she incredibly sweet and personable but she is gorgeous and has an adorable little girl.

Here's our picture with Emily. From left to right: Anna, Emily, Me, and Natalie.

You can visit Emily's website here, follow her on twitter, and purchase her books here.