Month: September 2015

Sep 29

Katie’s Unsolicited Opinions on Banned Books Week

Banned Books 16

Greetings Bookworms!

It’s Banned Books Week, one of my favorite times of the year. It’s always great fun to discuss the reasons people have for writing to their local libraries and/or children’s schools to complain about the reading material. Objections are almost universally tied to what is and isn’t appropriate for children and teenagers. As a non parent, I should probably keep my mouth shut. The last thing I want to do is play into the Mommy Wars. However, this subject gets me all fired up. I’ve listed some of the popular reasons people challenge books… And my rebuttals.

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  1. Offensive Language: Profanity is always high on the list of reasons books are challenged. Here’s the thing. The words exist. Kids hear them. If they’re in school they DEFINITELY hear them. A lot. Kids love saying bad words. It’s a safe little rebellion for them. Be glad they’re swearing and not shooting heroin. Perspective.
  2. Satanic/Occult Material: You guys. Harry Potter is not your enemy. I repeat: Harry Potter IS NOT YOUR ENEMY.
  3. Sexually Explicit: Teenagers are curious and hormonal. A book is a great way for them to explore the complexities of sexuality with ZERO RISK of getting pregnant or contracting a disease. Your teen is either going to have sex or they’re not. I can virtually guarantee that reading a book isn’t going to change their position on that one way or another. I mean, you remember being a teenager. You had a brain in your head. You weren’t THAT malleable.
  4. Homosexuality: Regardless of your feelings on homosexuality, gay people exist. They’re not going to magically disappear, and they’re legally allowed to marry in the US. Being gay isn’t contagious. Your kid is going to be gay or they aren’t. A book isn’t going to change that. And for the love of all that’s holy, if your heart doesn’t break into a thousand pieces reading about a pair of male penguins trying to hatch a rock, I don’t think you’re doing compassion right.
  5. Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking: I’ve read a good number of young adult novels. A lot of them depict drug use, alcohol use, and/or smoking. I’ve yet to read one that glorifies any of these things, but I’ve read a ton of cautionary tales. Seriously. These books are way more likely to expose the dangers and consequences of substance abuse than to glorify them. And again. A book isn’t going to pour booze down your kid’s throat. Really. A book doesn’t have arms.

What’s the moral of this post? A book isn’t going to undo your parenting. At most it will open the door for discussions on complicated subjects, during which you, as the parental unit can re-instill whatever values you’ve been trying to teach. You have a much bigger impact on your kid’s behavior than any book could. Exposure to different lifestyles, opinions, and circumstances will only help turn your kid into a well rounded adult ready to face the world. Now. Go forth and read all the things. And let your kids read them too.

Alright Bookworms, sound off. Is this post thoroughly smug? If I ever have children will I someday eat my words? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 28

Bite Size Reviews Revisited

Bite Size Reviews 17

Happy Monday Bookworms!

Ever feel like phoning it in, oh, every Monday of your life? Yeah, me too. It’s been a super busy and fun weekend, and I’ve read several books recently that I’d really have to stretch to make full reviews, so let’s get our chocolate chip cookie on and go bite size!

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1. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler- This book was on oodles of awards lists so I figured I should read it to find out what the fuss was all about. It was good, but not at all what I was expecting. At all. It also went into some territory that made me feel a little squidgy, the details of which I can’t reveal without massively spoiling things. If you’ve read this and want to discuss, though, email me. Because… Yeah. (WordsForWorms (at) gmail.com. Or Facebook. Or Twitter. Or whatever. I’m all up in the internet, you guys.)

2. The Custom of the Army by Diana Gabaldon- So I was just poking around in my library’s digital offerings when I noticed an Outlander novella available. It was a little weird to pick this one up because chronologically it felt way out of place to me, considering a character who got married in the latest installment was an infant in this novella. Still. You can’t go wrong with Lord John and his intrigues, can you? (No, you cannot.)

3. 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino- I chose this book for my IRL book club this month imagining it would be a fun and funky romp through the 1920s. The description wasn’t clear about time period, and a club called the Cat’s Pajamas? It was a reasonable assumption. I was wrong, of course. It was set in the modern day. I really enjoyed the story… Until the last chapter. Maybe I’ll just pretend it didn’t happen as there was closure just before that point. I will say that throwing magical realism in at the tail end of an otherwise perfectly realistic novel is just mean. Seriously, WTF? Book Club is on Friday night, so it should be interesting. I’d better up my dessert game just in case the gang is disappointed.

Talk to me, Bookworms! How was your weekend? What did you read? What did you do? Was there apple cider involved? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’ll probably buy more books with it, so you’re all enablers. And I love you for it.*

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Sep 25

Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg

Humor, short stories 11

Greetings Bookworms!

Have I ever mentioned my celebrity crush? I enjoy a handsome fellow with a hunky torso as much as the next girl, but I’ve got a thing for nerdy types. I can’t remember the first movie I saw with Jesse Eisenberg… The Social Network? Zombieland? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was smitten with the curly locks and snarky dialogue he delivered so well. Siiiiigh. I wish I had a better reason for picking Bream Gives Me Hiccups out of the NetGalley catalog, but the truth is, I saw that Jesse Eisenberg had written a book and I wanted to know the things that go on inside that beautiful head. *I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. The publisher had no idea that I have a long standing crush on the author. Neither my crush nor the free-ness of the book will influence my review. Probably.*

breamgivesmehiccupsBream Gives Me Hiccups is a collection of essays and short stories that are completely fictional. I have a well established love for humorous celebrity memoirs, but this is legit non-memoir humorous fiction. Surprise! Dude can actually write! His restaurant reviews from a 9 year old boy essay just about did me in. And the spoiled/insane college coed? It soooooo took me back. Not that I knew anyone THAT nuts, but you know how it is freshman year in the dorms. It’s an eye opening experience, to say the least.

I don’t want to get all comparison happy, but you know when David Sedaris writes about things that are NOT personal anecdotes? Think Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. It’s sort of like that, only with fewer animals in rehab. If you dig the Sedaris dark humor vibe, you should give this a shot. Maybe it’s not even dark humor. More like gray humor? I don’t have the answers to these questions, I am not as brilliant as Jesse Eisenberg. Don’t be fooled by the actor/hearthrob (to me, anyway) byline, y’all. This book is worthy.

I’m not exactly surprised that Jesse Eisenberg turned out a good book, because I always assumed he was very intelligent and witty, but it’s always nice to have one’s suspicions confirmed. Check out Bream Gives Me Hiccups and let me know your thoughts!

Talk to me Bookworms! Who are YOUR celebrity crushes? I absolutely will not judge whomever you choose. I mean, I might laugh a little, but I won’t judge. For real. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

And for good measure:

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The broody boredom and nimble brows… Swoon.

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Sep 21

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction 15

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

How was your weekend? Mine was lovely, especially considering I was NOT taken hostage during a swanky birthday party by an ill advised army of teenagers in an unnamed South American country. Obviously, things are going better for me than the characters in my latest read, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. This is one of those books I’ve been hearing about for a long time but took ages to get around to reading (well, listening to, in this case). Just another example of how I’ll never ever get to all the excellent books worth reading in the world. Siiiiigh.

belcantoAs I started saying earlier, this book takes place in an unnamed South American country. In an attempt to bring commerce to the blighted region, the government has arranged an elaborate birthday party for a Japanese business man in order to lure him into building a factory. The government has managed to land Roxane Coss, opera soprano of international acclaim, to perform for Mr. Hosokawa, a noted opera aficianado.

The party is crashed soon after Roxane’s performance by a ragtag army of 18 terrorists consisting largely of impoverished teenagers. Their goal was to kidnap the president, but when it turns out he is not in attendance, they take the entire birthday party full of international dignitaries hostage. Improvisation is not their strong suit. As the relatively simple goal of the terrorists is complicated by unanticipated captives, the group’s quick operation turns into a drawn out standoff.

You guyssssssssss. This book was really good. It sounds like a majorly insane downer, but it was fascinating! As time goes on, the hostages and the terrorists begin to bond in unexpected ways. It’s not Stockholm Syndrome or anything, because nobody’s been brainwashed, but it’s awfully hard to spend a large amount of time with anyone and fail to see them as individuals. I mean, the terrorists aren’t torturing or killing or maiming. They’re just forcibly detaining… With varying levels of enthusiasm. If this has been on your radar in the history of ever, if you like opera, or if you just like excellent messy moral dilemma stories, check out Bel Canto

Talk to me Bookworms! What is the WORST experience you’ve ever had at a party?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 17

Feeling PUN-chy

Family, Personal 17

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

I’m quite certain I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you missed it, I became an aunt again about a month ago. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law welcomed the sweetest baby girl in the history of baby girls. (This is empirically proven, of course, I wouldn’t feed you biased data.) Since our little Emma-Saurus arrived, a punch drunk series of texts have occurred… There’s a strong possibility that these exchanges are amusing only to us, but what the heck? I’m willing to share the nonsensical love. Both my husband and my brother-in-law are named Jim. As is my father in law. Not to mention the cousins. Because of course. Hence, my BIL is referred to as “New Guy” (since he is the newest Jim in the family, and probably always will be. Unless they give us a nephew one day…) We call him “New Guy” to his face and put it on his birthday cake and stuff. I’d go into more detail on the Jim situation, but I know I’ll never top the speech I gave at Jenny and New Guy’s wedding on the subject so I’m just gonna drop the mic right here and get into the text-versation.

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*A teensy bit of context here. Emma has a stuffed sheep that doubles as a sound machine. His name is Sherman. She has a penchant for knocking him over. It’s probably accidental, as she’s like a month old and flails around on her little play mat, but it seems like she has it out for him. Without further ado…*

Jenny: Emma Update! She’s sleeping. (Shocker.)

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Me: Wait, wait, wait. Are those tiny Shermans on her PJs?

Jenny: Those are tiny Shermans. We thought it might improve their relationship. I’ve got a bad feeling about this though…

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New Guy: That’s a fist she’s making!

Me: Hit him with your best shot, Emma!

New Guy: Would we say Sherman should be wearing a WOOL-et proof vest? #punitentiary

Me: He is looking a bit sheepish. #NewGuyStartedIt

New Guy: Emma has been acting baaaah-dly around him.

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Jenny: It was only a matter of time.

New Guy: Someone sent Sherman out to pasture.

Me: Emma is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Jenny: Wool done!

Hubs: Ewe guys are cracking me up. Some of these puns are shear genius.

New Guy: Winner, winner gyro dinner.

Me: I don’t mean to LAMB-ast you, but these jokes are getting baaaaad.

Hubs: Oh man, I ain’t got mutton. (Full disclosure, I almost made a veal joke before Katie reminded me veal comes from calves.)

New Guy: He better MOO-ve it. #RandomCowJoke

Me: He gets knocked down, but he gets up again. #RandomChumbawambaJoke

_____HOURS PASS_____

Me: Seriously guys? Crickets on the Chumbawamba reference? That was comedy gold!

New Guy: Sorry I missed it. I was too busy pissing the night away.

Aaaaaaaaaand scene. You know you wish you were in on this. If for no reason other than the unbearably cute baby pictures. What about you, Bookworms? Does your family get into any texting shenanigans?

 

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Sep 15

Excuses, Excuses: Top Ten Tuesday

Blogging, Personal, Top Ten Tuesday 39

Howdy Bookworms,

It’s been a while since I’ve made a Top Ten List for the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s prompt is a freebie so I’m going to tell y’all a little about WHY I have been such a terrible blogger lately. I haven’t been keeping up with anyone else’s blog, I’ve barely been keeping up with writing mine, and I figure you all deserve to know the reasons. Even if they’re terrible reasons.

excuses
  1. I’m extremely lazy. Sometimes I’d rather lie on the couch in a semi-comatose state and watch terrible television than read or blog.
  2. Adult coloring. It’s super fun, and when I think “I should treat myself to not blogging” it usually ends in me coloring for hours and hours during blogging time. It’s addictive.
  3. I’ve been pretty bummed out. For reasons. Of course, those reasons seem worse thanks to crappy brain chemistry. In any case, I keep cutting myself slack when I don’t feel like doing anything, which is a bad idea because doing nothing always makes me feel much worse. R&R is apparently not the cure for what ails me. (Seriously, don’t worry. This too shall pass.)
  4. I’ve been exercising a lot. It’s is a good and healthy thing to do, especially for the chronic mopeys. However, by the time I get home from work and the gym and shower and eat it’s kind of late. Then coloring happens.
  5. Hair bows. My Sister-in-Law and Brother-in-Law just had a baby girl. I was feeling crafty, and now I’m obsessed with Pinterest and ribbons and hot glue. I don’t even know myself anymore. Crafting? ME?!
  6. YouTube. My husband has become obsessed with watching The Tim Tracker. They’re a husband and wife daily vlogging team who live in Orlando. They go to theme parks a ton which we love because Disney World and Universal are made of magic. They also have two really cute dogs and have somehow managed to make dull daily chores entertaining. Plus, Tim has the jauntiest mustache in the history of ever. They’re like imaginary friends, who are real, only we don’t know them and they have no idea we exist. Hi Tim and Jenn! We love you in the least creepy way!
  7. Work. It’s busy there.

That’s it, you only get 7 excuses. Par for the course, really. At least you know what I’ve been doing while being a half-assed blogger. Sorry, y’all. You deserve better. I’ll try harder, really I will.

Tell me something, bookworms. What’s the best excuse you’ve ever used for being unproductive? 

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Sep 14

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Audio Books, Supernatural 14

How’s it going, Bookworms?

I feel like I should write this entire blog post in 20s slang, but you’d miss out on the inflection. It’s going to take every ounce of restraint I possess not to end every sentence with “see”, see? I place the blame for my new affectation squarely on the shoulders of one Libba Bray, who penned The Diviners, and also on the shoulders of January LaVoy who narrated the audio book.

thedivinersI’ve been meaning to read Libba Bray for a while, and I picked The Diviners because it was on my soon-to-expire list (thanks for nothing, Scribd.) I didn’t realize just how spooky it was going to be before picking it up, so I’m actually pretty grateful for the near comical usage of slang and old timey vocal affectations. But I digress.

The Diviners takes place in 1920s New York City, which was by all accounts a happening place to be. Evie O’Neill is new to town, after being sent away from her boring town in Ohio to stay with her uncle. Some people have no sense of humor when it comes to having their secrets exposed, see? It works out for the best though, because Evie is ready to get her flapper on and party like it’s 1926 and NYC is the place to be! Evie’s Uncle Will has his head so full of the creepy crawlies that he’s unlikely to notice her antics… Or so she thinks. The thing that got Evie booted from Ohio wasn’t really her fault. Evie has a super weird gift that allows her to psychically glean information from objects. If a gentleman’s watch tells her that he’s had some scandalous dalliances, well, she can’t help knowing that!

New York is being terrorized by a serial killer just as Evie arrives in town. Because of the occult-ish nature of the killings, Evie’s uncle, something of an expert in the field, is called in to consult with the police on the case. Evie realizes her gift may help her catch the murderer, and things just start to get weird.

This book was a ton of fun and the scary elements were perfect for the onset of autumn. The slang seemed a little over the top at times, but the campy aspects of it worked for me. There was just one problem. I had NO IDEA this book was the beginning of a series until it was over and ALL THE THINGS were unresolved. I googles to make sure I hadn’t accidentally skipped chapters and lo and behold, book two was recently released. Don’t you just hate that?! Of course, it’s too late. I’m hooked. Just take my money, okay?

Bookworms, I need to not be alone here. Have any of you started a series purely by accident?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 10

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Audio Books, Historical Fiction 4

Greetings, Bookworms!

You’ll probably recall my giant rant about Scribd changing up its audio book program. As a result, I scoured my library for the oodles of expiring titles and prioritized those I simply couldn’t live without hearing before they turned into pumpkins. I’ve been meaning to read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton for quite a while, and I’m so glad I decided to check this one out. Not only was it a great story, but the incomparable Davina Porter narrated (she’s the one who reads all the Outlander books and is beyond amazing.) Yay audio books! Boo Scribd for bursting my bubble! (I’m totally still bitter, Scribd!)

theminiaturistNella Oortman is a mere 18 years old when she arrives in Amsterdam, the newly minted bride of merchant Johannes Brandt.  While Nella is thrilled to leave her rural home for the excitement of the big city, she soon discovers that her marriage isn’t going to be what she expected. Johannes is incredibly distant, though when he does interact with Nella he is kind. His sister Marin, however, is even less welcoming.

Set adrift in an unfamiliar city, Nella is completely unmoored. Things begin to change when Johannes presents Nella with an unusual gift: a cabinet sized replica of their house. Nella is both intrigued and mildly insulted. I mean, a doll house?! That’s somewhat less than romantic, and kind of weird, actually. Nevertheless, Nella enlists the services of a mysterious local miniaturist in order to furnish the house and finds herself pulled into the inner circle of the Brandt household and its secrets quite by accident.

The cover art for this novel is genuinely representative of this book. It’s a pretty piece of historical fiction if there ever was one, and the narration of Davina Porter makes it even more magical. I found the story fascinating and loved the look inside the Brandt family. 17th Century Amsterdam was NOT the sort of place you wanted to be seen as different, that’s for darn sure. While I enjoyed the novel, I really wish there had been a few loose ends tied up, particularly in reference to the title character, but all in all, it was quite a ride. If historical fiction is your jam, The Miniaturist is certainly worth a read!

Talk to me Bookworms! Are any of you into tiny things? I’ve seen some impressive work done with miniatures, but I lack the patience to create my own and the funds to get into the hobby buying ready made. I’d love to hear from any budding miniaturists out there!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 08

The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry

Asia, Historical Fiction, Women's Studies 4

Good Day, Bookworms!

It probably says troubling things about my character that I love hooker books so ding dang much, but I do, I so so do. The circumstances that lead young women into lives of prostitution are endlessly fascinating, and it’s a profession that transcends time and culture. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, this revelation comes as no surprise. If you’re new here, I really dig books about prostitutes. From a cultural perspective, not a porn-ish one, in case that wasn’t obvious. This is a long weird intro, so I should get to the point! Today we’re talking about The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry. *I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. It is not at all like prostitution because there is zero promise of a favorable review (or any review) involved. That said, the way to my heart is through hooker books, so. Yeah.*

thecourtesanThe Courtesan is the fictionalized account of an actual historical figure, one Sai Jinhua. The novel opens with the execution of Jinhua’s beloved father, an unjust punishment for political dissent. At merely seven years old, she is left in the care of her stepmother (her mother having passed away before the book begins) and unceremoniously sold to a brothel. Though Jinhua suffers the horrors of foot binding and forced prostitution, she finds kinship with the brothel’s maid. Eventually Jinhua’s fortunes change as she is purchased (again) this time to live as a concubine to a wealthy diplomat. She goes on to accompany him on a lengthy trip abroad in Europe, through Austria-Hungary (you know, back when it was an empire?), Prussia (back before it was Germany), and Russia (back when Romanovs were still Czar-ing it up.) I was pretty stoked to see that another famous historical figure made an appearance in this novel, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, whom I feel like I know rather well after reading Daisy Goodwin’s The Fortune Hunter (review). Worlds colliding all up in this piece.

This book kind of tore my guts out, in any number of instances. I mean, how could it not? There were times I cried for Jinhua and times I wanted to give her a good smack. The fact that she lived such a large life in a time and place where women’s lives tended to be secluded was fascinating. As with any piece of historical fiction based on a real person, I have no doubt that many liberties were taken for dramatic effect, but it all swirled together into a rather lovely package. If you’re like me and dig hooker books, The Courtesan would make an excellent addition to your collection.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Do you like it when real historical figures make cameos in books?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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