Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Monday, September 28, 2015

Banned Books Week and Memoir Monday

A Young Woman's Coming of Age Story...
During the Turbulent Political Backdrop of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran

Young Marjane Satrapi came from a well off, loving, modern family. She went to a non-religious french school. Her father drove a cadillac and her family had a maid. All that changed in 1980, when Marjane turned 10 years old... because Marjane lived in Tehran... During the cultural revolution... and 'the veil'.

The book opens with Marjane showing us how a 10 year old perceives the sudden requirement to wear the veil... The little girls didn't understand the need to wear one. One day you don't have to, and the next day you do? Her bilingual school was closed down because it was a symbol of capitalism and decadence... And soon Marjane was being indoctrinated into the political fray. First she is taught that the Shah was chosen by God, then when he is overthrown she is taught to tear his pictures out of all the school books. People were being persecuted, executed, tortured. And Marjane's parents did not protect her from the truth because it seemed the only way to save her from becoming one of the persecutors...

Her parents protested, there were raids & bombs, and patrols... Relatives are murdered, friends of the family disappear, a friend dies is a bombing. How is a 1o year old suppose to deal with all this? Honestly... Unfortunately her honesty was perceived as blasphemy... Marjane called her teacher a liar when she taught that there were no more political prisoners and recited the facts, she wore a simple bracelet under her garment and was expelled... It was then decided that a little girl with a penchant for rebellion and a sharp tongue would be safer growing up away from Iran... So, Marjane next goes to Austria to live with a friend of her mother's... and as if things couldn't get worse, they do.

What is so interesting and compelling in this story is that Marjane is the same as all young girls- she likes music, and posters, jewelry and wearing jeans. But because of where she is born she is forced to grow up faster and learn to survive. Her "slips" are mostly from her acting like a 10 year old. How she deals with all this conflict, even the conflict within herself as she grapples with what is going on around her and what is in her heart, is written and drawn wonderfully.

This coming of age story, The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, is a tender, heartfelt story of a girl growing up in a world of conflict. The relationship she has with her mother and grandmother are loving and volatile. But what she takes from each of them and tucks away into her soul shows us glimpses of a girl growing up. How she deals with the war & revolution are important, but how she deals with the injustices imposed on her just because she is a female is even more important. The wearing of the veil, the cut of her clothes, the wearing of make-up, a strand of hair out of place, moral etiquette, dating, divorce... these are all things we learn how a young Iranian girl deals with. All of this is why I thought this book would easily fit into the Women Unbound Reading Challenge... This book shows how this young woman deals with the social and political issues present as she grows up in Iran. Marjane is candid, honest, funny and angry. The book will tug at your heart at moments and infuriate you other times. The book spans 14 years, and it is well worth your time cracking the spin!

I really enjoyed reading this book. The Black & White drawings were so expressive and the story flowed easily from the page. I read it in one sitting because I became absorbed in the Marjane's story. If you're not exactly a graphic novel reader, I hope you'll open this book anyway, it is a wonderful read and would be a great start to reading graphic novels!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Sunday Salon and Read a Banned Book Week!


Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Every Sunday we set aside a little time to chat books, and this week is no different, with the theme being Banned Books! So, grab a cup of joe, find a comfy chair and let's talk books!

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read
September 27−October 3, 2015

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Yes, it's the 21st century and still we have book burners and censorship. I think that the point here is that parents should be involved in what their children read and help them understand what they are reading, guide them in choosing appropriate material for their curious minds. BUT, let's not infringe on the reading rights of another child, whose parent may not wish to ban a certain book. Most banning and censorship takes place in the most accessible (and free) place to check out a book - a library! Let's not make reading a privilege. What do YOU think?!

This year the theme of Banned Books Week is Young Adult (YA) fiction… Here are the top 10 banned or challenged YA books for 2014-2015:

 1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown Books for  Young Readers)
 2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon Books/Knopf Doubleday)
 3. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston)
 4. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury Publishing)
 5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster)
 6. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier (Graphix/Scholastic)
 7. Chinese Handcuffs, by Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins)
 8. The Giver, by Lois Lowry (HMH Books for Young Readers)
 9. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (Vintage/Knopf Doubleday)
10.Looking for Alaska, by John Green (Dutton Books/Penguin Random House)

It seems that Banned Books Week has been taking on a theme, instead of just promoting the reading of all banned books. Last year was comic books, and I read The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (read my review), which I loved. In 2013, I read a classic, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, incredible writing and totally not what I was expecting. And I spent a week with Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger in 2009.

This whole week we'll celebrate Banned Books Week highlighting challenged and banned books. And I'll be reading...
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which was banned in a Riverside, Ca. middle school in 2014 because one parent felt, "the morbid plot, crude language, and sexual content was inappropriate for her children... "HER" children. That book was a reading sensation and really promoted kids picking up a book. It may have been inappropriate for her children, and I applaud her for being involved in what her children read, but don't take the ability to read that book away from others. And so, this week, I will finally read The Fault in Our Stars, which has been lingering on my Kindle for some time.

The second book I'm going to read is not YA, but a children's book, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. It's a true story about 2 male penguins at the Central Park Zoo in NYC who enjoyed doing everything together, and when the time came they built a nest just like all the other Penguin couples, but they couldn't lay an egg. Eventually they are given an abandoned egg and raise this as their own. This book is one of the top banned books of all time, and it really makes me scratch my head. Can reading this book really change your child's sexuality? I view this book as a cute book about the love between the two penguins, and I'm not really viewing this as a book about homosexuality. Am I wrong?! I guess it could teach children about tolerance. My library does carry the book, but I could not find it in any of my bookstores.

This whole week we'll celebrate Banned Books Week highlighting challenged and banned books. What will YOU be reading?!

Weekly Recap… This past week I finished Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, and all I can say is WOW! What an amazing beautiful book. I did not want this book to end and my heart sank as I turned that last page. The writing brought me right into the heart of Africa, and the people became real and part of my life the 2 weeks I stretched out this novel. I'll be posting my review this week. But all I can say is READ THIS BOOK! The writing reminded me of Laura Hillenbrand's Sea Biscuit with the movie Out of Africa as the backdrop. If this were a movie, it would be a sweeping big screen epic.

My reading group read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline and everyone loved it! It was so different than what I had expected and the author did a wonderful job of merging 2 stories from 2 different time periods together. Look for my review this week on Orphan Train too!

That about does it for this week. Are you planning on reading any banned or challenged books this week? How do you feel about censorship? Follow the link to The Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books Lists of the 21st Century to see the many other books that have offended someone somewhere.

Happy Reading… Suzanne

*Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Sunday Salon and Mysteries, Histories and Something to give you the Down Right Creepies

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week we share a little reading time, or at least share what we've been reading! My reading this week has been going back and forth between my hardcover copy of Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (which I am loving) and my Kindle edition of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald (which I am equally loving!) I don't read two books at the same time too often, but forgot the one book one day and started the other and can't really let go of either for too long. While I've been wrapped up in these two books, there were a few other books that were trying to get my attention… one is a kind of history (of a marriage), one is a mystery, and one is a dark story that will give anyone the creeps…

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff… Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years. At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it.

I have read so many starred reviews of this book I wonder if it's really that good or if it's just the momentum that's carrying it along. BUT, I did read the beginning of this novel and have to say that Lauren Groff's writing is captivating. I was immediately drawn into the story and wanted to read on. But will the writing live up to itself through the whole novel? I'm hoping so and have put this on my must read list! This is written in two interwoven stories and that in itself sounds like it would make for an interesting read! This was just released this week in hardcover. Paperback due to arrive in January.
In a Dark, Dark, Wood by Ruth Ware… What should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller. Leonora, known to some as Lee and others as Nora, is a reclusive crime writer, unwilling to leave her “nest” of an apartment unless it is absolutely necessary. When a friend she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years unexpectedly invites Nora (Lee?) to a weekend away in an eerie glass house deep in the English countryside, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. Forty-eight hours later, she wakes up in a hospital bed injured but alive, with the knowledge that someone is dead. Wondering not “what happened?” but “what have I done?”, Nora (Lee?) tries to piece together the events of the past weekend. Working to uncover secrets, reveal motives, and find answers, Nora (Lee?) must revisit parts of herself that she would much rather leave buried where they belong: in the past.

Looking for the next "The Girl on a Train"? This is suppose to be it! And it reads like it a bit, with a story that is simple on the outside, but with twists and turns hidden deep within. Touted as a psychological thriller, this is Ruth Ware's debut novel and it is a hit in the UK. I have this waiting in the wings when I'm done with my other two books and can't wait to dive it!
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh… The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

This is one of those books that has gotten so much "interesting" praise that your curiosity is what will win out. Eileen is suppose to be very dark and morbid, shocking at times, but also fascinating and witty. How does the author manage all of that at the same time? Great writing, but hard story. This book was on so many "lists" pre-publication, that I made a note to take a look at it when it finally came to print. I think if I can get through the self-loathing the Eileen shares at every chance to arrive at the mystery and crime to follow, it might be worth it. What do you think?
On a sad note, author Jackie Collins has died. She died from cancer, and had kept her illness a secret until the very end. Personally, I have not read any of her romances, but they are a world wide sensation, with larger than life characters and hollywood glamour. She kept writing throughout her illness and published 5 novels since being diagnosed with cancer. Looking at her wealth of novels, I think I may give Chances a try. It's a family saga with all the trimmings and one of Jackie's all time favorite characters, Lucky, is born. Have you read any Jackie Collins?

That will wrap it up for this weeks great books round-up! What have you been reading this week? And do you feel curious about what an author has written after they die if you've never read any of their books?

Happy reading… Suzanne

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