Thursday, September 30, 2010

Banned Books Week: Huckleberry Finn


I think Time sums up the banning and history of Huckleberry Finn very well so we'll begin this post with that:


In 1885, the Concord Public Library in Massachusetts banned the year-old book for its "coarse language" — critics deemed Mark Twain's use of common vernacular (slang) as demeaning and damaging. A reviewer dubbed it "the veriest trash ... more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people." Little Women author Louisa May Alcott lashed out publicly at Twain, saying, "If Mr. Clemens [Twain's original name] cannot think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses he had best stop writing for them." (That the word nigger appears more than 200 times throughout the book did not initially cause much controversy.) In 1905, the Brooklyn Public Library in New York followed Concord's lead, banishing the book from the building's juvenile section with this explanation: "Huck not only itched but scratched, and that he said sweat when he should have said perspiration." Twain enthusiastically fired back, and once said of his detractors: "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." Luckily for him, the book's fans would eventually outnumber its critics. "It's the best book we've had," Ernest Hemingway proclaimed. "All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." Read more here.
In all actuality, Huckleberry Finn has had numerous reasons for being banned that have changed over the hundred years of it's existence. Just after the book came out there was an outcry of how Huck Finn acted and the blasphemous fact that he had a *gasp* interracial relationship with the runaway slave named Jim. Twains blatant use of slang still upsets people today (although he based it entirely on the slang of that area during that time period) and many still have issues with Twain's animate writing bashing racism and the institution of slavery.

How sad it is, that to this day this book is still challenged and people feel threatened by Mark Twains dislike of racism. Albeit the language is very vulgar in that the characters spit out 'the n word' continuously- to me that was surprising because I've grown up around people who just do not use that word. However, I realize the word was commonly used many years ago and people didn't view it as blasphemous. It's a part of history that's unfortunate but true and Mark Twain is certainly remaining close to life by using those terms.

The idea that the books should be banned due to Huckleberry Finn setting a bad example for children makes me laugh. Other children set a bad example for children. Reading a book about a boy who runs away and rides a raft down the Mississippi is less likely to influence a child then their classmates or the tv shows that are on.

I found the book to be funny at times and nerve-wracking at others. I absolutely adored the relationship Huck had with Jim (and to think some people have a stick up their butt about this book because it's an 'interracial friendship' makes me furious!). Their friendship, to me, is what makes the book.

The slang of the book is hard to get into and for a kid, I think it might be hard for them to understand, but for a teenager or even an adult- you can get it and you can appreciate the story line. For a child, there is nothing better then daydreaming that you're floating down a river, why do we need to abolish every book that gives children that opportunity?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Books Week: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

During the month of June I came across I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and picked it up to read. I had heard of the title time and time again and knew it was a common reading for high schools but not once had I been required to read it. I have a Bachelors degree in English and despite taking many English classes there were still a lot of classics that I had passed by.

So quickly I took the book out and devoured it. Seeing the many reasons books have been challenged in the past I was not surprised to find Maya Angelou's book listed as the sixth most challenged book from 2000-2009 and the third most challenged book from 1990-1999.

TIME Magazine had an article out in 2008 with this quick sum-up of the reason for the book being challenged:
This 1970 memoir — the first of Maya Angelou's five autobiographical works — angered censors for its graphic depiction of racism and sex, especially the passages in which she recounts being raped by her mother's boyfriend as an 8-year-old child.
How can we judge and ban the truthful telling of a real womans life? Are we pretending that this woman never lived? That the racism and sex never occurred?  It reminds me of some insane story where a woman is raped and the family refuses to believe it. Or better yet- when people say a person 'asks' to be raped. This happened and Maya Angelou was brave enough to make a statement about it. To tell the world one of the most upsetting of secrets might possibly let other women who have been violated that it's okay to come out and be honest. It is never right for a person to be attacked in this way and it shouldn't happen. But, how can we try to fix something if everyone pretends it never happened? This is another one of those unfortunate facts of the world. You wish things like this didn't happen but it does happen.

And racism? That's still prominent unfortunately. Maybe in another fifty years that will all have changed but we need to be educated in the matter, I think, in order to move on.

I just feel flabbergasted by this, how can a person try to censor someone elses life? If you don't want to know about it- don't read it- but never prevent someone else from having the chance to learn from her real life story.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Books Week: Twilight

You know I am a full supporter of the freedom to read when I do a blog post about a book series I don't particularly like. Twilight is a brainless entertainment, it served its purpose for me as a form of utter distraction just after a friend unexpectedly passed away. In all honesty I think that

  1. The characters are flat and undeveloped
  2. There isn't much thought behind it
  3. Edward is kind of an obsessive creeper
  4. Jacob is a whiney teenager
  5. The writing is just... bad.
There. I said it. I am not a Twilight fan. I think with banning books some people who are supportive of removing books from libraries and the likes would say, "Don't you hate that book? Don't you think no one should read it?"

Well, I don't like the book, but do I think my opinion should prevent others from reading it? No! I honestly applaud any author who gets teenagers or kids to read. I feel as if we're in an age where people who are still in school are more interested in television and playing video games then they are in reading. And that's so very sad because there are many books out there that are wonderful and need to be read! 

People who read Twilight and only Twilight then proclaim it's the best book evarrrr annoy me though. But does that mean the book should be banned? Again, no. 

Anyway, enough with the Twilight ranting. You all have heard of the series, many of you have read it, and last year it was the fifth most challenged book in the United States. Want to know why? Well, it's sexually explicit, has a religious viewpoint, and it's unsuited to the age group.

I try to keep this blog as G-rated as possible but allow me to say, just this once, that the reasoning behind this book being challenged is utter crap. Let's hit each reason head on.

  • Sexually Explicit: Where is this sexually explicit stuff? Bella can't wait to hop into bed with Edward but he refuses over and over and over again. He's very much the gentleman in that sense. You know that two other characters are always at it but it's not described nor really brought up. Out of all of the young adult books I've read this is honestly one of the few where sex isn't the main topic. How can this even be listed as a reason? Three out of four of the books are all about how Bella wants to have sex and Edward says no. And when they finally do have sex it's when they're married which most people agree- if you're going to do it, at least be married. So how is this wrong in any way?
  • A religious viewpoint: Okay so Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon blah blah blah. This book in no way made me want to change my religion. I feel that the House of Night series FORCES a religious viewpoint on the readers while Meyer's book is pretty much completely lacking of the subject. She never preaches her religious viewpoint and I was left for the majority of the time thinking, "Do they celebrate Christmas? Why doesn't she mention any holidays in the book?" There is a lot of talk about whether or not souls exist and whether or not becoming a vampire will damn you to hell but that is kind of a common topic amongst vampire lore. If you're a vampire, are you inherently evil? 
  • Unsuited for Age Group: The only time I think this could possibly be correct is in the fourth book when Bella has pretty much *SPOILER ALERT* most disgusting pregnancy I've ever read. But other then that... this book is so mild compared to the majority of young adult books out on the market. 
Sometimes you see the most ridiculous of reasons for a book to be challenged or banned. Sometimes those books coincide with the popularity of it. Look at Lord of the Rings- the book had been a published item for fifty years before a church decided to burn it in 2001. 2001 was when the first movie released and everyone went Lord of the Rings crazy. Twilight is having a similar effect where people are going bonkers over the movies and merchandise. You wonder if this book wasn't made into a movie or if it didn't have such a huge pull of fans if the people who are challenging it would have even noticed it's existence. 

Really, when I read the reasons this book was challenged I laughed out loud. This joins the idiotic league alongside Charlotte's Web and Winnie the Pooh. I am not a fan of Twilight, but all opinions about whether or not I enjoyed reading the book aside, I don't think this book deserves to be challenged. It's harmless and it's getting kids to read. Why is it that whenever there is a ground breaking book that gets teens and kids interested in reading someone has to try and destroy it?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Books Week: The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien created the fantasy world of Middle-earth during World War II. However, it wasn't published until the 1950's. In this world there are an assortment of walking and talking creatures: Elves, humans, hobbits, dwarves, and wizards. For the main part, they all coexist peacefully, but it isn't until the grande search for the one ring- which has unheard of power- that creatures begin to turn on one another and fighting breaks out across the peaceful land.

This is a classic known to many and regained popularity when New Line Cinema created three movies based on the trilogy. Tolkien's flowing language and ability to describe lands never heard of, but in such a way that you can believe they exist and see them in your minds eye, makes this trilogy a must read for many.

Now why is it featured in the Banned Books Week? Because, it's been challenged of course. Well, to be fair, it's also been set on fire. During the year 2001 the books were set on fire outside the Christ Community Church in New Mexico. They declared the books to be satanic.

... What? Wait, so what you're saying is that these books are satanic? Like, Antichrist supporting, Beelzebub cheering, satanic? How could characters like Frodo, Arwen, Gandalf, Legolas, Galadriel or Saruman- wait... okay so Saruman was a bit evil.

Hey let's check out this website that discusses the Lord of the Rings and how it's actually very much influenced by religion- in a good way. The author Jamie Lugibihl quotes:
In a letter to a friend, Tolkien wrote that the creation of "Lord of the Rings" was a "fundamentally religious and Christian work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."

Time and time again this book has been challenged. It's actually listed at number 40 for the most challenged classics of all time due to its anti-religious themes. I really don't get this, truly. Where is there an anti-religious theme? Is it because these creatures that are totally made up don't openly speak of a God? I feel that this epic battle the characters are entering where they learn to sacrifice and protect one another to win against evil is very similar to the teachings of religion. Frodo is tempted by the ring, it speaks to him and many times he is almost willing to give up the good fight- so long as he stays with this whispering evil he wears on a chain necklace. But in the end, he fights against the temptation and ultimately wins the battle. Aren't there many stories in religion where people are tempted by Satan or some ultimate evil? Some fall to his tricks, others rise above it. To me- that spells religious. The fact that Frodo surpasses all of these temptations says to me that this book is in support of religion and very far from satanic.

I really and truly enjoyed the Lord of the Rings when I read it originally over 10 years ago. I absolutely LOVE the movies and I enjoy the message it sends. To me, I feel that it has an overwhelming statement that people should work towards a greater good. And how nice would it be if we destroyed all the evil items in the world?

But anyway, what's this with the book burning? Hey people who burned Lord of the Rings outside of the Christ Community Church, I know another group of people who just LOVED to burn books because the books were opposing of their own beliefs. They were a nice little group called the Nazi Party. Sit and think about that.

  

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week: Forever...

Forever was the 7th most challenged book from 1990-1999 and the 16th most challenged book from 2000-2009. (Notice the decline in number? Maybe a sign of the times?) The reasons: offensive language and sexual content. In Rib Lake, Wisconsin a principle confiscated the book from a student then proceeded to have the book removed from the school library due to it's sexual content. Mind you, this book was originally published in the 1970's.

The book basically describes the first time a girl has sex and the sexual relationship following. Meet Katherine, a senior in High School, who just met Michael. The senior year of High School is a big moment in most people's lives. Suddenly you're graduating from the monotonous schooling you've been a part of for the past 13 years of your life. You're about to move out, go to college, and be seen as an adult. But this book does not dive too deeply into those details. Instead Judy Blume approaches the subject of a girls first love and how most girls handle it.

I honestly found Katherine to be annoying. She seemed so indecisive, jealous, and whiny. Sometimes I felt a growing annoyance with her while it appeared that no one else caught on to how frustrating she was being. Or maybe she was just too much like I was during my own first experience with love (that could explain it, since the very end of the book was nothing like my first experience with love and that's the only time she DIDN'T annoy me).

Blume is detailed about what leads to the losing of Katherine's virginity but not in an erotic way. She also takes a stance to have Michael and Katherine take the precautionary movements. Using protection and going to the doctors. If we're going to be talking about sex, at least it's a discussion of safe sex. Even the details of Katherine's first visit to the gynecologist is honest and accurate. Honestly, I wish I had read this book before I had my own first appointment. It would have answered many of my questions beforehand and made me more calm to the idea of the experience.

I understand that people feel they have the right to dictate whether or not people have sex and I think it's stupid. I doubt people with this general "I can control you" mentality would appreciate it if they had someone try to control them. I feel it's always worth stating what you believe in- we all have that right! But the decision ultimately involves the person it concerns. Not you.

And let's face it; people are having sex no matter their age, religion, or marital status. It's a fact of life. And if this book could somehow inform a person prior to having sex or, at least, convinces them to have sex safely- isn't that a good thing?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Banned Books Week: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was listed as the third most challenged book during the year 2009. The reasoning for the challenges are listed as: homosexuality, sexually explicit, anti-family, offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, suicide, and drugs.

The book is about a 15-16 year old boy named Charlie who is just entering his freshman year of High School. It's coming of age as he enters this more adult world and deals with his emotions and physical issues. You start off with this boy who is writing letters to someone who is never revealed. In fact, from the very beginning Charlie makes it very clear that he has no intention of revealing himself to the recipient of the letters and he has changed all of the names in the letters.

Charlie is a little bit of an odd ball; he's intelligent and observant and tends to stand on the outskirts of things without really participating. This year, his freshman year, he's urged to change that- to participate. I've read a lot of reviews on this book, mainly negative ones, because I always want to see if I agree with them on anything. One review discussed how Charlie wasn't the odd ball because he would've never been accepted into a clique like he is in the book. Another said this is just another whiney book about being a 'loser'.

Charlie begins to participate as best as he can and is accepted into a small clique. They don't seem to be incredibly popular and somewhat the hippie group out of the school. The people in the group accept Charlie but don't seem to totally understand him. Each letter, told from Charlie's honest perspective, gives his insight to everyone.

He's incredibly innocent and seems somewhat young for a 15-16 year old. But through out the story you see him growing, becoming more accustomed to being around people. More comfortable with the way his life is changing. He experiences much that teenagers experience and honestly describes it all.

This was another comment I saw from people: That his experiences were too old for his age and seemed fake. Allow me to say this: When I was in 8th grade someone I knew committed suicide (Charlie has a friend commit suicide at the same age). I knew people who were dating, having sex, and doing drugs by the time I was in High School. It does happen. This is, for the majority of High School students, a reality. So sorry people who are challenging this book, you're wrong, this is perfectly suited for the age group.

The supposive anti-family atmosphere? Charlie struck me as a child who had some of the most clearly displayed affection for his parents and siblings. He seemed to adore his family much more then most typical teenagers do (who are always fighting with their siblings or hating their parents). The only point where I think the challengers could point a finger and cry "Anti-Family!" is when the book begins to discuss the less then desirable past for the family. Some people were beaten by their parents, others smacked around, but you know what? In the 1960's or earlier that was somewhat common. The more serious undertone, which I won't get to, is a sad and grim reality that does exist in the world.

Through the entire book you want to know what happens to Charlie next and you wonder, over and over, what is wrong with Charlie? What is this bad past he keeps hinting at? What traumatic experience caused him to have this happen to him? By the end of the book it is revealed and as I said, it's a grim and sad reality that does exist in the world.

To me, I feel like if we pretend bad things don't happen it won't make them go away. It will still happen. I think it's better to know of it, because then maybe we can have the passion to try and stop it from occurring again.

This book was definitely not one of the most cheerful books I have read. But I take comfort in the fact that this sweet and shy creature known as Charlie seems to be okay by the end.

I don't believe this is as 'coming of age' as The Catcher in the Rye (another continuously challenged and/or banned book) but I still think it is worth the read and people should take a stab at it. Should it be banned? No. Never. Why would you ever try to ban a book?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Betsy's Wedding

The final Betsy-Tacy book! Oh I wanted to devour this book yet at the same time read it as slowly as I could so that I would put off the end to this series. But it was impossible after reading Betsy and the Great World so I just sucked it up and hopped to it. It's just like being excited for a vacation but weary at the same time because you know, the quicker the vacation comes, the quicker it will be over with.

*Spoilers, I suppose, even though it's pretty obvious who Betsy ends up with*
I read this book over the course of 48 hours with my job taking up a lot of time. I devoured it and went along with every season, every holiday, every moment that Betsy (and now Joe!) experienced together. I was taken away by the romance of it all and kept pausing to gaze off at an unforeseen picture of how I want my future to be and the husband I hope I will one day meet. It was just all so romantic, the little nicknames Joe had for Betsy and the likes. Of course, the feminist in me wanted to yell, why does everyone need to be married! why does everyone have to have babies right away! what is with this whole having to always look perfect for your husband and having a delicious meal made!

In my mind, I picture myself and my husband sharing the load. Both of us making dinner, even if there is a specific person who makes most of the meals. Both of us having jobs outside of the house and hey, I'm in my mid twenties and single, you don't have to be married right away. You don't have to have kids right away. But I still found it romantic and the antics Betsy goes through always amusing and heart warming. I still found her (and Tib) to be more modern a woman then what many women were during that time.

And of course, there was the grim war hanging over head. But despite that, the book was still happy and cheerful. Although the end made me sad and teary. The war was official and so many of the men were jumping for the chance to fight. It's very relative to the age we're in now. While the previous book reminded me so much of the confusion post-9/11 this book reminded me of the sadness I felt as so many of my friends joined the military and departed for the Middle East.

While so many of the men in this book were headed off to war the women were taking prominent positions as well. Not only was Betsy growing up but the world was changing too. Women were taking the role of the men while the men departed for the war. In some ways, it seemed right for the series to end with this great change. There are the differences between Maud Hart Lovelace's real life and Betsy's life but I appreciate how she took so much of her life and placed it into these books. But my love for the series is so strong that I wish it continued. But most certainly, this series will remain something I treasure and adore for many years to come. While reading it's pages I fell into Betsy's world and when not a part of it I could only imagine how it would remain a part of mine and how I will happily read the books to my yet to be born children.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CSN Stores Giveaway Winner!

After using random.org the winner of the $55 credit to CSN Stores sites is... 
...

*drum roll*

...

Elyse!

Congratulations! Expect an email in the near future with details.

For those of you who have not won, keep reading the blog.
I am sure there will be another giveaway in the future!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Betsy and the Great World

I own the combination books for the last six Betsy-Tacy novels. The very last book has Betsy and the Great World and Betsy's Wedding. The last books of the series and the two I had put off as long as I could stand were staring me down. Read me, they seemed to say, come on you know you want to.

I began to read Betsy and the Great World and after only two chapters I put it away. I didn't want to get too far into the book because I knew, as soon as I did, the pages would fly by and quickly I would be done. But the temptation didn't go away and I grabbed hold of the book and dove back into Betsy's adventures.

While Heaven to Betsy to Betsy and Joe covered Betsy's high school years this book breaks out into the adult world of Betsy. Dropping out of college Betsy departs to Europe for a grande tour of many countries. Of course, Betsy dives into an assortment of affairs. Missing her family and wishing she had never gone to Europe on some days but quickly dashing it away to enjoy the experience. Flirtations with different men or utter giving out utter refusals and of course making good friends along the way. The descriptions of the different countries she went to was interesting and inspiring. As a writer, I felt that urge to travel and experience other places for inspiration. I have always had this dream of taking off for a solitary vacation and staying at a Victorian bed and breakfast by a lake or a beach where I could write. Betsy is a little bit further along in this by escaping to Europe. (which I would love to do as well!)

But what was overwhelming in this book was the end of it. Betsy is staying in England when the start of World War I breaks out. The fear written from page to page, the apprehension and the anxiety. Waiting to hear if England would join into the fight and the scrambling of American tourists to the English isle was frightening to picture and read. Knowing that Maud Hart Lovelace based the Betsy books on her own experiences made it all the more disheartening to read. When I was at this point of the book it was just a few days after the 9th Anniversary of the September 11th Terrorist Attacks where I experienced my own level of horror on that day nine years before.

The book ended with an overall less then happy note because you know what was coming, you know that WWI is breathing down the necks of so many people, many of which are wonderful characters that are featured in the book and loved by Betsy. But there is the happier moment when Joe and Betsy correspond and their book long fight comes to a hopeful end.

Needless to say, when I was finished with this book I really couldn't fight off the temptation to read the final Betsy-Tacy book entitled Betsy's Wedding.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's a Book!

It's a Book! is a funny children's story that approaches an issue with this time. Meet the three characters: a jackass, a monkey, and a mouse. The monkey is seen reading a book when the jackass approaches him, confused and vocally curious as to what it is the monkey is doing.

Questions ensue: does it play music? does it plug into walls? does it blog? does it fight? Every question pertains to some electronic equipment. Does this item that the Monkey is holding join the ranks of all other electronically equipment? Each question that is asked the Monkey answers, "No, it's a book." Books are simple. They are filled with words from cover to cover and take part in some interesting plot. Something that is made out of paper and has a certain scent. Now the world is taken over my electronics and now even ereaders (which aren't too bad, because an ereader is meant to be read just like a book!) it's easy for this newer generation to be completely clueless about the time where there weren't computers.

The word jackass is mentioned in the book twice in reference to the jackass (donkey). Some people are a little up in arms about the use of the word rather then donkey but for any adult reading the book they can enjoy the humor. If you're concerned reading 'jackass' aloud to your children just change it to silly or some other word that's less offensive. But for me, the book cracked me up. I had such a great time reading it!

It's rare that I pick up a kids book to read for reviews on here and discover that I love the book so much that I want to buy it for myself. But this book, I want to buy it! My mother wants a copy. I want to buy copies for all the children I know. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

And hey, check out the trailer.



PS: buy the book:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Neither Here Nor There

For a year now, I have had Neither Here Nor There on my 'must buy' list. The book has haunted me. The slanted cup of wine, the maps, the cover was capturing and my mind went traveling to destinations I have never seen. After all of this time I paused for a moment and thought, why haven't I read this book? What's holding me back? So off I went, book in hand, and quickly I flipped through it's pages.

I have never read a Bill Bryson book, although he has multiple publications that show up all over the store I work in, until I began to read Neither Here Nor There. I discovered an informative writer who had whit and charm. Generally, I get so involved in what I'm reading I barely make any movement, any outward comment, I'm just there in the words until something really outstanding happens. Something that makes me make a vocal noise or movement.

With this book I laughed out loud with each page. Despite being swept up in Bryson's adventures in Europe I was pausing to find my family and read passages out loud. He makes the reader understand that while Europe is an adventurous place where people could go and visit with wide eyes, these are people just like us who have their own way of living, even if they speak a different language and their culture isn't the same.

While Bryson was very honest of the faults of each place he went to I did grow a little weary of this attitude. It was refreshing to see so honest an account of traveling, but at times I thought, "For someone who wants to travel through Europe so badly, you certainly have a lot of complaints." But then he would say something witty and I'd laugh and forget the qualm I had.

If you're looking for a book with honesty about traveling in Europe and seek to laugh and think seriously about other lands. This is the book for you. Despite some of Bryson's whining I did enjoy the book and I plan on reading his other books (he has a slew of them!). If he has such a dry sense of humor about Europe (which in my minds eye is somewhere beautiful and alien to me, since I've never been there myself) I wonder what his opinion would be for places around America.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Children's Halloween Book Picks!

When I was a little kid my mother used to buy me a book for each holiday. Halloween was no different so I own a score of beloved childrens books that were read and reread as I grew up. Do you want to do the same and find yourself lost amongst the slew of Halloween books that are on the market? Do you want some of the cutest children books around for your little ghoul or goblin in a nice compiled list? Yes I have that right here!

Corduroy's Best Halloween Ever!
The cuddly Corduroy has returned for this cute Halloween book with a common lesson taught to children. When Corduroy and friends plan a Halloween party and to go Trick-or-Treating Corduroy is left stuck without a costume! All of the costumes he finds he realizes his friends are planning on going as. What's a bear to do? After much searching Corduroy finds a great costume that no one else has. Happily, he waits for Halloween night, only to discover that one of his friends costumes broke! With some creative thinking and the fact that he's such a great friend, Corduroy gives up his costume and makes one of his own. The night is saved and this Halloween turns into the best one yet!



We're Off to Find the Witch's House
On Halloween night four children begin their journey to the witch's house. Through the creepy eery light they travel and stumble upon a host of different monsters! Fearful, they escape and continue on their way, eventually arriving at the witches house where they discover they were fearful over nothing! With beautiful illustrations rich with color and a host of adorable costumes this is a cute book to read aloud to your children.





The Littlest Pumpkin
This has to be my favorite book of the three listed. The adorable artwork is cheerful and warm while the littlest pumpkin is so cute that I wish I could have it for myself! What would Halloween be like if you were a pumpkin? It's that time of the year where pumpkins are placed on display and people fawn over them. But for the littlest pumpkin in the pumpkin patch no one seems to want it and yet, that's all the little pumpkin wishes for: to be chosen and placed on display as a jack-o-lantern. But when Halloween night arrives and the pumpkin patch closes, the little pumpkin realizes that it is alone and unchosen. But don't worry, this story ends on a happy note!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CSN Stores Giveaway!- CLOSED

I've been hinting at this and here it is! CSN Stores has paired up with me once again to do a great giveaway to you all. I hope you're all ready, because this is a great one! If I had a coffee table I would be sprawled out on the floor and use that as my table. Instead, I'm sitting on my couch, hurting my back slightly, but enjoying the beautiful fall weather and watching Hocus Pocus.

If this is your first time participating in a CSN giveaway on this blog let me enlighten you to the awesomeness of this group. With only two employees CSN began an online shop. In a year they had three web-based stores, by the next year they had nine. By now CSN stores is comprised of over 200 different sites! Some of the websites include: Luggage.com, AllModern.com, WritingDesksAndMore.com, Cookware.com, and BedroomFurniture.com. Their products are beautiful and there is just so many options that any house hold will be able to find something that fits their tastes.

So now we're here and I can feel you asking, what am I going to get? What is this giveaway for?

It's for a $55 promotional code to their website where you will have the opportunity to choose ANYTHING you're interested in and order it for yourself- at no cost to you!

Did you hear that? Enter the giveaway and receive a 
$55 promotional code
for an item of your choice

SO LET'S GET TO THE RULES:
1) You must leave a comment to this entry to enter and have a way for me to contact you if you should win.
2) To be entered two more times (meaning your name will be listed three times for the drawing) FOLLOW THIS BLOG THROUGH GOOGLE FRIEND CONNECT. 
(If you're already following the blog, just remind me that you are)

Entry for the giveaway begins NOW and will end on Tuesday the 21st of September at 9AM EST.

This is really a great chance for you all. There are so many different items on the CSN websites that you have endless options to get stuff you've been putting off from purchasing. So hop to it and enter the giveaway!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Vatican Library Reopens

The Vatican's Apostolic Library is reopening to scholars following a three-year, euro9-million ($11.5- million) renovation to install climate-controlled rooms for its precious manuscripts and state-of-the-art security measures to prevent theft and loss.
The library, started by Pope Nicholas V in the 1450s, houses one of the world's best collections of illuminated manuscripts. It includes the oldest known complete Bible, dating from about 325 and believed to have been one of the 50 bibles commissioned by Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman leader. 
via 

How wonderful and fascinating is this? You don't even have to be a Roman Catholic to appreciate the history of this event. The library started over 500 years ago. How cool is that? Not to mention that the imagery is absolutely breathtaking. Look at the artwork in the gallery that goes along with the link (to the news story). It's just... so beautiful.
(from the news page, this image does not belong to me)


I'm a big nerd for libraries, especially ones that are aesthetically pleasing. I want to settle down upon the floor between shelves and embrace the fragrance of weathered pages.

Late for School

Your children have more then likely been attending their new school year for awhile now. They have surpassed that new feeling and the anxiety and now are in the mix of school-time issues. Such as being late to classes.

In this childrens book written by Steve Martin (I didn't even know he wrote a childrens book and kept going, that Steve Martin?) follow the antics of arriving to school on time as Martin writes out a funny rhyme with fantastic artwork done by C.F. Payne.


While funny and colorful the book has a point: Whatever you do, don't be late for school. And it also lists numerous reasons why the main character simply cannot allow himself to be late. If your young child is having this issue, you might want to sneak this book into their backpack. And if they're always on time or fifteen minutes early, just give them the book as a gift!

But the point is this: Check out this book!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Has it been nine years? My memory is clear.

Even nine years later my memory of September 11th is still clear.

I was born in New York. I grew up in New York.
I was sitting in study hall when it happened.
I remember my classmates crying- a number had lost family members.
I remember my teachers crying- a number had lost family members.
I remember the line to the pay phone with desperate cries to parents.
Cell phones weren't working correctly from the destruction.
I remember the candle light vigil and the fear.
I remember the silence when the 'no fly zone' was put into effect.
Who knew that airplane noise was something we were used to?
Something that would frighten us when planes returned?
I remember the rusted sunsets.
The scent of ash in the air.
I remember the police waiting at the train station.
Waiting to log which cars sat overnight, people who had not come home.
Firemen rushing to aide, losing their fellow heros.
I remember seeing the tears on newscasters faces. 
Newscasters are meant to remain emotionless no longer had control.
I remember the confusion and desperate need for news:
we only had one channel on the tv, the rest we lost because the satellites were on the towers.
I remember hearing that a friends brother was being deployed.
The first time I ever knew someone, in my life time, who was going to war.

Sometimes, I still have a nightmare... maybe once a year.
Where I relive that day. 
I never wrote a journal entry about it.
Why would I when I can remember it perfectly?
I was trapped at school, I was desperate to escape.
Our car was broken down and they wouldn't let me leave unless a parent signed me out.
My mother was picked up by my best friends mom
they came and rescued me and my friend.
I went to her house and watched the news.
It was an Arabic news station.
My best friend and her family are Muslim.
And we sat, shocked, scared, and in complete awe.
We could not understand what the newscasters said on the Arabic station.
We only spoke English.
But we could understand the images of the crying people.
The people gathering to pray.
Candles being lit.
Worse images then that.

I remember it as if it was yesterday.
Nine years later.
My memory is clear.




The time of this post was intentional.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Bridge to Terabithia

I never knew of this story until I was a junior in college (circa early 2007). My roommate and I were laying in our beds watching tv and the trailer for the movie adaptation came on. She groaned when she watched the commercial and mentioned that she wasn't sure she wanted to see the movie. I was confused, the trailer looked amazing, why wouldn't she want to see it? "Well, it's just a really sad and upsetting book towards the end. It made me cry."

I didn't really believe her, I mean, this was a Disney movie, right? It had to be cheerful and happy. When the movie came out on DVD my parents bought it and I began to watch it with a friend during my senior years fall break. We were on the couch about midway through when I got a text message saying a friend of mine had died.

I stayed as far away from the movie after that as I could. It took me a year until I was able to convince myself to watch the movie to the end and I cried and cried. Not only was the movie sad (as predicted) but it reminded me of my friend. Another year has passed and here I am again- this time finally reading this children's classic that I had somehow managed to avoid having on a required reading list in school.

And I cried. Not only because, yes, it was sad towards the end but because it was so beautifully written.

Meet Jess Aarons. He's the only boy in his household (other then his father) and is sometimes seen as a nuisance and simply a helping hand around his fathers farm. Every morning he wakes up early to go running through the cow pasture. His goal: to be the fastest kid in his school. Aside from doing this every morning then being heckled by his older sisters and mother, working the farm, and trying to avoid his tag-along little sister, he hides away when he can to do what he is passionate for: draw. But this is all a secret because long ago Jess learned that no boy would be considered a man if he spent his time doing such a feminine thing as drawing. Ashamed of his passion he keeps his art supplies hidden under his mattress.

On the first day of school he loses the recess activity of running to see who is the fastest boy- to a girl. This is completely mind blowing to Jess because not only did this girl do a boys sport but she also dresses like a boy.

Here are two characters: Jess, a young boy and Leslie, a young girl- who have characteristics that are complete opposites of what the stereotypical boy and girl should be. Paterson does a wonderful job at creating two lovable characters who step away from the conventional forms set upon us by society and proving that you can be 'different' and that's okay.

Not only that but Paterson, in a heartbreakingly beautiful end, introduces the emotional toll of ones first experience with death. For a child reading this book, this might be there introduction to the concept of death, being young enough to not have yet experienced it first hand. Paterson weaves through the emotions felt when losing someone close. The anger, the confusion, the blank empty feelings, the complete and utter sadness. But as with real life, it goes on. Time passes. The hurt lessens but the memory is always there. The person stays with you as you move along even if it is only in the mind and heart.

This book is a tearjerker. It's incredibly sad but it is so well done, so beautiful, I can understand it's popularity.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Gift on this Labor Day Weekend


It's exactly as it sounds.
No nuddie people involved.
Just lots of beautiful pictures.
Of beautiful bookshelves.
Porn for your eyes and bookworm heart.
(via anthasam)

Just about every photo shown I go, 
"I want that in my dream house."

(via pepermintuniverse)

Do you have a dream library in your house? 
My dream library goes with my dream house. A large old historic building,
preferably with fireplaces- one on each end of the house.
The library will be at one end of the house,
bottom floor,
with large windows on opposite walls,
a fireplace,
and books everywhere.
One desk, and a couple big comfy couches.

What is your dream library?
Whisper me your answer.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pretty Little Liars: Unbelievable (book 4)

Yet again I flew through this book. I have a feeling that this is how all of the books are going to be for me. Unlike book three, this book flowed and there were great developments with every character and the story overall. So let's head along to the typical display of:

*SPOILER WARNING*
If you haven't read the first three books I suggest you do not read this book. This is when we finally find out who A is! Although, I won't say who A is, I will say that I never liked the character but it wasn't someone I really suspected because she had kind of a minor role through the majority of the book.

There is so much going on with every character and it appears that when some characters don't have too much exciting news to share they are pushed off, lacking chapters, until something exciting does happen. I appreciate that, a lot, because the book prior to this one would include every characters rambling day-by-day account even if nothing exciting was happening.

Now that A's threats are becoming more threatening (hello, Hannah is in critical condition in the hospital) the girls become more frightened. Emily is sent off to her crazy cousins house because she is now out of the closet, Hannah is fighting for her life, Aria is homeless and decides to begrudgingly move in with her father and home-wrecker girlfriend, and Spencer is unsure that she very well could be the killer... that, or her sister.

All of the pieces begin to fall into place and characters discover other sides to the people around them. Don't ever trust that you know everything about your closest friends. Just because these four girls have a list of secrets doesn't mean they're the only ones.

I appreciate that Emily's family comes around in this book and that she and Maya have a falling out (I never really liked that character). I'm glad that Aria's mother also get's over blaming her daughter for her husbands mistake. Glad that Spencer and her sister begin to see more eye-to-eye. All three characters grow a little while once Hannah awakens from her coma she loses every step she had previously made and falls back into her less then like-able character.

The end of the book, when A is revealed, I really couldn't read it fast enough, I wanted to know what happened. This book could have easily been the end to the series but there are four more books which I am assuming will answer who exactly killed Alison (because although A was revealed there is no say as to who was the murderer).

I'm going to take a break from these books for a little bit before diving into the last four books of the series. But it was well worth the read. Definitely my favorite book of the series.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pretty Little Liars: Perfect (Book 3)

As with all Pretty Little Liars books I read this one quickly. Picked it up, done in two days (mind you, I was gone until about 8pm each of those nights and unable to read until then) and off to get the following book after that. However, this book is my least favorite so far.

***WARNING: SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE OTHER BOOKS/SEEN THE SHOW***

This book has a little growth for the character Hannah and Spencer. Otherwise, I feel that Aria and Emily both kind of keep trudging along with the problems they've been facing from the past few books. For these two girls it's the same sh--, different day. But Hannah and Spencer, my least two favorite characters in the book (I really like Hannah on the tv show), do seem to emerge as something more then they previously appeared.

First, Hannah nearly sheds her nasty preppy girl cover and begins to befriend a boy who has been teased relentlessly for years (all because of a rumor that the super wench Ali started- sorry, I never liked the character Ali. She always seemed like a class B you-know-what to me. If EVER I had a friend like that she'd be dropped really quick). Hannah seems to grow a heart and not only that, but she gets ahead of the game and discovers who A is. 

However, her discovery might have killed her.

Spencer is also interesting because she begins to recollect an assortment of moments in her life where she blacked out where she was unable to remember anything she did or saw. Memories begin to flood back to her mind and suddenly she is fearful of herself. Is she the killer?

But aside from these two events the book bored me. I felt like I was slowly shifting from scene to scene. Granted, it was a quick read so obviously it entertained me enough otherwise I wouldn't have read it so fast. I just felt like a lot of the story line we had been working on for three books now and I was growing tired of it all. How long was I going to have to read about A torturing these girls?

If it wasn't for the ending of the book where they left me hanging, wondering whether or not Hannah lives, I don't think I would've jumped to the fourth book as quickly. Of course, I would read the fourth book because darn it- I want to know who A is! I want to know who Ali's killer is! This is the premise of all of these books and I have not put all of this effort (Okay, lack of effort if it's taking me a night to read the books) just to give up and not find out the truth! But really, the book was otherwise kinda... eh. I think 'eh' sums it up nicely.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy September!

It might be expected to get to 100 degrees (again) today but I'm in an autumnal spirit! I know it will be only a matter of weeks before the cool air will begin to get a more permanent grip on this area and I'm actually quite excited for that experience. This summer has been beautiful but I'm tired of the really heated days and humid movements. 

After Easter my house becomes a standstill. We don't change any decorations nor do anything too special other then work on the gardens outside. But once September hits the house becomes active inside once again. The first of September the fall decorations go up. The first of October the Halloween decorations go up. First of November- Thanksgiving. First of December- Christmas. 

Well, our Christmas stuff doesn't go down until the Epiphany so that doesn't count too much. After the Christmas decorations we flood the house with snowmen and snowflakes until the first of February when Valentine's Day stuff goes up (but that comes down as soon as the holiday is over, I kind of hate Valentines Day). Then there is St. Patrick's day and Easter... then we're back to the months where nothing occurs. 

I adore decorating for the fall/Christmas. This stretch from September to the end of December is my favorite. I bake, cook, sew, and decorate. 


Today we put out our fake flowers, leaves, and autumnal things out through out the house. Little pumpkins and scented candles. I also moved my room around.  Here's the deal: I have a huge beautifully made hope chest (crafted by the Amish of Lancaster) that I place opposite my window during the summer. In the cooler months it sits in front of my window so that I can place my decorations on it. I also shifted through it's contents: all of my journals, all of my manuscripts, all of my awards, and then all of my blankets and scarves. I have blankets for all times of the year because I can't sleep without a blanket on me. So all the light summery blankets went to the bottom of the chest and the warm winter ones came to the top with the scarves and hats. 

All that's left is for the weather to cool, for me to pick up my yearly selection of pumpkins and mums, and for my autumn activities to begin. 

Plus: I need to find myself a new bookshelf. I've run out of space with the two in my bedroom and the stacks of books on my floor are starting to pile up!

Happy September everyone!
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