Archives

10 Book Challenge

I was challenged to share the 10 books that have most affected me as a reader on Facebook by my friends J and P.  I then spent at least the last few weeks paralyzed every time I tried to compile the list because it’s SO hard to do.

Keep in mind that this list could change over the course of an hour, much less over a day or a week, but here we go–In no particular order, 10 books that profoundly changed my life.  The links will take you the goodreads page for each book.  I’m going to cheat and use a lot of series to count as a single book

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 3.16.18 PM#1–Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

I have already done a blog post specifically about Magic’s Pawn and how profoundly it affected me.  The short recap, though, is that Vanyel was the first gay person I ever met, and in knowing him I became a better person, and I was better equipped to deal come to terms with my own queerness (I’m bisexual).  The importance of that can’t be overstated, and I only wish that I could tell Brian–the clerk at my local Waldenbook’s who handed it to me–how much I appreciate his bringing Vanyel into my life.  I reread this (and then usually the other two Last Herald-Mage books) every year or two.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 12.48.27 am#2 Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind makes this list because it was the first super long book I ever read.  There are very valid critiques of the book, including a dangerous romanticizing of the antebellum South.  When I think about Gone With the Wind, I think about how I have viewed Scarlett over the years each time I reread it.  When I first read it, at 11-ish years old, I thought Scarlett at 16 was amazing and headstrong.  I then reread it every 3-5 years.  Most recently I read it around the age of 30, and I thought Scarlett was an idiot teenager and a pretty horrible adult.  In rereading this book, I have watched myself grow up and mature.  My understanding both of the actual setting of the book and the context of the time in which Mitchell wrote it have grown as well, and that allows me a more nuanced read of the book each time I’ve read it.

While I’m not sure I will read it again, or how many years will pass before I do, it stands as one of the important books from my transition from child to teen to adult.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 5.54.50 PM#3–The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin (link is to book #1)

Considering I’m re-reading and snarking these books, I don’t their inclusion will come as any surprise.  The BSC books were the first series I felt passionate about.  They were the first books whose release I awaited with rabid desire, and that I devoured on the day I bought them because I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.  I’ve felt this way about many book series over the years since, but they were the first and while I mock them, I do so from a place of deep, deep love.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.03.17 am#5–The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce (link is to book #1)

I’ve always been a fan of fantasy, but even as a young reader I noticed a certain lack of estrogen when it came to heroes and adventurers.  Alanna changed all of that for me.  A girl who disguised herself as a boy to earn her shield, does so, comes out as a woman and faces a lot of misogyny, AND who has sexual agency (having three sexual partners over 4 books–off screen because it’s YA, but still) was a revelation for me.  Not only could women star in fantasy novels, they could do so as complex and rich characters.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.11.04 am

Tamora Pierce is an amazing author.  She’s also incredibly gracious–when a writer for XOJane wrote an article about (among other things) meeting Tamora Pierce, I had to comment on it.  And Tamora Pierce commented back!  (She actually engaged with almost everyone on the comment thread, which is just so awesome of her.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.18.45 am#6–Fraud by David Rakoff

My first acquaintance with David Rakoff wasn’t on paper, it was through the NPR show “This American Life,” to which he regularly contributed.  I loved the stories he told there so much, I went out and bought Fraud (and eventually his other books).  Rakoff is a masterful storyteller and his essays, whether on the page or the radio often made me think as well as laugh.  Sometimes they made me sob, much as the last essay in Fraud does.  Listening to him and reading his work has made me a better storyteller.

“I used to bank here, but that was long, long ago” is about Rakoff’s early battle with Hodgkin’s disease which, when it came back years later, killed him.  You can here him tell that story here, or read a transcript of that episode of TAL, including the essay here.  I strongly encourage you to listen to him tell it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.27.44 am#7-Pandora’s Box 2 by Black Lace books

The was the first (second?) erotica title I ever read.  It my introduction to any number of fetishes that helped me unlock my sexuality.  Given that I’m now a professional erotica author, I’m sure it had some impact on me professionally as well, in setting the bar far above my crappy online erotic fanfic.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.34.40 am#8 Man from Mundania by Piers Anthony (and Xanth books 1-20)

The Xanth books by Piers Anthony make this list because of their bad puns.  Anthony would have his characters walk by some seashells and the eyes of the shell would SEE them.  I started reading these around 9/10 years old and the fact that I got the puns in an “adult” book–although really they’d be better classified as YA at best, they were shelved with the adult sci-fi/fantasy books.  They made me feel smart because I got the puns, and in a way made me fall in love with words.  I’d always loved reading, but the Xanth books with their puns and later the Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun which used massive vocabulary words made me love words and language.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.41.20 am#9–Phantom by Susan Kay

I was already an Andrew Lloyd Webber Phantom of the Opera fangirl (or phangirl as we’re known) when I found this in my local library. Kay’s extension of the Phantom character to a full life story (and a far more satisfactory ending) is just awesome.  This is one of my favorite books, period.  It makes the list because it’s okay to be an obsessive nerdy fangirl.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.46.33 am10–Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

This books looks at how the Civil War lives in on in the modern American South.  My BA is in history, and the intersection of history and memory is very interesting to me.  The reason it makes the list is that it highlights some fairly odd/disturbing aspects of this living history within Southern Culture but never makes it a cartoonish representation that you can then disregard.  Horwitz brings humanity to his subjects and shows them as fairly complicated people, not caricatures.  It’s also an incredibly readable book for a layperson.  One of the reason I didn’t pursue history at the PhD level was that I hated the level of depersonalization I had to do to write about history.  Horwitz isn’t a historian, he’s a journalist, and that impacts the flavor of the book in a positive way.  (Which is not to say that historians don’t write good books, it’s just that it wasn’t how I wanted to spend the rest of my life.)

So there you have it…for this second anyway.

If you want to play, consider yourself tagged.  If you blog it, please link in the comments.

I’m an official Goodreads Author

If you’ve read my bio, you know that I am an erotica author.  I’m currently in three anthologies, with another due to be published in November 2014.  I have some other acceptances that I can’t specifically mention because I haven’t gotten the ok from the editor yet, as well as a story out for submission.  I’m working on a novel and a non-erotic short story at the moment.

Erotica isn’t for every reader, but if you’re interested in my erotica reviews, or want to ask me questions about writing/submitting/publishing, friend me/become a fan on my goodreads author page.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 1.31.13 am

I also maintain a personal goodreads page, which is where I review and rate all the books I’m reading.  If you want to see what I’m reading that isn’t erotica, friend me there.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 1.32.46 am

Next week–Remember Me by Christopher Pike (aka why I was terrified to inject myself with insulin)

And Tango makes a banned book

I’m crossposting this from my expat blog because the subject of book banning is worth addressing more than once.

Expat Bostonians

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 9.23.08 pm

Dear parents who challenge this book

I too, am a parent.  I too have had my children bring over books that I am not comfortable with them reading at their current ages.  The difference between you and I is that I tell my children to put the book back because it’s not right for our family,  while you choose to tell ALL children that they may not read the book.  Your family’s “just right” books don’t trump mine.

You argue that it is oppositional to your faith.  I would counter that all religious texts are oppositional to mine.  Yet I am not asking the library to remove children’s Bibles because they have no place in my faith.  Your faith does not trump mine.

You say that this book promotes a “homosexual agenda.”

  • Firstly I am curious what you think a homosexual agenda is.  I’ll let you in on a non-secret–I’m…

View original post 902 more words

This week in Reading

This week there is great joy and great sadness in the world of reading.  There is so much more that I can talk about, but I’ll stick to the two things that have touched me the most–the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou and the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter.

RIP Dr. Maya Angelou

 

This week we lost one of the greats.  Dr. Maya Angelou will ever be remembered as one of the most noteworthy writers and poets of the 20th century.

I once had the pleasure to meet Dr. Angelou, and I’d like to share that story with you.

The Boston University Barnes & Noble is a five story building in the middle of Kenmore Square in Boston, Massachusetts (USA).  The news that Dr. Maya Angelou would be stopping there on her book tour for Even The Stars Look Lonesome was met with great anticipation.  I was a 19 year old college freshman, and I stood in line to buy my copy of the book.  I followed directions to join the line and was dismayed to find that while Dr. Angelou would be signing on the fifth floor, I was sitting on the floor of the third in what felt like an endless line.  I didn’t know that I should have showed up hours earlier.

I wasn’t the last person in line, but my heart was heavy when the B&N employees started to warn us that Dr. Angelou would only be signing for two hours, and the likelihood of our meeting her was next to nil.  However, if we wished to spend hours waiting in a line to accomplish nothing, we were welcome to do so.  Two hours came and went, and I held my breath, certain that we would be summarily dismissed.  I had made it to the fourth floor, but the floor between myself and Dr. Angelou might well have been miles.

Dr. Angelou had decided to sign for a little longer.  It had been three hours since she started signing and four since I’d started waiting in the line from hell.  (I hadn’t been to a Harry Potter Midnight release at that point–I had no idea what a long line really looked like.)  I don’t know why I persisted, but my stubborn side kicked in and I waited, and inched forward.

I reached the fifth floor and could see the woman I’d first seen in Roots, when we were shown the miniseries in seventh grade, the poet I’d watched at the first Presidential inauguration I’d ever seen–Bill Clinton in January of 1993, the author and rape survivor whose book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings had been required reading at my high school.  I saw one of the few women I looked up to as a role model.  A few steps more and I began to hear her distinctive, beautiful voice.

By the time I reached the front of the line, Dr. Angelou had been signing for more than twice as long as she had scheduled.  She must have been exhausted.  I’m sure her hand was cramped from who knows how many sharpies exhausted by signatures.  Yet she still spoke to each and every person as if we mattered to her–as if we were doing her a favor, rather than the other way around.  She signed my book with my name, the word “joy!” and her signature.

I don’t remember what I said to her, but what she said to me was seared into my brain and my heart.  She told me that every day the slate is wiped clean and we are given a fresh start.

People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”–Maya Angelou.  I know that I am one of a thunderous chorus of people singing her praises.  But she was a woman who deserved every last drop of praise and kindness and love we felt for her, and more.  I don’t know that before or since that cold day in 1997 have I met someone as gracious as Dr. Angelou.

Dr. Angelou reads my favorite poem of hers “Phenomenal Woman.”

A few more links for you

 

Reading Rainbow Kickstarter

 

The other big news in the world of reading this week was the launch of the Reading Rainbow kickstarter.  For those of you who have never had the pleasure, Reading Rainbow was a television show hosted by Levar Burton, which launched in 1983.  I was five when it began, and although I was already a reader, it grabbed my attention and helped create a lifelong reader.  Some of the books on the girl’s shelves are books I first encountered on Reading Rainbow.  Elanor, now the same age I was when it first aired, is also a fan.  (I won’t tell you that can bittorrent the entire series because that would be wrong)  Many episodes and segments are available on youtube as well.

A few years ago, Reading Rainbow launched an app.  My husband (who was seven when RR launched–and is a fan, but not nearly as big a fan as I am/was) and I were bitterly disappointed that it was exclusive for iPads.  Last year, an android version launched–but again, was linked to a specific tablet rather than the platform as a whole.  So we have not been able to get Elanor (and Rhi) the app even though we have been eagerly waiting for the chance to throw mon
ey their way for years.

Well, now we can.  Reading Rainbow has launched a kickstarter to get Reading Rainbow onto the web and make it  available to schools.  We have already donated.  I think you should too, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

They met their initial goal of 1 million dollars and at the time of writing this are at 2.6 million USD with 33 days left to go.  But just because they’ve reached their goal is no reason to not donate.

 

I’d like to think that Dr. Angelou would be proud of how people have stepped up to help Reading Rainbow.

No Snarking Nostalgic this week….

Due to circumstances beyond my control–a leaking pipe and the drama surrounding getting it fixed when you don’t own the apartment you live in–there is no Snarking Nostalgic this week.  Sorry guys–I really really hate Sweet Valley High #4 Power Play and can’t wait to finish ripping it to shreds so I can move past it to BSC 3-which should be called The BSC is the mafia of Stoneybrook, Connecticut.

 

This week in the world of reading

Every so often, I’m going to want to highlight various news articles I find about various literacy related interests from who’s banning what book to where I bought a cute book-themed t-shirt for the girls.

Things making me very happy this week

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 9.39.45 PM

(US) Harper Lee has given her approval to e-publish “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is one of my all time favorite books.  Expected publication is July 2014.  Read more here.

(International) The extended trailer for “The Fault in Our Stars” is out.  The movie is being released, and in the face of all the disappointing movie adaptations that have come before it, I am STILL very excited to see this.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 9.56.28 PM

(USA) Free comic book day is May 3d!  Don’t forget to take your kids to the comic book store and help them get hooked.  Dear parents who get their underwear in a twist over comic books–your kid is reading.  Full stop.  Read more here.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 10.05.54 PM

(FRANCE) Mo Willems is writing in Paris.  Or at least sketching the passersby of the cafe in which he’s writing.  He is one of the household’s favorite author.  If not for the article–watch the video (or BOTH).  He wants you to know that being a child sucks.  Here

 

Things infuriating me this week

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 9.40.03 PM

(USA) Parents successfully banned “The absolutely true diary of a part time Indian” (one of the most banned books in the US currently–and on my reading list) in a school district in Idaho for, among other things “unChristian content.”  Students at the school organized a petition fighting the ban.  People in Washington raised money and donated 350 copies of the book to a local bookstore to hand out to teens who wanted to read it.  A parent called the cops to arrest (?) the people handing out the free books.  Read more about it here.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 9.40.18 PM

(CANADA) Someone (a “patron” or “a father’s rights group” depending on your source) attempted to have Hop on Pop banned in Toronto libraries because it advocates violence against fathers.  It was unsuccessful.  Read more here

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 9.42.37 PM

(UK) There are both international and local efforts forming to ask the British government to reconsider its ban on sending prisoners books.  Read more here and here.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 9.47.53 PM(CHINA) China has started arresting male/male slash fanfic writers.  Most of them are young women. (slash–homosexual pairings in fan fiction like Kirk & Spock)  Read more here.

Bookcase

We missed doing a kid review of a book last week–I was busy putting Elanor’s new bookcase together.  The old one fell apart, and the stacks of books on the floor weren’t exactly the decorating statement I wanted to make.   After putting together the bookcase, I lovingly arranged the bookcase, sorting books to keep all the Mo Willems together, all the fairy tales, and so forth.

We all know how this story ends, so I decided to record that one brief shining moment that Elanor’s bedroom bookcase was well organized for posterity.

bookcase

Four days later, that brief shining moment has ended.  As we all knew it would.