Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week

Every year I am astonished by the books that are challenged for inclusion in libraries and schools across the country. I'm always reminded of a book I read as a child- Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book. Love them or hate them, not every book is a good fit for every person, but no one has the right to tell me what I can or cannot read. Banning books is wrong and I am disheartened that the list of books grows every year.

Here is the top ten list for 2007- read as many as you can! For the record, I LOVED the top book on the list And Tango Makes Three. It is heartwarming, it is about love and family, it is beautifully illustrated and sensitively handled, it is a TRUE story, it is about penguins, and yet it was the most challenged book last year for the following reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, and Unsuited to Age Group. One reviewer on Amazon said the book "went against everything the Word of God speaks of" which just made me sad- sad, and glad that my view of the Word of God stresses the "Love thy neighbor as thyself" message. It also makes me want to scream "but they are penguins" at the top of my lungs to people complaining about the book endorsing homosexuality, but that is a post for a different day...

Great Contest for Free Books

In honor of her 100th book review, Jane over at Devourer Of Books has posted a fun contest/book giveaway. I love the look of so many of the books on her list- go check it out...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Between Here and April by Deborah Copaken Kogan

When Elizabeth starts fainting for no discernable physical reason, she finds herself thinking of April, her best friend from first grade who just never came to school one day. As Elizabeth researches the case, she learns that April and her sister Lily were killed by their mother Adele in a car in the woods. The more she delves into Adele's life leading up to the tragedy, the more parallels she finds with her own unravelling life.

The book did get a bit heavy-handed at times, especially as relates to Elizabeth's relationship with her husband. On the other hand, the author did a masterful job of painting a picture of a woman slowly edging toward the brink with no one and nothing to stop her from plunging. The book was sad and a litle scary, and dealt with a very difficult subject with sensitivity and empathy. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter by Peter Manseau

This wonderful book is tells the tale of a young Catholic graduate with a love of language who finds himself the custodian of a library of Yiddish texts. He finds himself drawn into the story of Itsik Malpesh, the self-proclaimed greatest Yiddish poet in America. The book unfolds along two timelines, gradually merging together at the end into one seamless story. Itsik's love for Sasha, the butcher's daughter he believes is his bashert provides the main thread to both the narrative and his entire life.

I was drawn completely into this novel that traces the often dark experiences of an Eastern European Jew who ultimately immigrates to the US. The story was compelling, the characters engaging, and the denouement exciting. Manseau's use of Yiddish was masterful and the language of the novel overall was lyrical. I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Because She Can by Bridie Clark

I read this book on a recommendation, and enjoyed it (though not as much as I had hoped to before reading). Readers familiar with The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada will recognize the basic plot: crazy boss gradually turns down to earth employee a little insane before employee remembers she is a good person and makes a break to follow her heart.

Claire Truman lands a fabulous job working for a famous publisher Vivian Grant (a thinly disguised Judith Regan) only to discover that her new boss is certifiable. Assistants rarely last a month, editors are subject to profanity-laden tirades, and books are almost a sideline at the publishing house. Add in a troubled relationship with her fiance, and you have all the makings of a bestseller.

The book is well written, and I enjoyed the inside dirt on the world of publishing (though I recommend Olivia Goldsmith's The Bestseller if you want more focus on the publishing end). All in all, this was an enjoyable book club read, and worth a 3.5 star rating.