Friday, September 30, 2011

Banned Book Week 2011 - Part 3

Part 3 - The Interview!

Since my daughter just read Crank, which is number 4 on the 2010 top 10 Banned Book List I thought I'd get her take on banned books and Crank. I'd, of course, like to thank my dear daughter who graciously agreed (with eye rolling and sighing involved) to do this interview. She was, however, more excited to answer my questions when it came down to it. Because I wasn't feeling well I typed out the questions and she wrote her answers in for me. So, all of the ...'s and !!!!'s are all hers. I thought they were funny and left them in. Enjoy! 

Me: What are your thoughts on banning books?

Em: "I don't think it's all that smart. If someone does not like a book then they shouldn't read it. Some of these books help teens in a way."

Me: What are your thoughts on Crank by Ellen Hopkins? 

Em: "Um ... Well ... I really like it. My friend does, too. It tells kids and teens that you shouldn't do any drugs. And the fact it is based on the author's own daughter's addiction is more of a ... Don't do it because this is all real stuff going on here."

Me: Did you like the book?

Em: "I absolutely love it!!!"

Me: What did you like the most about the book?

Em: "What I like most about the book is that it [doesn't take long] to read it. Besides that it has a really good message to teens and young adults."

Me: What did you like the least about the book?

Em: "I don't think that if I sat here for three days I could think of one possible thing I don't like."

Me: What did you learn from reading Crank

Em: "I learned that crack is not healthy at all. (I already knew everything.)"

Me: Gotta love D.A.R.E.! Since you've read about a teen hooked on drugs do you feel more or less likely to give into peer pressure and try drugs?

Em: "Um ... I will never ever ever give into peer pressure and try drugs. Not to mention I've seen real lungs from someone who smoked and did drugs. It was horrifying."

Me: Again, great D.A.R.E. program to the rescue! Would you recommend this book to your friends? Why?

Em: "I would without a doubt recommend this book to friends. It has a positive message to not do drugs and a negative message about doing drugs."
Me: Are you surprised by Crank being on the banned book list? Why?

Em: "I am, but I'm not. I'm not because a lot of people would not like a book about crack. I am because a lot of people probably haven't even read it and /or don't understand the message."

Me: I gave you a list of the top 10 books challenged in 2010. Are there other books on the list you would like to read?

Em: "Yes ... I think ... I want to read the children's book about 2 male penguins raising a child."

Me: Were you surprised by any of the books on the list?

Em: "I was surprised at almost all the books."

Me: Are there any other thoughts you would like to share about banned books?

Em: "A lot of books deserve to get read, but a lot of people just see titles and want to get them banned. I'm kind of like, 'Uh ... Hello ... You haven't even read it'

So, there you have it. A teens take on Crank and the idea of Banned Books.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Book Week 2011 - Part 2

Part 2 - Who, Why, and the Books 

I thought for Part 2 of my Banned Books Week Series I would take a look at who tries to have books banned, why they are challenged, and what books topped the list last year.


For more on this I checked out the ALA site for Banned Books Week. I wasn't surprised to find that the largest group of people to challenge books are parents themselves. Just because a parent doesn't think a book is suited for their child doesn't mean that another parent has a problem with it. As is evident by the fact that I allowed my daughter to read Crank this week.

As a parent I think we know what our children can and cannot handle. Therefore, I think that banning a book is an individual choice, not something that should be imposed on others.

Last Christmas we made the trek to Austin, Texas to spend the holiday with my family. My daughter spends her summers there with my family and has made a group of good friends there. One night she had some of the girls over and we were all playing cards and having a blast. Somehow the conversation turned to Twilight. As it turns out one of her friends hadn't read the books or seen the movies. I was shocked. She replied that her dad is a minister and she isn't allowed to read books like that (paranormal/dark). My first thought was, "That stinks!" She was fine with her parents' decision to not let her read certain material. I think this is difficult as most of her friends are all fighting over Team Edward or Team Jacob. Yet, the thought occurred to me that even though her parents don't allow her to read Twilight, they don't have a problem with her hanging out with other girls who have. She never said a bad word about the books or forced her, or her parents', opinions on the other girls. That is fine with me, as it should be.

However, I do know people (one in particular) who will believe anything they hear. I have one acquaintance, who if she was told that The Hunger Games is a horrible series, violent, and not for teens she would not allow her children to read it, without even picking the book up herself. In fact I'm not so sure she appeared comfortable when my daughter mentioned she was reading Crank.

On that same note, there are plenty of parents who have read the books, and still don't like them. That's fine too, in fact I give them kuddos for reading the books in the first place. Yet, I still don't think they have the right to take the right of reading it away from other children, my children. That decision should be left up to me and my husband. His response: "Whatever you think." He mostly leaves the reading decisions up to me. He liked the idea that she was reading Crank, a banned book. (We're both very liberal in our views.)


Why are books banned in the first place? There are several reasons for this.

According to the ALA website the following are the top three reasons for banning books.
  1. the material was considered to be "sexually explicit"
  2. the material contained "offensive language"
  3. the materials was "unsuited to any age group"
Okay, so these are all valid reasons to not allow your own child to read a book. But, under no circumstances do I want someone else telling me that I shouldn't have the right to allow my child to read a book because it's not suitable for their own child. To my knowledge my daughter's school does not have any books they have banned. I searched the website with no luck finding anything that would suggest they have banned anything from their library.

The Books 

I was surprised, and not surprised, by the top ten list for 2010 Banned Books.

1) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
3) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
4) Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
6) Lush, by Natasha Friend
7) What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
8) Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
9) Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
10) Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

So, I wasn't surprised in the least bit that Crank and The Hunger Games were banned. That was already apparent by the topics they cover and the buzz surrounding themselves. However, I was surprised by Twilight. I thought everyone was reading this. Then I remembered my daughter's friend in Austin and thought, "Oh, religious reasons." That is the only reason I could come up with for that series to be challenged. I have already read it and been hounding my daughter to read it as well. 

Yes, I went to Goodreads and checked out all of the other books. Some interest me and some don't. Not that I don't agree with them being written or read, just that they didn't personally make me go, "Oh, now I have got to read that one." I didn't have a problem with any of them being out there in the library. Some of them I added to my to-read list. I will be reading them in the future. Maybe during a future Banned Books Week.

Your Turn -> Are you surprised by any of the books on the Top Ten List for 2010? Have you read any of them already? If so, what did you think of what you read?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Book Week 2011 - Part 1

Part I - Challenge the Challengers!

Thank goodness I am on Twitter and read other blogs. I almost missed Banned Book Week this year. I saw the hubbub last year, but didn't participate. I told myself that I would get involved this year.


Well that's simple. I don't want anyone telling me what I can or cannot read. Nor do I want someone else to take away my children's rights to read a book that they don't agree with.

In honor of Banned Books Week I checked out Crank by Ellen Hopkins from the local library and handed it over to my 13 year old daughter. Not because I thought I'd be a pushy mom, but because she specifically asked me to get it while I was there with my son this past week. Then I started seeing the Banned Book Week mentions and thought, "Perfect!" So, I guess it was just more like good timing rather than in honor of Banned Books Week.

So, yes, my 13 year old daughter is reading a book about a teen who gets addicted to crack.

That said I also think that I should mention I'm very liberal in my thinking. There isn't much I don't tolerate. Except maybe for the lack of manners or being closed minded. Those two things irk me to no end.

I also have The Hunger Games sitting on my too read shelf. I'm waiting until I have all three books in my possession to read. The trilogy is at the top of my to-read list as soon as I have all three books. I was planning on reading a different book, starting yesterday. But, then thought that maybe I would just request Catching Fire and Mockingjay from my local library. I want to be able to read them one after the other. However, I was greatly disappointed to find that I have to wait.

There's a waiting list for both books. If this book is so bad, why do so many people want to read it?


Not one person I have talked to that has read The Hunger Games Trilogy has said anything bad about it. Instead, they have all been shocked I haven't yet read it. They all tell me to run out and buy it now! I've had people offer to mail it to me from across the country just so I'll read it ASAP. Seriously, no joke!

Funny enough, it's the ones who haven't read it that think it's horrible and needs to be banned. Surprise, surprise!

Not only did I put in a request for those two books, I also put in a request for the third book in the Crank series. I grabbed the second book, Glass, for my daughter while I was there, but Fallout was not in. In fact I'm on a wait list for that one as well.

The second I get the notice that both books in The Hunger Games Trilogy are en-route to my library for me, I'll be picking up the Hunger Games. I also plan on reading the Crank series. I have yet to read it, but it is on my to read list. I would start reading Crank now, but I think my daughter might freak out if I try taking it from her. She's truly enjoying it at the moment.

I'm hoping she is finished with Crank by Friday. Why? I'd like to interview her for my Friday post on what she thinks about Banned Book Week, Banned Books, and Crank.

So, this post was called Challenge the Challengers. Why? Because I believe that reading banned books does just that. Not to mention I'd like to give those who challenge books and try to have them banned. My challenge: If a person is going to challenge a book and have it banned, they should first read the book, then fight to have it banned. They should know first hand why it's not a good book for others to read. Don't rely on hearsay. 

Your Turn -> Are you participating in Banned Books Week? Why?

Friday, September 23, 2011

San Angelo, Texas

Visiting the places your stories are set in is always a great idea. I was lucky enough to get the chance to do just that over the summer. My parents, kids, and I made the trip from Austin to San Angelo for the day. Since it was only a day trip that didn't leave us a lot of time to do much other than visit the few places included in my story.

I thought I'd share a few of the pictures I took while there.

Fort Concho, San Angelo, Texas

The Hospital Building at Fort Concho

Concho River Walk, San Angelo, Texas

The new River Walk along the Concho River in San Angelo, Texas.
Tree on the Concho River near the Visitor's Center.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writing With Music

Since I have started a new project I thought I'd get in the mood. This particular story is set in a smallish town in Texas where country music is a large part of the atmosphere. Therefore, I created a playlist on my iPod of all country music. Most of it is stuff I listened to back when I lived there, so it's not too current. Truth be told I haven't listened to much country music since I moved to New Jersey. When I moved here there wasn't a country music station. Now there is, but my daughter and husband won't listen to it.

I decided I would share a little of this list with you today.

  • Three Days by Pat Green
  • I Cross My Heart by George Strait 
  • I'll Think Of A Reason Later by Lee Ann Womack
  • You Walked In by Lonestar
  • Long Time Gone by Dixie Chicks
  • What'cha Gonna Do With A Cowboy? by Chris LeDoux
  • Walking In Memphis by Lonestar
  • Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood
  • I'm Gonna Miss Her by Brad Paisley
  • Need You Now by Lady Antebellum
  • The Story Of Us by Taylor Swift
  • When The Sun Goes Down by Kenny Chesney
  • Little Good-Byes by SheDaisy
  • Cheap Seats by Alabama

Your Turn -> Do you create playlists to get in the writing mood?

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Decided

In a recent post I mentioned that I was having trouble focusing on which WIP to mess with next. I've been waffling around for a while now. However, I've made my decision on which one to focus on. I had pretty much made up my mind almost two weeks ago, but I still didn't really get started on it. I just let the main character and her story simmer in my mind for a little.

Last Sunday I presented my critique group with a short story for a contest. It was a good thing, too. I feel like I'm a little too involved with Midnight Raynne at the moment and I need to get some distance. So, I've put it on the shelf for a little. I hope to come back to it soon. I really see the potential there. I just feel like I'm too invested at the moment and can't see through the haze. That was part of what made me decide to move on to another project.

Back to the meeting. While there one of the members, Kimmy, mentioned a book that she uses to help her with her manuscripts. My wonderful parents gifted it to me and it arrived in the mail this past week. I've officially pulled Barely There off the shelf and started moving forward with it, using this book. The book? First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner.

I try to stay organized when I write, but somehow I still feel scatterbrained. I have binders for every project I'm working on or gathering research on to start later. Yet, I don't outline. I detest outlining. I can't stand to sit down and outline. Up until now I've been using Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet from Save the Cat! to do a sort of outline. It gives me the freedom to change things as I want. Yet, it doesn't tie me down to a scene by scene outline. I've tried that and it didn't really work for me. I veered so far from the outline that it was pointless to even spend time working on it.

So what's different this time?

Well, I've already started Barely There. I had the idea simmering last fall and started writing it in October of last year. Then NaNoWriMo came along and I ditched it to rewrite Stone Magic from scratch. It had been driving me mad, much like Midnight  has been doing lately. Then I went back to it in January only to hurt my wrist and be out of writing commission for a while. Then Midnight Raynne popped into my head. I've been really wanting to get back to Barely There, but I just seem to be busy working on other projects.

This past week when my copy of First Draft in 30 Days arrived I went right to work reorganizing my information. I now have a spiral notebook with all of my character sheets, scene sketches, and plot sketches in it. I've been working on it for days trying to get everything just right. I started to notice something while I was working on these character sketches. I don't know if it was because I've had this particular story simmering for so long or because I've already started it, but I could see other scenes springing into being as I wrote my character sketches.

I'm itching to get writing, but I'm also determined to follow the method in First Draft in 30 Days. I still have more work to do before I can get back to the writing. Hopefully my critique group will get to see the first chapter or two at our next meeting.

Your Turn -> Do you find you need to approach your writing process differently occasionally?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Negative Book Reviews

Since I had the opportunity to read so much during my computer's "vacation" I wrote a lot of reviews. None of them were bad for the simple fact that I don't like writing bad reviews. That doesn't mean I've read books that are poorly constructed for one reason or another. In those instances I simply delete the book from my Goodreads account and move on to the next book. I don't bother to write that the book was awful or couldn't hold my attention for any amount of time. Regardless of how much I may have wanted to write this.

No, I don't think this is doing a disservice to the author and here's my reason.

There are lots of books out there to choose from and very little time. Why waste my time on a book that doesn't capture me? Why bother writing a bad review when it may just not be my cup of tea whereas it's exactly what someone else may love. I would hate for them to not read the book just because I didn't like it. Everyone has their own taste in books. Who am I to say a book sucked? You might love it.

It's all in perception.

After I write my reviews I love to check to see what other people have said about the book I just read. Unfortunately, some people just don't know how to write a review that says they didn't like it. Instead I've found that some people are just down right obnoxious and rude. I read one review where the reviewer litterally attacked the author for being stupid. The reviewer didn't like the world the author created. She went on to say what she would have done. I checked this particular reviewer's main page to find that she is a writer herself, a self-published author.

Now, I don't have anything against self-published books. Some of them are absolutely astoundingly wonderful. I have noticed, however, that some self-published authors feel they are superior to authors who have gone the traditionally published route. The same can be said for traditionally published authors looking down on self-published authors. I don't think either side can truly tout their superiority. There are great authors on both sides. I've also read books by authors traditionally published that I didn't like much.

My take on this was that the reviewer, being an author herself, acted unprofessionally. She didn't like it, that's fine. Just don't attack the author's ability to write. The book in question was well written. I never found a mistake, so the editor did his/her job well.

This particular review wasn't the only bad review out there that attacked an author. I found at least two of these types of reviews on each and every book I read during my hiatus. I was astounded by the number of people who have no problem attacking others viciously through reviews. It made me angry at the reviewer for the attack and sorry for the author for having to read it, ever.

Your Turn -> Do you think that it's professional for authors to write negative book reviews that attack other authors?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back From A Short Break

For those of you who read my blog, I'm sorry for my sudden absence. Unfortunately my computer decided it needed a break from me. I was not happy in the slightest bit with it's decision, however I had no choice in the matter. It seems my battery decided to stop holding much of a charge and would not recharge even when plugged it.

I'm not sure what happened, but suddenly the other day when I was on to do a quick email retrieval it started charging. Needless to say I set my computer aside and didn't touch it again until it was fully charged. Now I won't use it unless it is plugged in.

Yes, this is putting a damper on my writing, but it has been a nice little break.

So, what did I do during this break?

I read to my hearts content.  I'll give a quick breakdown of all that I read during this computer break. All were great books and I'm glad I had the chance to read them. I have now officially met my goal of reading 35 books this year a tad bit early. I blame that entirely on my computer's "vacation." Not that it's a bad thing. In fact there will be more posts later based on what I learned. But, for now here is the list of books I read.

Flyaway by Helen Ladalf

Clarity by Kim Harrington

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Solstice by P.J. Hoover

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Your Turn -> What do you do when your computer gives you issues?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In My Mailbox #14

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren as a way to showcase books you have received in the mail, from the library, or by any other method during the week. 

I bought all of these for my Kindle viewing.

Hereafter by Tara Hudson


Can there truly be love after death?
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.
Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won't want to miss.

Hourglass by Myra McEntire


One hour to rewrite the past . . .
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

Possession by Elana Johnson

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Firelight (with Bonus Material) by Sophie Jordan


A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.
Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.
Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.
Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In My Mailbox #13

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren as a way to showcase books you have received in the mail, from the library, or by any other method during the week. 

While in Texas visiting my parents they bought me a couple of books. I've already read the The Day Before, but that was a galley and I really wanted a hardcover of my very own. So, they bought it for me. And I've been drooling over Abandon by Meg Cabot for a while now. 

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder 

Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.
Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.
The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him. And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last.

Abandon by Meg Cabot 

The first book in the brand-new dark and dangerously seductive trilogy from bestselling teen author Meg Cabot. Last year, Pierce died - just for a moment. And when she was in the space between life and death, she met John: tall dark and terrifying, it's his job to usher souls from one realm to the next. There's a fierce attraction between them, but Pierce knows that if she allows herself to fall for John she will be doomed to a life of shadows and loneliness in the underworld. But now things are getting dangerous for her, and her only hope is to do exactly what John says ...