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Monday, September 26, 2011


Upon reviewing the list of banned/challenged books, I realized that many of the classics I read when I was younger are on this list.  It is absolutely outrageous.  I am so grateful that I have the opportunity, freedom and choice to choose what I read.  The privilege of reading many of these "banned/challenged" books have helped shape me and make me the person I am today.  I am truly thankful that I can enjoy the privilege of reading the writings of others, to gain insight into another person's pearls of wisdom, and to contemplate different concepts and possibilities.  It is amazing how such a solitary act, the act of reading, can have a profound effect on an individual as well as the world around us.  It should never be taken for granted, and always be recognized. 

The most challenged and/or restricted reading materials have been books for children.  These challenges are not only an attempt to suppress expression of a point of view; they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others.  Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who know them best—their parents!

In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, I choose to partake in the annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. Banned Books Weeks had its inception in 1982 and promotes freedom to read by encouraging individuals to participate in special events, exhibits, and read-outs that showcase books that have been banned or threatened. 

American libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people. Now, more than ever, celebrate the freedom to read @ your library! Read an old favorite or a new banned book this week.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


This YA novel by Jenny B. Jones, which hits bookstores on 10/4/11 revolves around a teen age girl, Finley Sinclair, a high school student from South Carolina.  She enters a foreign exchange program in Ireland.  On the way, she meets Beckett Rush, a vampire actor and teenage heartthrob.  Once in Ireland, their paths continue to cross.  She however, is not impressed by him, at least not at first.  

Finley had lost her brother two years prior due to a terrorist act, and is still attempting to deal with the issues surrounding her loss.  She goes to Ireland, where her brother had last lived as a CNN correspondent to revisit all the places he did in hope of finding some closure.  

Finley is also given a school assignment where she adopts a grandmother, Mrs. Sweeney.  All of these situations and circumstances set the stage for Finley’s violin audition in New York City, for which she is preparing for with the help of Sister Maria.  Throughout the story, Finley is searching for God, the God that her brother Will saw in everything and everywhere he went, particularly in the various places he visited in Ireland. 

The story is quite moving actually.  The internal struggle Finley is experiencing and the reader experiences along with her, is not uncommon to most.  Insecurity, humiliation, loneliness, God not listening, bitterness, anger; so much emotional turmoil that ultimately results in Finley having an eating disorder.  The relationship between her and Beckett is developed throughout the novel, as well as her relationship with God.  “God, my brother felt your presence so strongly here in Ireland.  Will you be here for me?”  Her brother saw God everywhere, Finley saw God nowhere.  She felt empty.  Her struggle is brilliantly displayed in such passages such as “I took one look at Lahinch.  And wondered about the light my brother couldn’t forget.  And the one I struggled to find”.  How Finley’s emotions are explored throughout the novel truly develops as her relationship builds with Mrs. Sweeney, who tells Finley “Bitterness.  It will eat you up”.

Despite Finley’s own perspective of her relationship with God and her emptiness, she displays many virtuous characteristics which are evidenced in many ways, for example, her feelings towards Mrs. Sweeney.  “God would want her to know she isn’t defined by her mistakes”.  

The theme of the story is quite clear.  There is nothing in this world, in life or death that can separate us from the love of God.  The characters are extremely rich, each having their own issues that they are dealing with, and parallel the protagonist of the story.  I truly and deeply enjoyed this read.  Each of us at one time or another has experienced one or more of the emotions and/or issues that the characters are struggling with.  Bitterness and anger can eat up a person and leave them feeling alone and isolated.  However, no matter what we experience there is one constant in life, God’s love for each and every one of his children.  It was enlightening and encouraging to see how the author uses her gift of the written word and intertwines her faith with humor and the worldly drama that people face without compromising it.  The author articulated the emotions of the characters with a genuineness that was well-expressed and gives the reader opportunity to not only explore the emotions that the characters were experiencing, but leads the reader to evaluate one’s own life.  “Life is too short for this.  What if you don’t have tomorrow?”  This novel is not only heartwarming, witty and cleverly written.  It touches upon several issues facing teens and is a wonderful display of faith.

Disclosure:  I received this ebook free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> :  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, September 19, 2011


This is the first book in the Cassidy Jones Adventures.  Elise Stokes does an amazing job for setting the stage in this young adult series.  Cassidy Jones is a fourteen year old girl who develops special abilities after an accident.  With her new heightened senses, strength and abilities, she partners with Emery Phillips, a fifteen year old genius.  Together they set out to find their kidnapped parents.  The story is quick moving, and leaves you wanting more.  Elise Stokes is a wonderful storyteller.  Her characters are rich, believable, as well as relatable.  She eloquently uses descriptive language to convey what the characters are feeling without overdoing it.  There is adventure, excitement and overall enjoyment with this read.  As the relationship and trust between Cassidy and Emery grows throughout the story, so does the empathy and likeability develop between the reader and the characters.  Stokes leaves the reader with anticipation.  

Disclosure:  I received this Ebook (Kindle Edition) free from the author for the purpose of a book review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <>:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please review my review policies page.


Thursday, September 15, 2011


J.R.R. Tolkien:  Christian Encounters 
Mark Horne 
Thomas Nelson Publishers

Disclosure:  I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> :  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Christian Encounters Series is a collection of short biographies of literary and historical figures published by Thomas Nelson Publishers.  In this short biography by Mark Horne, he explores the life of John Ronal Reuel Tolkien.  In addition, Horne attempts to demonstrate how Tolkien’s faith and life experiences shaped his creativity and influenced his writing.

There were several interesting facts that were brought to light when reading this book.  J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa on 1/3/1892.  He lost his father at a very young age.  Subsequently, his mother relocated the family back to England, where “Tolkien discovered the beauty of the English countryside – his first “shire”.”  His mother had a significant influence on his faith, being a Christian and participating in regular worship of Anglican and Catholic background.  Tolkien consequently lost his mother at the age of 12.  Another interesting fact about Tolkien was his love of language.   

Apparently his mother had taught him Latin and French.  He learned Greek at school, after which he learned some Finnish in order to read a book called the Kalevala, which was purported to have greatly influenced him.  Tolkien was also a war veteran, having lived through World Wars I and II.  He spent three and half months in a war-zone.  Most of his battalion was either captured or dead. 

Fast forward several years, Tolkien became an English professor and was appointed to work at Leeds.  His passion for Norse tales led him to start a club called the Viking Club, where he met C.S. Lewis.  It was interesting to me that Tolkien influenced C.S. Lewis with respect to Christianity and not vice versa.  They shared many similar interests and remained friends throughout their adult life.  C.S. Lewis died in 1963. Tolkien died in September of 1973. 

It was endearing to recall about the first time C.S. Lewis had read the manuscript of The Fellowship of the Ring and writing to his dear friend that “all of the long years you have spent on it are justified”. 

Although Horne is brief in his biographical account of the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, he did convey the message that Tolkien’s writing greatly influenced all those who read it.  “…true courage to do what was right even at great cost, Tolkien portrayed a fantasy world that could not only entertain us but could also challenge and inspire us.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

FATEFUL by Claudia Gray

Friday, September 9, 2011


For those of you who have you been wondering what Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has been writing recently, an article in USA Today reports that she has written the foreword of a new book set to be released this October. 

The book titled  Dear Me: A Letter To My Sixteen-Year-Old Self, is a compilation of letters written by more than 70 celebrities.   According to the article, some of the proceeds from the book sales will be donated to Doctors Without Borders.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The Last Song
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446547567 $24.99
"The Last Song " is another remarkable work by Nicholas Sparks.  Veronica "Ronnie" Miller is a 17 year old rebellious teenager from New York City who travels to Wilmington, North Carolina with her brother Jonah to spend the summer with her dad, Steve. Ronnie has a lot of built up anger and resentment against her father. They have not spoken over the past three years. Ever since her parents divorced she blamed her father for leaving her and family.

Steve is a retired concert pianist and teacher. Music is his passion, and it used to be Ronnie's as well. As a child she sat by his side, always learning from him. However, she dwelled on her anger so much that she gave up playing the piano altogether. She didn't even want to look at a piano. She started hanging out with a rough crowd, going to clubs, and subsequently got into some trouble with the law.

In the beginning of the novel, Ronnie gives the impression of a spoiled, childish and unappreciative deviant. However, as her character builds throughout the novel, she grows. The depth and richness of Ronnie's character unfolds as you are taken along her summer journey in this coming of age novel.

As love runs into Ronnie at the most unsuspecting time, many truths unfold as the summer progresses. Her dad and Jonah are actively pursuing the work of constructing a stained glass window for a new church building. Ronnie's relationship with her father progresses as well as her relationship with her new found love. Many circumstances surrounding events that caused Ronnie's anger in the past as well as the present, resurface and she is confronted with a host of problems that she must face as her eighteenth birthday approaches.

Sparks is very crafty in his choice of character names. He displays his writing skill so eloquently by threading themes throughout the book, expanding on characters and their personalities and so innocently portraying the love of God in the life of humans. You develop a sincere interest for the characters. You have empathy for their feelings. The powerful emotions that Sparks brings to the reader, is so moving it brings one to tears. It is truly a very fluent and expressive work of the human heart and brought a joy to me as a reader that I have not felt in quite some time.

Familiar with his work, Miley Cyrus sought to work with Nicholas Sparks. As a result, the screenplay is currently being filmed and will be released in January 2010, starring Miley Cyrus as Ronnie, Greg Kinnear, Kelly Preston, and Liam Helmsworth. Other works by Sparks that went from books to movies are: A Walk to Remember, A Night in Rodanthe, The Notebook, and Message in a Bottle.

A Change in Altitude
Anita Shreve
Little, Brown & Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316020701 $26.99

A Change in Altitude is not only descriptive of the actual story, but also a metaphor for what happens to Margaret, the protagonist of this story.

Patrick is a physician doing research in Africa on equatorial diseases. Accompanied by his wife Margaret, a photographer, they decide to venture off and go hiking. The goal is to climb Mount Kenya and reach the summit, as the view from atop this mountain is known to be remarkable. The couple sets forth on this expedition with a small group of friends. Although this novel has a bit of a slow start, once they begin climbing the mountain, you cannot put this book down.

Anita Shreve touches on many themes in this intricate, yet simple story. As Margaret enjoys the attentions of another man, which inadvertently leads to a tragic accident, Shreve expresses the consequences of dabbling in seemingly innocent flirting, the consequences of over reacting when controlled solely by our emotions and how a single event in life can change everything. Thematically, Shreve also explores comparable concepts by paralleling fidelity and emotion and what drives ones actions, with the love of photography and what drives a person to put themselves in danger due to the feelings one is experiencing at that time. The nature of forgiveness is also explored.

Similarly, Shreve eloquently uses the theme of altitude to express the growth of Margaret's character, while simultaneously writing a story about cultural diversity and feelings of displacement outside one's "natural" environment. Shreve additionally explores the very depths of a relationship through expressing that a fine line exists between emotional fidelity and physical fidelity, and the place its serves within a marriage. This novel illustrates that crossing such a fine line can put a break in the strength of a marriage, and ultimately lead to a Change in Altitude.

Shreve's novel is exceptional, particularly in her use of Margaret's character and her struggles to reach the top of this mountain. The use of supplemental characters is additionally instrumental throughout this story. The characters are rich, as well as the descriptive scenery of Africa depicted by Shreve, who lived and worked in Africa as journalist in the past. Shreve is very successful in drawing readers into her story and her vivid descriptions allow the reader to feel like they are there with the characters. She easily achieves credibility. Moreover, those who enjoy philosophical debates will undoubtedly devour the themes woven throughout this novel. A Change in Altitude is good read.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
Allison Hoover Bartlett
Riverhead Books (Penguin Group)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594488717 $24.95

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, by Allison Hoover Bartlett is a fun, refreshing and quick read. From the prologue to the afterword, Bartlett successfully keeps the reader intrigued with her story.

Bartlett, a journalist, apparently comes across a four hundred year old book. As with most avid readers and collectors, her curiosity leads her journalistic instincts to investigate this book, and with the help of a librarian finds out that it is a rare German book about plants, The Kreuterbuch. Further investigative research leads her to numerous references to rare books and book theft. The trail continues as she comes across the name of Ken Sanders, a detective set on capturing John Gilkey, one of the most well known successful book thieves. This book is the goose chase of Sanders and his many attempts to catch Gilkey, and how Bartlett befriends both persons, seeking to find the story of what it is exactly that drives a person to put it all on the line for an object as seemingly simple as a book.

What I found interesting in Bartlett's quest was her learning experience of covering this story as a journalist. The story itself caused her to reflect on her past reading experiences and brought out some very important truths. For instance, she speaks of her daughter retrieving a book after dropping it in a creek and how she could not bear to part with it writing "This book's body is inextricably linked to her experience reading it". Furthermore, she states that "A book is much more than a delivery vehicle for its contents...". Bartlett refers to books as "historical artifacts" and "repositories for memories". I would have to agree with her. People develop an emotional attachment or bond with the memories linked to the physicality of the book. It becomes sentimental, something of value (even if it is not a rare expensive collectible). It is what makes a person want to collect books, write stories, and is the drive and inspiration of book lovers. Her philosophical reflections throughout the book lend character to the author's honesty and credibility. At one point she mentally debates whether the technology of today will lose that which is captured in having the physical book in one's hands.

Other interesting factors that contribute to the brilliance of this book is Bartlett's reference to Freud and the psychological profile of a collector, and how the bookshelf becomes a reflection of who the person is as a person. It defines them. Bartlett continues to seek after her story, attempting to understand the difference in how both Sanders and Gilkey live their lives, but yet how their lives become intermingled and both showing characteristics of the same madness. One set on stealing books, the other set on capturing the thief, both risking it all in the process.

Bartlett achieves everything a true storyteller hopes to achieve. There is love, suspense, truth, passion, and inquisitiveness. This book is truly an enjoyable read.

Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano
Madeline Goold
Blue Bridge (USA)
240 West 35th Street, N.Y, N.Y. 10001
9781933346212 $24.95

Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano is an eloquent anecdotal story of how a formerly unrecognized and unnoticed organist in the 1700's had his hand in shaping our modern culture and society by the distribution of what we now know as the piano.

The author, Madeline Goold had bought an antique piano. After finding a handwritten inscription on the piano, she began to investigate. Her investigation brought her on a long journey as she discovered the historical account of the piano. Hence, this is the background for this extraordinary story.

In Britian, John Broadwood (1732-1812) was the first to produce and distribute the square piano in large numbers. Broadwood was known for meticulous record keeping and his sales records and archives are still intact till today. John Langshaw (1763-1832) became acquainted with the square piano by Broadwood, and later formed a business relationship with him. Through an unusual chain of events, John Langshaw actually ended up training under Reverend Charles Wesley (brother of John Wesley, founder of the Methodists).

The interesting thing I discovered reading this wonderful story by Goold, was how Mr. Langshaw had such an impact on history, although he was seemingly forgotten. Through Langshaw's business dealings with Broadwood, he had an instrumental impact on Northern England with the social changes that accompanied the piano. Even more interesting was to see how the piano was looked upon socially. I never realized the importance this instrument had in society. As Britian led the world in piano making, the piano was looked upon very prestigiously. It not only reflected the highest quality of furniture, but later became a commercial commodity. It was also considered a defining attribute of a lady. As the story progresses, we see how changes in musical taste reflected the social order, and how rapidly the square piano became a status symbol.

This is an intriguing story. It is also heartwarming to see the relationship between Langshaw's father and Wesley's father. Apparently Langshaw resided and trained with the Wesley's for years, while the father's communicated back and forth through handwritten letters. The love that both father's displayed for their children, and the respect and love they had for each other as friends, truly transcends time. The story of Ms. Goold's antique piano number 10651 a/k/a Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano will remain a part of history for those who are willing to take the journey. Goold does an exceptional job in relating the historical facts and the story of her antique piano interestingly makes for a remarkable read!