More Classic Halloween Monsters?

This time of year, we see the same famous monsters marched out every Halloween. Witches, Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, Frankenstein, a Mummy if someone’s feeling “ethnic” and only has toilet paper for a costume. They’re mascots of the holidays, go-to classic costumes, an important holiday staple. For me, they’re also pretty stale. We’ve seen them all before. We need new blood, so to speak, this holiday season. I think there’s a pretty easy solution here. You might’ve noticed that some of these classic monsters have their origins in literature. Almost every monster comes from some type of story. Mary Shelley had to stay at a laudanum fueled sleep over with Byron and friends after recently losing a child in a miscarriage and she wrote Frankenstein. Some villager heard tell of a woman that showed signs of having an opinion and being mildly independent and bam–stories of witches soon emerged. Monsters come from stories.

I’ve found a number of stories with brilliantly crafted monsters and picked a few to present as potential new monster mainstays of Halloween.

Cthulhu- So I’ve already admitted to reading quite a bit of Lovecraft. I almost got in an argument with myself whether I should just say Cthulhu here or the Elder Gods at large, or perhaps Azathoth or a Shoggoth. Then I decided not to be even more of an epic nerd than I’ve already revealed myself to be and just pick the most popular one, Cthulhu. He’s a big ole nasty Elder God that has wings and an Octopus head and a fishy body, because we know Lovecraft and his crippling fear of fishy stuff from one of my previous posts. With his monsters, you can actually kind of see where he was coming from with this whole “evil fish. eeeevil fish!” business.

The only barrier would be Cthulhu’s size. This guy is supposed to be an absolute behemoth, a giant monster that could destroy ships just by rising above the water or sinking back into the abyss. He’d have a hard time fitting in banners and photo ops with the other classic monsters, whom are typically human shaped and sized. I know about being the freakishly tall kid in the back of the picture. It gets awkward. Poor Cthulhu isn’t evil, he’s just tired of his head getting cut off in all the group photos. Just take a wider shot, you guys. He’s already self-conscious enough about his looks.

Dementors– Fantasy has a lot of creatures that could easily cross over into the horror genres. Lot’s of them, like dragons, sea monsters, cyclopses (cyclopsi? cyclops?) and the like are classics from old legends. I felt I had to go with a more original creature from a series I loved. Looking at Harry Potter monsters,  I almost went with the Boggart, but since it can turn into whatever terrifies you the most, that seemed like cheating, not to mention really difficult to turn into a costume. The Dementor already has a great Halloween look, and that whole soul-sucking thing going on. It’s the whole package, monster-wise. The only thing that makes me think this one might not be the perfect Halloween monster is what’s next on my little monster ballot.

Pennywise the Clown/ Creepy Clowns-Okay, so it seems like reality is already intent on making this one happen, so I probably don’t need to campaign for it very hard. The story of Pennywise the clown from Stephen King’s It is actually kind of convoluted, and not that important. Turns out you need next to nothing to make clowns terrifying. Just give them social media accounts and they’ll start sending out death threats like it’s nobody’s business. O.G. creepy clown Pennywise was actually a shape-shifting demon. In the book it takes a few more eerie forms besides Pennywise, but people realized the scariest one was the clown and so made that the focus of the on-screen adaptation, in a rare instance of Hollywood people actually making a sound decision in adapting a book to a film.

Clowns would be a perfect addition to the classic Halloween monster pantheon. They’ve got public support right now, in that everyone is more terrified of them than ever before, and we’ve got loads of old Bozo the Clown merchandise laying around from when people were idiots thought these guys were funny and endearing. It’s probably all creepily dusty and deteriorating by now, the perfect ambiance for a new Halloween monster.

Kick-ass Sci-Fi and Fantasy Heroines

I’ve been enjoying myself a great deal lately with the latest book in Gail Carriger’s the Custard Protocol series, Imprudence. Observant readers of this blog may recall a time when I read and reviewed the first book of the series, Prudence. Ha, see what she’s doing there with the titles? I hope she doesn’t stop the series here because she runs out of prefixes and suffixes to add onto prudence. Prudence is the name of the series protagonist. She’s a swarthy young gentle lady travelling the world in her dirigible while fighting vampires, werewolves, and other adversaries.

There’s nothing I love more than a good steampunk heroine, except maybe a good sci-fi heroine, or a good fantasy heroine. Each one is a precious, precious piece of candy for me. Since I probably shouldn’t devote a whole other blog post to how much fun Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama is, I will instead dedicate this post to several of my favorite fantasy and/or sci-fi heroines in her honor.

Alexia Tarabotti Maccon- Yes, the first person on this list is in fact related to Prudence, notice the family name. Alexia was Prudence’s mother, and the first main character Gail Carriger wrote a series for. It takes place in the same world, but earlier in the timeline. This series has the interesting title Parasol Protectorate, after Alexia’s main weapon of choice, a lacy parasol full of deadly gadgets. If there’s anything about the Custard Protocol I could criticize, I’d have to say they don’t have enough weaponized parasols. Then again, Alexia never had her own dirigible equipped with a Gatling gun, so I suppose each series has their classic steampunk strengths. I’d recommend any of Carriger’s heroines though, no matter their weapon of choice

Delilah Bard-This girl is another I found in a series I recently discovered, Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab. It’s an interesting fantasy series taking place in several alternate Londons, with some really interesting and compelling magic. Schwab set up a really fascinating world, one I haven’t quite seen before. It’s set in approximately the late 1700s to early 1800s, an interesting time to set a fantasy novel. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is the only other book I could think of that dared to set such a magical story in a London starting to come into modernity with the Industrial Revolution.

Delilah Bard fits remarkably well into these magical worlds for an ordinary thief. She’s a outlaw with cunning street smarts as well as several knives and pistols. Her reaction to and interaction with the magic introduced to her London by Kell, the male lead of the book, that makes the books the rollicking adventures they are.

Susan Sto Helit- This girl’s from an old favorite of mine, the Discworld series, which I have also gushed about before, but this article is a very good excuse to gush about old loves once again. Susan is, in an unusual and very Discworld way, technically the granddaughter of Death. She features in several Discworld books, much like her good old grandpops, and shows she has a number of eerie and unusual powers inherited from him as well.  She’s just an utterly unusual girl and eventually an unusual woman trying to figure out where she wants to fit in, and how.

Watching her find a strange but perfect path through life was something I loved. Pratchett’s humor and singular style made her story something to remember too.

Those are only three of my favorite heroines from my most favorite series. Even looking at only my own top books, this list is by no means conclusive. I would be interested in hearing your favorite out-of-this world heroines too. Leave some recommendations below in the comments if you like.

A Bookish Road Trip

If you’re reading this, I’m on a family vacation, a road trip through the American south. It’ll be one of those long road trips that can drive you mad with boredom if you don’t prepare plenty of things to do before hand. For me, that’s always taken the form of a hefty stack of books to read. You know I can always make one of those no problem, but I decided to create a more interesting project this year as well.

I’ll be travelling to several places throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. If I’m planning on going there physically, why not travel there in my books as well? I’ve selected three books, one that takes place in each planned destination, and have them all packed up for the road trip. I encourage you to try something similar if you are going somewhere this summer. Actually, even if you aren’t going anywhere, you could try this too. Create your own road trip without going farther than your local library and /or bookstore.

I didn’t want to make to make this endeavor to gimmicky, so I researched quite a bit first, looking to find quality works set in each destination. After quite a bit of deliberation, I picked these three books.

North Carolina- Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. This book takes place during the Civil War. It describes one Confederate soldier’s disillusionment with the war, a general depression that builds up after seeing horror after horror on the battle field and in the hospital. He is injured and then attempts to head back to his home, Cold Mountain.

The copy I got had the movie cover on it, which annoys me, because every time I go to pick it up, I see Nicole Kidman , Renee Zellweger and Jude Law staring at me intensely, with the actual Cold Mountain playing second fiddle to their steely Hollywood drama gazes. Actually, I can’t say I mind young  Jude Law’s steely gaze too much. Maybe I just expected him to be Matthew McConaughey. I guess Matt was to busy making How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days or something, and they thought Jude Law was a Southerner for some reason.

South Carolina- The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This book describes the life of a slave, Hetty “Handful”, living in 19th century Charleston. It explores her relationships with the wealthy Grimke family, her owners, and especially Sarah, the family’s daughter. This historical fiction novel is based off the life of the real Sarah Grimke, noted early feminist and abolitionist. As  young girls, the characters feel the burden of the very different expectations they hold on each other’s shoulders, and we see how those burdens shape their lives.

As far as I know, they don’t invent wings or airplanes or anything. It’s just a metaphor about female empowerment or something, I think. Maybe  you can tell, I haven’t read any of these books yet, so I can only offer a very limited commentary on these guys. I did enjoy The Secret Life of Bees though, and generally respect Kidd as a writer, so I’m excited to find out what happens to Sarah and Handful even if they don’t end up being World War One flying aces.

Georgia- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. This one’s also been turned into a movie, and strangely enough I think this very film answers the question of why Cold Mountain Cast Jude Law as a Confederate Soldier. The even older movie adaptation of this book and allegedly true story has an incredibly young and skinny Jude Law playing a young, volatile handyman with a confederate flag tattooed on his arm. He gets murdered in the first act of the story and doesn’t get much screen time, but his accent must have been convincing enough that people in Hollywood figured that tattoo didn’t wash off after filming.

The book is a good old fashion murder mystery. Did old fancy rich guy really shoot Jude Law in cold blood? Why? It’s set in Savannah Georgia, so there’s a good helping of voodoo stirred in. This plus a number of other murder mystery archetypes makes this book veer a into cliched territory at times, even with it supposedly true story basis. However, an exploration of the murder suspect, racist Jude Law’s sexuality and a trans character that is depicted much more sensitively and humanely than 1990s values would’ve mandated make it an interesting story.

Those are the three books I’ll be on my literary road trip. I’m hoping I’ll enjoy them, and that I’ll enjoy this little project in general. It’s definitely something I’d like to make a tradition; give myself a road trip every summer, even when I can’t actually travel.

What are some book road trips you’d like to take? Let me know in the comments below.

Books for Your Dragons

Well,  it’s been almost a whole week since the season finale of Game of Thrones. Are you holding up alright? I could be better, I suppose. What are we supposed to do for our dragon fix during all these GOT free months? Lie around moaning in anguish? Sometimes, I feel like that’s my default response to a beloved show’s season ending. Really, though, it’s not a very practical one. This year, I’ve decided to jump off my fainting couch and do something about the sudden lack of dragons in my life. I’m going to find and train some dragons, using the knowledge I’ve gained from the best books I’ve read on the subject. If you guys are looking for a summer project, I recommend following in my footsteps.

Pick up a couple of dragons from, you know, wherever your local dragon breeding grounds are. I don’t need to insult your intelligence by describing how you should go about getting a real dragon, obviously. I’m off to get mine this Sunday during the hour long hole left in my schedule good old GOT.

Before you pick up your dragons though, pick up these books so you have some idea what to expect when you’re expecting to be a mother (or father) of dragons. These are the best I’ve selected from my own life-long research on subject.

The Dragons are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky

This is one of the first texts on dragons I ever read. At first glance, it may appear to be a children’s book of poems about dragons, but you’d be wrong. It’s an amazing book of poems about dragons with beautiful illustrations, one I made my parents read to me again and again when I was younger. It has stories about all different sorts of dragons, from one dragon made out of spare parts by a bored kid to a nasty, nasty dragon that’s only a half inch tall. It is an excellent introductory text for people of all ages.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

This series of volumes is exemplary for dragon caretakers as it depicts very carefully the life and work of several people that have lived with and trained a dragon from birth. I have mixed feelings about this series, because while I thought it was a pretty good fantasy read, the author supposedly started writing it when he was fourteen or fifteen years old. I was right around that age when I read those books, and had not even come close to getting a publishing deal for a giant fantasy series of my own invention, or writing one either. Still, they’re pretty good books, I guess. Sigh.

The Memoirs of Lady Trent Series by Marie Brennan

This is an interesting series, and a valuable one for future dragon trainers, as it attempts to get into the biology of dragons in a very interesting way. Lady Trent is a Charles Darwin figure of sorts in an alternate fantasy world very similar to our own Victorian era. She feels the current scientific understanding of dragons is woefully lacking and decides to travel the world, going on expeditions and making groundbreaking discoveries about many different species of dragons. It’s a bit different from the typical fantasy book about dragons, but that’s what makes it such a valuable addition to every dragon scholar’s library.

A Song Of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

What, did you really think I could make it through this list without mentioning the very series that’s driving this current ambition? Not a chance! If you’re only interested in dragon training and don’t have time to read the giant books in this series, stick to reading the chapters about Daenerys Targaryen, which provide an excellent case study examining how one new dragon owner can raise three baby dragons from hatchlings, a difficult feat even with experience. You can also learn how to utterly destroy your enemies with dragon fire, if that’s something your interested in.

These are the books that I’ll be referring back to the most when training my dragons, but I know that this list definitely doesn’t cover all the useful dragon books out there. Do you have some dragon-ology books you think I should look at when raising my dragons? Let me know in the comments below.

22 Years of Books

So I recently had a birthday. I’m now 22 years old, so I’ve decided to try something special to commemorate this occasion. I shall attempt to list my favorite book from each year I was alive on this earth. I mean, it’ll probably be a little fuzzy around my early years, but I’ll try my best to name a book I know I loved around that age, and review it. I mean, we’ll have 22 books to get through, so I can’t say more than a line or so about each one, but I’ll try my best to tell you all how each book affected me. Alright, let’s do this!

  1. Goodnight Gorilla: Ahahahahaha! Gorilla! *poops self* Ya!
  2. Where’s Spot?:  Where is he though? Spot? Spot?! Oh my God this book has flaps. Whaaa-? Oh thank God Spot, I found you.
  3. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: A fun, colorful book about letters. It’s sequel, Chicka Chicka 123, on the other hand, was hopelessly derivative drivel.
  4. Berenstain Bears: stain, stein, whatever. I loved these guys.
  5. Benny’s Big Bubble: My first book that I ever owned and could read through all by myself. It was about a kid who blew a big bubble, and then it popped. Yup. that was practically as dense as Crime and Punishment for me back then.
  6. Bailey School Kids: Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots: I fell in love with this series about kids proving teachers and other adults in their life were supernatural monsters because I was pretty sure they had to be true, in some way.
  7. Bailey School Kids: Mermaids Don’t Run Track: Don’t they though, don’t they?!What if they do? They totally do. Oh my God, these kids get it!
  8. Bailey School Kids: Ghouls Don’t Scoop Ice Cream: Illuminati confirmed! Illuminati confirmed! I can see the truth now! I’ll never stop reading these books!
  9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: Oh, hey, what’s this? I like this. Will there be more?
  10. Poppy series by Avi: I liked the adventure having mice characters. My mom did not like how much they made me want mice as a pet.
  11. Pippi Longstocking: The first “classic” book I read all by myself and enjoyed. It proved authors that had been dead a long time could still write stuff I liked.
  12. Huckleberry Finn: Wow, I like these adventures a lot but I can barely understand their old southern dialect. What’s this n-word they keep saying even mean?
  13. Golden Compass: I felt this series was innovative but kind of slow, until I found out it was blasphemous, then I loved it so much. Rebel!
  14. The Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz: I could totally be a spy, like Alex Rider. We’re both  fourteen. He does spy stuff. I could do spy stuff. totally.
  15. Entering Twilight saga phase: Noooooooo. Skip.
  16. Good Omens: Terry Prattchett and Neil Gaiman. Awwwww yisssss. This my jam.
  17. The Sandman series: This Neil Gaiman guy is my shit! The story! The artwork! Gah!
  18. Walking Dead: Hey, I guess I’m reading picture books again, but not the kind four-year-old me would have liked.
  19. Game of Thrones series: I finally got brave enough to read the books after trying the TV series, and they were dense as heck but damn I love them.
  20. Bossypants: Tina Fey can boss my pants any way she wants. I shall worship her.
  21. the Saga “saga”: More picture books I could not have read as a child. Hot damn did this series blow my mind though, made me rethink what stories you could tell with science fiction.
  22. Well, c’mon you guys, I’ve only read, like, five books since I turned 22 two days ago (maybe I exaggerate). Give me some more time here.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of my life in books. Here’s to many more years of books and reviews! Huzzah!

How To Read Multiple Books at Once

Sometimes, you simply have to read multiple books at once. Whether your schedule or your own voracious reading appetite demands it, literal double or even triple booking remains a necessary companion for many book lovers. I myself find that, for these next couple weeks, I’m definitely going to have to be juggling many reads, so I decided to vent about this by writing down some useful advice for people attempting to undertake similar mounds of reading in a similarly over-booked fashion. This has absolutely nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with the fact that my finals week is coming up. I’m totally prepared for that. Everything is fine, and no one (especially me,) needs to panic. Don’t panic…

Gah… panicking…

1.Prioritize Titles.

I gave advice like this in my entry about catching up on reading. This is to a similar but slightly different purpose. You’d do well to pick the titles that need to be returned to a friend or library first, or the text you need to write the most dangerously imminent paper about first, then stack your order accordingly. You may have to start by reading three books or so because this one’s due back soon, you’re book club’s meeting to discuss that one next week, and you just have to find out how this one ends.

As much as I try, I usually can’t help but let the books I like the most slip to the beginning of the list and get a disproportionate amount of focus. As long it doesn’t threaten my GPA, I usually let that happen. Really, even when it does, I usually cave to my favorites. Ideally, though, you really should evenly distribute the books you like most among all your other to-reads so you aren’t left with all the stuff you hate but have to read in one big, unappetizing lump at the end. Do as I say and not as I do in this situation, people, if you can.

2.Try to Separate Similar Reads

I never do this on purpose, but sometimes I find myself reading similar books either at the same time or one after the other. It gets me into situations where I blur the characters together then start to ask myself, “Wait, did this plucky young Victorian lady already refuse to marry the boring farmer, or was that the other one, and was it a farmer or a woodcarver?”

I mean, I guess sometimes you just get a taste for similar books, but it gets really inconvenient and eerie if you try to read too many similar books at once. By now, I’ve learned to try and avoid this, or take other later mentioned measures to at least make this less confusing.

3.Assign a Book Schedule

A really good way to not get all these books mixed up is set a schedule for them. That way, you start to associate each book with a a certain time or place. No matter how similar your books are, that should help you separate the story thread. “Wait, The farmer was in the morning commute audio book and the woodcarver was in the evening paperback. I’ve got this.”

Apart from that, it also helps with the favoritism bit. Making yourself devote a certain amount of time to each book you are reading gives books you don’t like so much a chance to actually get read. The human mind’s preference for patterns and routine is one of my only weapons against books I just have to read right now. “Oh, I’m really loving the chemistry between plucky Victorian lady and farmer guy, but gosh darn it if it just feels weird listening to that audio book when I know I’m not in my car and the sun is setting.”

4.Always Carefully Mark Your Spot.

Maybe this is just my own terrible memory, but I find that reading multiple books makes me lose track of my place in different books so easily. If I’m lazy enough not to put bookmarks on different pages, (which usually happens when I’m reading texts for school,) or accidentally skip around the tracks on an audio book, I can get lost and accidentally re-reading or hearing large sections of a book. I mean, usually with books I like I can stop myself and fix the error really quick, but with required reads that I can barely pay attention to anyway, I can usually barely tell.

For textbooks or other assigned texts, I usually mark my place to the very line, just to be sure, with post-it notes or even special bookmarks you can buy from office supply or book stores. I mean, if you’re going to be a serious bibliophile, you’ve just gotta have the right gear ready in your book nerd utility belt.

5.Try Taking Notes.

This seems like something you should do for assigned reads and textbooks, and I say should because I often don’t. What? I have to read three classical books about plucky Victorian ladies at a time and you want me to take notes on them all to? That’s too much you guys, too much.

Theoretically though, I’d be helped immensely by taking at least some notes on books I have to read for class. That theory may also extend to for-funsies books too, right? Not anything crazy, like you need to write a paper on them, but just bits so you can keep track of the plots and subtleties. Some books have really detailed summaries on Wikipedia, but others don’t and, honestly, I sometimes get lazy enough just to go “Well, that subplot probably wasn’t that important anyway,” when I can’t double check these things on Wikipedia. Taking notes might help.

 

Okay, I’m afraid that’s all she wrote. I have to read my midday poetry collection, and then definitely not start writing my final paper that counts as twenty five percent of my class grade. Any idiot would’ve started that way earlier than the weekend before it’s due. Bye now!

Give the Perfect Book!

Alright, it’s the holiday season, and now more than ever the question of what to get your favorite book nerd is hugely important. The answer is books you guys. Obviously. But wait, don’t leave just yet. I’ll get lonely. Plus, picking out a book for another person and either recommending it when they ask for new titles or giving it to them is far from an easy task.

I’ve talked about what it’s like to get weird, random book suggestions from people in the past. Ideally, you don’t want to alienate your friend or have them question your sanity when you recommend some book they’ll only pretend to read to please you, or a book they’ll take one look at and then decide to cut you out of their lives forever based on something probably being wrong with your brain.

It can be hard to think objectively about what another person might truly want out of a book. If your favorite bibliophile has asked you for recommendations or demanded books for the holidays without giving you any titles like a sneaky little badger, here are some tips to help you choose wisely.

1. Calm Down Your Own Inner Book Nerd

Being friends with a book nerd might mean you yourself are passionate about books. Yes, that passion can help you choose some insightful books, but remember that you need to be catering to someone else’s inner book nerd and not your own. As close as you two may be, you may prefer thrillers while she prefers fantasy. She may like comic books while you like cook books.

It’s okay to try and introduce them to a slightly different title you’ve read that you think they might like, but only if you’re legitimately sure this is a book with hooks for them and you aren’t just pushing a title you love, like a eerily smiling cult recruiter. If you’re imitating any behavior similar to how I acted during my Twilight phase, you’re doing something wrong. I learned that through bitter experience, and it’s a rule of thumb I think more people should follow. WWTD? (What Would Twi-hards Do?) Now don’t do that. Stop it. Listen to your dad. He doesn’t want to read New Moon. Edward’s hardly even in that one, and you know he’s Team Edward.

2. Look for Trends

If your beloved book nerd is into a continuing series, things couldn’t be simpler. Just pick up one or more books from the series you know she doesn’t have. Picking books by an author you know they admire is also a great idea, as is picking books similar to the ones you know they like. This is simple advice that might seem hard to follow in practice. How do you know which ones to pick? Fear not.

If you are out of your genre familiarity depth when looking at your friend’s favorite books, look for help. I’ve been to bookstores and libraries with plenty of displays set up on a “Like this read that”premise. You could maybe even ask a real, in-the-flesh person for help, as scary as that may sound. That’s what bookstore employees and librarians are for. They are paid to help you with this sort of thing. They are mostly very helpful and almost never bite or… Oh, the internet. Duh. I almost forgot dear old internet. Never mind this then! People are scary. Let’s go online.

3. Dear Old Internet!

As always, your friendly neighborhood world wide web has plenty of ways to help you pick out a good book for a friend. Ideally, your friend is on a site like Good Reads, where you can publicly view a list of books they have read, are reading, and would very much like to read if only someone would just pay attention and give them a copy already. If you want to make further recommendations based off those titles but can’t for some reason, the internet will definitely do it for you.

Maybe your friend blogs or vlogs or vines or whatever about their favorite books. I hear that’s what all the amazingly smart and beautiful people do on the interwebs.  Secretly reading over and over what your friend has to say about this or that book is a much sneakier way to pick out a good title than making them personally repeat their must-read list five times to you as you scribble away on a notepad.

Really, though, the best advice I could possibly offer is to give your friend the great gift of an excellent blog that covers issues concerning book nerds and reviews a wide variety of titles. Follow this magical link. Give it to all of your friends, and they’ll truly find a present worth reading.

https://mylifeourbooks.wordpress.com/

Whaaaat?! You’re somehow all back here now, magically? It’s a Christmas miracle!

Top 5 Most Dangerous Banned and Challenged books

Well, I hope everyone has survived this week okay. What, you’re not trembling with fear in your safety bunkers? You fools! This is banned book week! People are celebrating some of of the most heinous and reprehensible pieces of literature the world over! You should be terrified. Here, I’ll try to scare some sense into you by describing some of these abominations in print and why they were banned, in the US or abroad.

1.Green Eggs and Ham By Dr. Seuss.

That’s right, you heard me. You probably read this when you in grade school. Maybe you were even foolish enough to read it to your own children! For shame reader, for shame. The People’s Republic of China were smart enough to see through what was clearly a critique of “early Marxism.” Now ,I don’t recall reading this book in any of my college courses analyzing communist literature, so I’m just going to have to trust China on their analysis. Starting a faulty dialogue on Marxism with the  2-7 year old children of our nation is one of the most serious offenses a book can commit, but apparently not so serious that China couldn’t repeal the ban after Seuss’s death.

2.Alice in Wonderland By Lewis Carroll

China comes to the rescue again, this time attempting to save the world from the danger that is this 19th century children’s classic. Apparently, showing animals that can talk and reason puts them on the same level as humans, a grievous sin. No telling what level being able to disappear and smoke hookah puts some of these animals on.

Americans also got notably disturbed by what they felt were harmful references to drugs in the book, though this was in the sixties, so I feel they may have been unfairly influenced by the Disney adaptation of the book, which I once watched and afterward concluded that every single cartoonist was extremely high on LSD and ‘shrooms throughout the entire production.

3. Lord of The Rings By J.R.R. Tolkien

The books and movies of this famous series have garnered criticism for encouraging paganist beliefs like witchcraft. Never mind the fact that Tolkien was a devout Catholic, or that he and many other literary critics point out strong Christian themes and references in his work. Magic wizard man made fire with his stick. Demons I say, demons!

Again, we also have people smoking plants from a pipe and talking to trees, so there’s also probably unholy references to drugs and/or environmentalism. I can hardly tell which is worse.

4. The Dictionary

Several schools have sought to ban dictionaries from their library shelves, seeking to protect children and other fragile minds from the explicit definition of various terms. One recent incident involves a Southern California school banning the 10th edition of the Merriam Webster Dictionary for its definition of oral sex. School’s can’t just give children the power to learn the meaning of words. We should stick to the tradition of children hearing insults or comments they don’t understand and quietly carrying the shame and fear of that ignorance until a friend incorrectly explains it and they grow up thinking sex is when a baby comes out of a woman’s butt hole and then the man and woman burn in hell forever. It’s what God would have wanted.

5. Where’s Waldo? By Martin Handford (released in England as Where’s Wally?)

Some simple minded fools might find it strange that a book with next to no words, besides instructions to find the famous Waldo in each of the book’s expansive illustrations, could be banned. Well, if you spend long enough going cross-eyed at the tiny little people on each page, sources say you can see inappropriate images hidden in the crowds. One of the most famous incidents involves an image of a topless woman lying on her stomach and sunbathing on the beach, a common enough scene in the real world that Hartford should be ashamed for illustrating. Let me tell you, you haven’t read thrilling literary critiques until you’ve read upwards of seven articles debating whether a centimeter sized woman has visibly erect nipples, or a tasteful side-boob with one of the many grain of sand dots only making it look like she has nipples to the untrained eye. Thrilling stuff.

Okay, I’ve done my best to warn you of five of the most dangerous books you might come across on this dangerous week. Luckily, it’s almost over and you won’t have to worry about wearing a thick enough blindfold when walking through a library or bookstore anymore. I only hope that my descriptions here were not too vivid that they destroyed your delicate sensibilities, dear reader. I only have your personal safety and moral sanctity in mind.

How to Give Away Books

Become enough of a bibliophile, and you’ll undoubtedly start to pile up loads and loads of books. Pile up enough books, and you might start running short on living space. I certainly have lately. It’s not that I’ve been buying more books lately, just that I’m finally starting to reach capacity in my room and all my other secret book hidey holes, like the funny looking tree outside the grocery store, or the secret compartment behind the hidden panel in the wall right behind you. No, don’t look! It’s a secret. Duh.

With a librarian mother who also happens to be a general neat freak, the pressure to clean things up by giving the books away to benefit, say, a local library gets pretty high pretty fast. Still, though, each of these books that make up the stacks fast turning into large pillars have a special place in my heart and soul. Trying to give away the wrong one could cause a painful Jenga tower-like collapse, both metaphorically with my delicate emotions and and literally with all the books piled up in my room.

I came through the experience okay though, with much more space than I thought I could make for myself, and a few decent tips for other people looking to reduce their stock but unsure where to start. Lucky for me, I’ve got just the blog to share them on. Here we go:

1. Start easy.

Some people like to go on about how getting hard things over quick, like ripping off a band-aid, is better for you. Those people probably never had to figure out whether they were truly going to give up on  “getting around” to reading that one book about doily crocheting or give up your favorite sci-fi trilogy from high school. Start with the simple little books, the ones you’ve already read and didn’t care for. Maybe you even forgot you had them. Shoveling away all the junk books in your space can be cathartic, and help get you into the give-away mindset.

2. Be honest with yourself

C’mon Maddie. That crochet doily book from before, are you really going to use it? Even if you got good enough and doing all those fancy little stitches, wouldn’t you find better things to make than doilies? What are doilies even for anyway? Ouch, that hurt, but now I have one more book in the giveaway pile.

Books are meant to be read. Whether its an old favorite you haven’t picked up in a long time or a to-read text that’s been collecting dust for ages, you need to consider giving the book a new home, one where it might be read and re-read. That way, everybody’s happy.

3. Don’t be afraid to sleep on it.

If you come across a book you just can’t place, just leave it alone for a bit. I found taking a break for a while usually clears my head to the point where I can make a decision nicely. Don’t wait more than a day or so, thugh. Otherwise the days turn to weeks then months and now you’ve just got a mess a books that you’re totally gonna get around to sorting eventually but never do, and you pretend having that much difficulty opening your sock draw is totally fine. You don’t need to move these!

4. Don’t let mom help.

Mom, dad, another family member or friend, the person can change but the sentiment remains the same. Even if these people are fellow book lovers, do not trust them. They can’t feel the intimate connection you have with each and every volume in your collection. Worst case scenario, they just randomly start chucking away old books that are “in the way” or “especially bad looking.”

If a certain helpful clean freak starts looking at you weeding through books and saying stuff like, “What, do really need those?” immediately evacuate them from the premises. Calmly push them away from you books and assure them that you have everything under control and dammit mother just let me do it myself!

5. Get rid of those old library books.

Oh dear, how the heck did these get here? A library book? I think  maybe I checked this title out in 2007, but how did it end up all the way in the back of my closet?  Yeah, it happens, no use getting all guilt-ridden about it now. Give it away. They won’t refund any fines you had to pay. If you somehow avoided getting caught, like if this was on you sister’s card or you just outright stole a library book (you monster) don’t go dredging up old stinking corpses. They’ve probably bought a new copy of the book by now, and anyhow who needs to live through that one Seinfeld episode and go on an epic quest to discover just who what and where happened to this old copy of Tropic of Cancer.

Well, there you have it, the five strategies that helped me keep sane during one of the most painful and emotional parts of any book lover/hoarder’s life. Hopefully they’ll help keep you from going into a sobbing fetal position the next time some decides you need to clear out some old books, like I totally never did. Ever. The End.

Waiting for the Perfect Book

We do live in a wonderful modern age, one where we can get pretty much anything we want, whenever we want, what with the internet and all that. Books, especially, are easier than ever to get your hands on, what with digital, print, and audio formats available.  Even if you get most of your books in the archaic old paper form, like me, you’re still likely to get them very quickly with a quick drive over to the bookstore or library. I knew I’d entered the modern age when Amazon delivered my copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to my house on the same day it was released.

Sometimes, though, even in this fast paced world, you have to wait, wait for books only a total monster would deny you if they could see how desperately you’re squirming for that read on the inside. Perhaps your favorite book has yet to be released. Perhaps you might have ordered a copy from your bookstore of choice and are waiting for delivery. Perhaps you, like me, are at the ridiculously long end of a waiting list at your local library for a book because you’re just too financially impaired, (or cheap, as some people who were apparently sent off to college with gold bricks in their pants, like to call me) to just go out and buy the book.

Right now, I’m on the waiting list for several books that I fancied reading and ordered from any library that could promise delivery of less than an eon and a loan time longer than enough time to smell the cover and hand it over to the next person in line. That’s the sort of problem you can face with new releases and hot items. It’s a tense time, and I’m hoping to distract myself for a few of these agonizing hours by giving you some advice and support for any future encounter you might have with unbearable waits for books and release date.

1. Distract Yourself. Go for a jog. Do some chores. Finish your latest watercolor landscape. Learn Portuguese. Do something, anything, to remind you of the world outside of your comfiest chair and the nearby bookshelf. The sun, it is most painfully bright, I know, but go slap some SPF on and befriend it until you’re positive your books simply must’ve arrived.

2. Read Something Else. Okay, you’ve killed, like, five minutes. No books. Now what? Well, look at that big pile of books in the corner, the ones you really should’ve read by now. Carefully, pick one out that you can probably finish right as the new book you actually want to read arrives. If you don’t finish it before the new book comes in, toss it back into the pile of shame and let it stare at you with hurt and pain in its eyes while you read your new book.

3. Share the Grief. Perhaps you could start up a book blog and spend all the time you could be reading prattling away to a small cluster of very kind and patient book nerds. In their own tender eyes you can see their pain and agony over part twos and debuts yet released. Woe is us, book nerds, woe is us!

Poo, it didn’t work. My books aren’t here yet. Oh well. Next week, how to deal with reading fifty different books you ordered weeks apart that managed to all show up at the same time anyhow!