keep-quietKeep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline is a gut-wrenching book that begins by introducing Jake Whitmore, his son Ryan, and Jake’s wife, Pam. Tensions seem to be running high in the Whitmore family, stemming from Jake’s loss of job a year ago. The family bore the brunt of his frustration and as a result, Ryan distanced himself from his father and became closer with his mother. Jake and Pam went into therapy to rebuild their relationship. Their current focus is on bringing Ryan and Jake closer together.

Jake is sent to pick up Ryan from the movies when they get into a car accident. This accident threatens the stability of their family and the tenuous relationships that hold them all together. Ryan’s future is on the line and in a split-second, Jake makes a decision that saves his son from a disastrous future. While at the time this seems like the best decision, it instead sends them both down a dark spiral of secrets, lies, and immense guilt. Jake thinks he has everything under control, but someone emerges from the woodwork with the power to destroy his carefully laid plans and expose Jake and Ryan’s dark secret. That life changing accident holds the power to destroy all their lives and Jake is struggling to hold the family together. This book is an intensely powerful guilt-laden journey into the lives of a family who are trying to redeem themselves while their whole world is unraveling around them.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Thanks to ALA, we’re focusing on books with diverse content and books with diverse authors this Banned Books Week, so we thought a blog post full of young adult books would be in order. There are lots of young adult books for us to choose today, so if we skipped your favorite, you may see it later this week or even way down at the bottom of this post in our extra bonus Banned Books reads.


miseducation-of-cameron-postMiseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth is a young adult novel that was released in 2014. This book centers around the life of Cameron Post. Cam’s parents die suddenly in a car crash and she finds herself feeling relief. With them both gone, neither of them will know that she had been kissing a girl just hours before they died.

After their death, Cam has to move in with her aunt and grandmother. Her aunt is conservative and her grandmother is immensely old-fashioned. She is living in Miles City, Montana, a town where she has to hide who she really is from everyone around her. This conservative ranch town is hard for Cam to adjust to, so she tries to blend in and bury her feelings.

Coley Taylor moves to town then and Cam’s life changes. Coley is a perfect cowgirl, beautiful, and driving a pickup. She also has the perfect boyfriend. Coley and Cam become super close and Cam finds herself seeing that something more may happen. Right when this seems actually possible, her ultrareligious Aunt Ruth sends her to a religious camp to be ‘cured’.


fallen-angelsFallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers was number 26 on the list of most frequently challenged books written by authors of color from 1990-1999 and is currently number 11 of the top 100 Banned/Challenged books: 200-2009 list. This book is frequently banned for reasons of racism, offensive language, and violence. Myers also won the 1988 Coretta Scott King Award for this book.

Fallen Angels tells the story of Richie Perry, a seventeen-year-old student who has just left his Harlem high school. He has decided to enlist in the Army in the summer of 1967 after his college plans fall through. As a result, Richie spends a year on active duty in Vietnam, something that changes his life forever. He has illusions about what he will face over there and doesn’t believe that he will be sent overseas because of his knee injury.

Richie finds himself face-to-face with the horrors of warfare and the Vietcong they are fighting every day. He struggles with all the violence and death around him, but those are not the only thing haunting him and his comrades. They are told they will encounter light, easy work, something that proves to be untrue when one of the first new recruits he meets is killed during his squad’s first patrol. He is deeply shaken and the increasing levels of destruction and brutality he witnesses leave him questioning the morality of war and the virtues of the people around him. Richie also finds himself questioning why the black troops are given the most dangerous assignments and why the U.S. has even involved themselves in this war.

Walter Dean Myers also has several other books that are banned because of diverse content: Monster, Hoops, and Scorpions.


will-grayson-will-graysonWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan has been banned/challenged multiple times for its content. Levithan also has multiple other books that have been challenged for the same reasons. This book deals with homosexuality and relationships.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson tells the story of two different Will Graysons: one gay and one straight. Will Grayson meets Will Grayson, one cold night on a very unlikely street corner in Chicago. This chance meeting changes both of their lives, and the lives of their friends, forever. Will Grayson and Will Grayson find their worlds meshed together, collided and intertwined. One straight Will Grayson and the other gay Will Grayson are both dealing with romantic relationships, complicated friendships, and friends that think they know what is best for them.

David Levithan has more books banned/challenged for diverse content: Two Boys Kissing, Boy Meets Boy, Hold Me Closer, and Full Spectrum.


Here are a list of other young adult books that are frequently banned or challenged that are either by diverse authors or have diverse content! Click on the title for more information. There are many, many other young adult books that have been banned, but we just don’t have the room in this blog post to share them all. For more information, contact us!

(Here’s a list of frequently challenged young adult books to help you get started! http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/YAbooks )

perks-of-being-a-wallflowerabsolutely-true-diary
this-book-is-gaybeyond-magentathis-one-summermexican-whiteboy

Welcome to day 3! Today we’ll be looking at one author of color who has many books on the most frequently challenged/banned list. This author is Toni Morrison and her most frequently challenged books are The Bluest Eye, Beloved, and Song of Solomon.

Toni Morrison is an editor, writer, playwright, literary critic, and professor. She is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist with many well-known and best-selling novels. (Three of her best known are the challenged ones mentioned above.) Her novels contain richly detailed and vivid African-American characters with large themes and expressive dialogue. Even though her books are banned, Morrison has been awarded a whole slew of honorary degrees and has amassed nearly every book prize possible.


the-bluest-eyeThe Bluest Eye was the first novel written by Morrison in 1970. It has been challenged for being sexually explicit and for containing offensive language. Morrison writes about incest, rape, prostitution, domestic violence, racism, child molestation, abuse, and other sensitive topics.

This book tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, an eleven-year-old black girl living in Ohio after the Great Depression. She is sent to live with the MacTeer family after her father tries to burn their house down. Pecola is obsessed with beautiful white movie stars in movies, particularly Shirley Temple, and believes that if she only had the bluest eyes, she would be considered beautiful.

No matter where she goes or what she does, Pecola constantly believes she is ugly. This perception is only confirmed for her when she goes home and sees the tension-filled relationship between her parents. They constantly abuse each other. Pecola’s mother loves movies and her job working in a white woman’s home. Her father feels stuck in his marriage and lashes out on Pecola and her mother because of it. Throughout the story, Pecola constantly believes if only she had blue eyes, her life would be infinitely better. This belief, and other explosive factors, eventually drives her mad.


belovedBeloved is often banned/challenged for violence and for being sexually explicit. Morrison writes about the issue of slavery and talks about the stories that people choose to forget and the stories they choose to pass on. This book is told through a series of flashbacks and memories and is not narrated chronologically.

In 1873 Ohio, Sethe, a former slave, lives with her eighteen-year-old daughter, Denver. Sethe’s mother-in-law died eight years ago. Sethe also has two sons who ran away right before Baby Suggs’ death. The house they live in is believed to be haunted and some say that this is be the spirit of Sethe’s dead daughter.

Paul D., a former slave that Sethe last saw over twenty years ago, appears on their front stoop and moves in. His arrival spurs the novel to begin its flashbacks and memory-telling. Readers are treated to the memories of Sethe growing up in the South. After she turned 13, Sethe lived with the Garners, who practiced slavery, but were not necessarily violent. After the master dies however, his brother takes over and his sadist tendencies become apparent. Sethe and Paul D. incur massive hardship under their new master, leading them both to try to escape. Sethe eventually does and Paul D. then ends up on her doorstep many years later. After he appears, Sethe’s past actions come back to haunt her and the family goes down a twisty, violent, sadistic road.


song-of-solomonSong of Solomon is frequently challenged/banned for racism, offensive language, and for being sexually explicit. These reasons are some of the same for Morrison’s other two books being banned. This book is a multi-generational exploration into racial identity, self-discovery and social classes.

Four generations of a family with the last name of Dead have a powerful history that not everyone knows the truth about. Milkman, aka Macon Dead III, is the protagonist in this story. He is self-centered and uncaring about anyone around him. At the age of 32, he decides he no longer wants to live at home with his stifling parents. Milkman has questions over his parents differing historical memories and his own family history. The characters in this story are struggling to gain independence and prosperity, not just wealth, and their black identities/ancestral ties play a key role in their successes and failures.


If you haven’t read any of Morrison’s work, we recommend you check them out. Stay tuned for more banned book week goodness tomorrow!

This year’s Banned Book Week is focusing on the diversity of authors and ideas that have prompted a disproportionate share of challenges. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom estimates that more than half of all banned books are by authors of color or ones that represent groups of viewpoints outside the mainstream. As a result, this week we will be sharing some reviews of our favorite banned books that fit this category.

The ALA’s website has a list of Frequently Challenged Books with Diverse Content and another list of Most Frequently Challenged Books Written by Authors of Color 1990-1999. Check out these lists for suggestions of books to read that fit into this year’s theme.


This first day we will be looking at a couple graphic novels that frequently make this list: Habibi by Craig Thompson, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. There are many other graphic novels that have been banned and frequently challenged, but we’re just focusing on these three today. (Stay tuned and you may see more later this week!)


habibiHabibi by Craig Thompson frequently finds itself on the top ten list of most frequently challenged books. In fact, this graphic novel is number 8 on the top ten list of 2015. Habibi is frequently banned for reasons of nudity, sexually explicitness, and unsuited for age group. The challenging and banning of this graphic novel deprives readers of this intense story of love and relationships, more specifically the commonalities found between Christianity and Islam, as well as an examination of the cultural divide present between first and third worlds.

Habibi tells the story of Dolola, a young girl sold into marriage to a scribe who teaches her to read and write. She is captured by slave traders, but escapes, taking with her an abandoned toddler. They take refuge in an abandoned boat in the desert for the next nine years where Dolola teaches Zam how the world works by telling him stories from the Qur’an and the Bible.  They are separated and fight for the next six years to get back to each other.


persepolisPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi did not make the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2015 list, but it still made the longer list. It was #2 on the 2014 list. Persepolis is frequently banned for the following reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, graphic depictions, and for being politically racially, and socially offensive.

Persepolis is a cultural eye-opener, a story that shows that the grass is not always greener on the other side, no matter your life circumstances. This graphic novel centers around the Islamic revolution and tells the story of Marjane’s childhood in Tehran. Growing up in a country in the midst of political upheaval means that her public life and her private life constantly contradicted each other. Her free-thinking family gives Marjane the strength to find herself even though her youth was formed during such a tumultuous time.


fun-homeFun Home by Alison Bechdel, just like the previous two graphic novels, is a frequent flyer on the challenged list. This graphic novel is frequently challenged for violence and other graphic images. The reason Fun Home finds itself as one of our diverse banned book selections is because of the subject matter.

Fun Home is Bechdel’s childhood autobiography. She tells the story of her closeted gay father, a man who was an English teacher and the owner/operator of the local funeral home. His secrets overshadow the lives of everyone else in the family, throwing Bechdel’s emerging womanhood and her homosexuality as a side player in the drama of his life. In her early teens, he goes to court over his relationship with a young boy while his death, most likely a suicide, trumps her coming out. This book is full of death, suicide, homosexuality, family strife, tragedy, desperation, violence, and other graphic images that make Fun Home a key player on the banned/challenged book list each year.


Check back tomorrow for more banned books!

africa's childMaria Nhambu’s memoir of growing up in an orphanage tucked remotely in the Usambara mountains of Tanzania is not for the faint of heart.  She is not shy about sharing candid details of what she remembers from her childhood as a half-caste girl (a descendant of an African mother and a European father) with no parents to claim as her own.

Though the story was hard for me to read at times, it was also impossible for me to put down. I found it painful to read about the emotional, physical, and sexual abuses rained down on her and her contemporaries. Yet, Nhambu’s indomitable spirit and unwavering focus on her goal of getting an education makes hers one of the most uplifting books I have read in a long time.

Though Nhambu now has over seventy years of experience in this world and has earned every bit of wisdom she possesses, the child self she shares with her readers was one bearing a wisdom way beyond her years. Her story reflects her heart: rare, strong, lovable…compelling. Please read Nhambu’s memoir and if you feel, like I did, that Africa’s Child will forever be a part of you then perhaps this world will become a better place to live, one heart at a time.

 

heads in bedsHave you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of hotels? What the front desk attendant, concierge, bellman, or housekeeping person is thinking as they check you in, follow you around, or clean up your room? Having spent a fair number of my summer vacations in hotel rooms, I was curious as a child what these people actually did at work and what they thought of everyone they came in contact with on a daily basis. Lucky for me, I found just the book to ease my curiosity: Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality.

Heads in Beds is written by Jacob Tomsky, a pseudonym the author adopted to keep his anonymity since he was, and is still, a member of the hotel industry at the time this book was released. Every hotel he worked for, as well as every person he worked with and each hotel guest, has a pseudonym, allowing Tomsky to go into great detail about everything that happens behind the scenes of hotels.

This book is a hilarious ride through Tomsky’s journey from a valet to manager to front desk attendant. Want to know how to get an upgrade? Tomsky tells you. How to get a late check out? Tomsky again. What about those pesky mini-bars and in-room movie fees? Tomsky knows all about those. He is full of tips and tricks about how to make the most out of whatever hotel stay you’re experiencing. Check out this book for glimpses into the inner workings of the hospitality business, what valets really do in your car, what goes on in empty rooms, and even why you should never turn down a bellman’s help.


This book is also available in the following formats:

cruisingthroughthelouvreAre you someone who enjoys art? Or maybe you are one of those who feels like you don’t know much about art, but would be interested to learn more if your interest was piqued in just the right way. Consider yourself piqued.

I think you may enjoy taking a vicarious walk through one of the world’s most famous museums. Notwithstanding the hour of the day (past museum hours? no problem!) or the number of miles between you right now and the Louvre in Paris, you can do just that by reading the book Cruising Through the Louvre by David Prudhomme.

The book is a vehicle that, while telling a brief but entertaining story about human behavior in relation to art in graphic novel form, highlights just some of the 70,000 works of art in the Louvre. You can even catch your glimpse of them without having to pay admission (library cards are free, after all!) or navigate through any of the 8.8 million annual visitors. Although, if you like people-watching that may be the best part of all. Fortunately, Prudhomme recognizes that and manages to create characters arguably as interesting as the works of art they visit.

Sound like a good deal? Then I implore you to check this book out! When you read it please tell me what you think of the ending. It has a strange twist that I think lends itself to multiple interpretations.

online colorHello Fellow Readers!

Here’s your mid-month check up for this month’s Online Reading Challenge! How’s it going – have you found something to read this month that gets you excited?

I had every intention of reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, but it just didn’t grab me. I wasn’t liking any of the characters and the portrayal of Iowa was not sitting well with me. Maybe I should have stuck with it a little longer; maybe it would have grown on me. But, you know what – life’s too short to read books you don’t like, no matter how highly recommended they come. (And lots of people like this book – check out our own blogger Rachel’s review – so don’t take my word for it!)

So, I’m changing horses in the middle of the stream and reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield instead. This is another title that has been highly recommended to me, about a writer who is hired to help a mysterious author write their biography. Lots of intrigue and secrets and research. I’m hoping this one grabs – and keeps! – my attention.

If you’re still looking for that great Book About Books, I’d steer you towards The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, a quick read that is by turns sweet and sharp and often very funny, about a bookseller on a remote island that unexpectedly finds love.

Let us know what you’re reading – everyone likes a good recommendation (whether we end up reading the book or not!)

i hate fairylandI Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young is a twist on the classic fairytale. This volume begins by introducing readers to Gertrude, aka Gert, a six year old who wishes she could go to a magical world full of fun and magic and laughter. Her wishes are granted and she is sucked down into Fairyland. Once there, Gertrude wishes she could go home. Queen Cloudia gives Gert a map of all of Fairyland that she has to follow in order to find a key that will open up a door back to her world. This whole process should only take her about a day and she’ll be back home with her parents.

Flash forward 27 years and Gert is still stuck in Fairyland. Scooting around Fairyland with her guardian, she’s stuck here and she hated it. Gert is trapped in her six-year-old body, but her mind has aged and felt every minute she’s been trapped in Fairyland. Using violence to get what she wants, Gert is leaving a bloody trail across this world and still hasn’t found her key. Queen Cloudia is sick of Gert and just wants her dead. Because of the fact that Gert is a visitor though, her safety is guaranteed(at least from Cloudia). Assassins track down Gert, forcing her to use whatever means necessary in order to survive.

This graphic novel is a twist between Alice in Wonderland and Deadpool with quirky and fantastical drawings with a large amount of battle-axe wielding and blood soaked gore. Gert’s journey to leave Fairyland is fantastic and leads viewers on a trippy adventure of mayhem.

the arsonistThe Arsonist by Sue Miller is my latest foray into audiobooks. Miller has weaved a suspenseful story full of family drama and community intrigue within a small New England town.

Frankie Rowley has returned to Pomeroy, New Hampshire, the small village and farmhouse where her family has always spent the summers. Frankie has worked in East Africa for the last 15 years, but came home after she realized that she has never really quite fit in over there. The adjustment back to the states is hard on Frankie, leaving her walking along a country road on her first night back. Waking up the next morning, Frankie discovers that a house up the road has been burnt to the ground. Fires keep popping up around the community, putting people on edge and dividing the town even further.

In addition to the community drama around the fires, Frankie’s mother Sylvia is becoming more concerned over her husband’s erratic behavior. He is forgetting more and more some days, while on others, he seems just fine. Frankie and her sister, Liz, are trying to help, but Liz has a family of her own to deal with now and is hoping Frankie will help relieve her stress. Frankie, herself, has fallen for Bud Jacobs, a Washington DC transplant to Pomeroy, who has taken over the town’s small newspaper. All of these relationships become even more entangled in a very small town under great stress due to all of the arson activity and the divide between the summer people and year-rounders.

The Arsonist is the second book that I’ve listened to where the author has been the narrator and the stories really benefit from the author’s telling. The author is able to truly tell how she wants the characters to talk and how she sees them interacting with each other. You also notice a distinct connection between the narrator and each character because the author cares more about and has a more vested interest in how the characters are being portrayed. Check this book out and let me know what you think!


This book is available in additional formats: