Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best Of 2015 - A look back at 10-ish book favorites....OK, more than 10!!

I can't believe that 2015 is just about at an end.  Where did the time go?  I've been thinking about the books I read and listened to this last year and considering which ones I remember best.  I've also been reading some very interesting 'Best of 2015' posts by all of you.  Some great, great books being talked about.

I read fewer books in 2015 than I did in 2014 and I don't think that was such a bad thing.  In one of my first posts on this blog, I said that I felt I rushed through my reading at times in 2014 and my large (for me) final total was a bit deceptive.  Does it count when you don't remember much about the book?  Not sure.

Total Books Read in 2015 - 113
Kindle Books - 51
Personal Books in Print - 12
Audiobooks - 50

Non-Fiction - 3
Fiction - 110

Male Author - 18
Female Author - 95

These numbers are just that - numbers.  Probably interesting only to me.  I do think it's of note that audio has crept up to almost 50% of my reading.  My male/female author ratio is about the same as previous years and I've mentioned more than once that non-fic is not my preferred book type. Tomorrow, I'll share a goal or two for 2016.

Here are the books that I enjoyed the most for 2015.  My link is to my review or if there wasn't a review, the post I mentioned the book or books.  I did cheat a bit by having a category for some series that I read in their entirety and loved.  These are not in any special order.

Kay's Best of 2015

Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

The Chessmen by Peter May

One Kick by Chelsea Cain

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Honorable Mention (because it was so fun to listen to)

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Best Series Read in 2015

There were four mystery series that I read in their entirety this year.  Each of them was new to me.  Well, even here I'm cheating a bit.  I read the first book in Jane Casey's series last year.  I'm listing the first book for each and linking to that review.  

Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler series (8 books)

Nicci French's Frieda Klein series (5 books)

Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan series (6 books)
The Reckoning (2nd book in series)

Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike series (3 books)

I had an excellent reading year.  So many great books - new series - new authors.  Lots and lots of fun.  Tomorrow, I'll be around to say 'Happy New Year' and talk a bit about what I'd like to do in 2016.  Thanks for stopping by and checking out my 'Best of 2015'!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bookish Nostalgia - December 2015

I know we are right at the end of the month, but let's go ahead and do this Bookish Nostalgia anyway.  Plus it will give me a chance to get my blog post writing legs under me again.  So to speak.  And it's also cold and windy outside.  My cough is better, but there's no sense in making things worse by heading out into the cedar pollen that my area is full of.  Oh yes, we were doing a nostalgia post.  For Decembers of the last 20 years, here's what I was reading:

December 1995 - Killer Pancake by Diane Mott Davidson - This is the 5th book in Davidson's Goldy Schulz, caterer deluxe, series.  In this episode, Goldy is catering a banquet for a cosmetics company.  The only problem is that there are animal rights activists protesting and soon, one of the cosmetics employees is dead.  Goldy, who was supposed to be providing low-fat and also delicious delights, finds herself in the middle of the investigation.  Have you ever read any of Diane Mott Davidson's mysteries?  There are 17 of them, but not one published since 2013.  I believe that this author might have been one of the first to include recipes along with her mystery stories.  When the initial book was published in 1990 (25 years now), I thought that was the most clever thing.  Still do and I always meant to try some of the recipes.  Recently, Ms. Davidson released a new book, which is a cookbook, that I want to read - Goldy's Kitchen Cookbook: Cooking, Writing, Family, Life.  Sounds like fun.

December 2000 - Death Comes As Epiphany by Sharan Newman - This is the 1st book in author Newman's Catherine LeVendeur series - which has 10 books.  Last series entry was published in 2004.  I remember really loving this book, but sadly did not continue reading the series.  I must remedy that.  Catherine LeVendeur is a scholar in 12th century France.  She comes to stay in a convent to consider her sin of pride.  She is then sent on a mission by the Abbess Heloise (yes, that Heloise).  The convent's reputation is at stake, along with the Abbess' and Catherine finds adventure on her quest.  Newman is herself a medieval scholar and this series might compare well with the Cadfael books.

December 2005 - The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini - This is a favorite book of mine that I have read more than once in the last 10 years.  Chiaverini has written many books using quilts and the Elm Creek Quilting group to tell tales and this is the first.  I think she might have finished this series, but she has now turned her attention to mostly historical fiction, which I suspect also contain quilt lore and needlework as part of her storylines.  In Quilter's Apprentice, we first meet Sarah McClure and an older lady who comes to be her mentor, Sylvia Compson.  I love this series and may think about rereading it this next year.  Each book has a bit of a mystery, a lot of drama, and usually relates events from the past through quilting.

December 2010 - Blood Memory by Greg Iles - This is a stand alone book by Iles, though a couple of characters show up in other books.  Cat Ferry is a forensic odontologist and very well thought of.  She has a panic attack at the scene of a crime in New Orleans and goes home to Mississippi to rest.  No rest for the weary or panic stricken though.  What she finds are secrets from her family's past and Greg Iles, being the master Southern storyteller that he is, well, things get complicated.  As is usual for me with this author, I loved it.  I'm not sure he can write a bad book, in my opinion anyway.  The South is full of creepy when you visit it with Greg Iles.

Well, that's it for this edition of Bookish Nostalgia.  As this feature continues in January, our years will move forward as well to 1996-2011.  Looking forward to revisiting my old notebooks to see what I might find.  See you in a week or so for the January 2016 Bookish Nostalgia.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hello again!! I'm back...

Hello everyone!  I hope you've had a joyful, peaceful holiday time while I've been on my break.  Merry Christmas belatedly to all who have celebrated.  I'm looking forward to getting back to blogging and thought I would check in and say 'hi'.

We hosted my husband's family for Christmas Day and it went pretty well.  I've been battling a laryngitis/sinus thing for a week and I'm still not over it.  However, the hubby stepped up and was amazing in doing all those last minute things - like baking cookies and picking up ham and turkey, making dressing, even setting tables and hosting pretty much solo.  I was in the background croaking and blowing my nose.  Honestly, my husband is really the best.

I've been reading pretty steadily, although the usual holiday doldrums came in that regard.  What is it about busy times that makes it so hard to settle to reading?  Anyway, I'm in the midst of a quilting mystery series that I'm having a good time with at the moment.  I'm on book #3, Quilt As You Go, which features a Civil War reenactment and quilt patterns from that era.  I don't sew or quilt, but I've always wished I did.  Reading about it is my compromise.  This series is set in Washington State and so I'm enjoying the descriptions of the scenery as well.  I'll probably write about the series as a whole at a later date.

I'm listening to Asta's Book, written by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell).  My mystery group is having a Rendell/Vine reading month for January and I'm planning on listening to two of her books.  I read this one years ago and remember liking it.  It has a slow start, but that suits me right now.  Any book that includes a mystery and a diary is OK by me.

I'll return later this week to share my December Bookish Nostalgia and also, if I get it put together, my 2015 'Best Of' list.  Next week, I'm planning on getting back to normal in a lot of areas and, hopefully, this sinus thing will be gone by then.  I have been reading your blog posts, although not commenting much at all.  That will change a bit, the commenting part, and I'm looking forward to 2016 and talking books and life with all of you.  I've had a good break, but have missed the chatter and book talk.  Ready to go again??  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A blogging break until 2016!

How's your schedule for the rest of November and December?  Mine is filling up fast.  My desire to blog is still almost non-existent.  So, I'm going to officially take a blogging break until 2016.  That way I won't be stressing about it.  I was out on my back porch a couple of mornings ago, drinking a cup of coffee and taking a picture of the morning fog (see above).  I found myself planning out my day and wondering when I would have time to write anything on this blog or get around to yours and comment.  And as I looked at the peaceful scene in my backyard and watched a deer munching under the trees, I thought...it's time for an official break.  

So, no stress.  No worries.  I'll revisit the issue as December comes to a close.  And I'll be around to see you guys as I can.  

Take care and have a wonderful holiday season!  

Monday, November 2, 2015

Bookish Nostalgia - November 2015

Hello everyone!  Happy November to you!  So how do you feel about November?  For me, it holds my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  Don't get me wrong.  I love Christmas, but Thanksgiving is my favorite.  And I never, ever, ever shop on that weekend.  It's all about being thankful, family, and maybe a little football.  Or maybe more than a little football.  OK, at our house, football is part of Thanksgiving Day.  First the Dallas Cowboys and then the University of Texas Longhorns.  Neither team is having a banner year at all.  Ah well.  Let's see what I remembered best or loved most in Novembers of the past 20 years.

November 1995 - Rosemary Remembered by Susan Wittig Albert - I think I shared in last month's post that 1995 was a time when we were not in our native Texas, but living in Portland, Oregon.  A wonderful place.  However, I was a bit homesick and November's favorite was the 4th book in this author's China Bayles series, set in the fictional Texas Hill Country town of Pecan Springs.  China is a former attorney and herbalist and all the titles have herbs included.  There are now 24 books in the series and I have read exactly 2 of them.  This one finds China investigating the murder of her accountant, Rosemary Robbins.

November 2000 - Dear Stranger, Dearest Friend by Laney Katz Becker - I've shared several times how much I like epistolary novels.  This book tells the story of two women who meet online on a breast cancer support website.  One is in New York and one in the Midwest.  They become great friends and offer each other the encouragement and love that they need at such a scary time.  A very touching book.  I think perhaps that it came out of the author's own experience with cancer.

November 2005 - The Healing Quilt by Lauraine Snelling - I don't really intend to read about women with cancer in November, but this book has a breast cancer storyline as well.  And I have shared that this time of year makes me thankful for so many things.  Perhaps that is why books such as this one and the previous one touch my heart in a special way in November.  The Healing Quilt is the story of Dot Cooper who has a project to raise money for a new mammogram machine for her town.  Her Aunt Teza's test results were inconclusive and Dot wants to help out.  She and her friends will make a wonderful quilt and auction it off.  As they sew, they share their stories.  Another sweet book about friendship and faith.

November 2010 - Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny - This is the 6th book in this author's Three Pines series starring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and it is one of my favorites (well, they are all my favorites, but this one is an extra favorite).  Not everyone likes the Penny books that are not primarily set in Three Pines.  This book takes us to Quebec City in winter where Gamache has gone to heal from injuries suffered in the previous book.  It has a lot of history included and I loved it.  Louise Penny spent a lot of time researching her story and I can remember her sharing in newsletters that she and her husband rented an apartment in Quebec City for several months while she worked.  And I love the cover - the melding of fall and winter - which is November, right?

We come to the end of my November 2015 Bookish Nostalgia.  I hope you enjoyed it.  I certainly did.  I love going back over my lists for previous years and finding which book I'd like to share with you.  Join me next month to see what I was reading in Decembers over the years.    

Saturday, October 31, 2015

R.I.P.X - A summary....

What a fun time it has been to participate, if a little quietly, in R.I.P. X.  I've meant to join in with this event for years and years.  Of course, just when it started, I kind of quit writing reviews.  Ah well.  It's all good.  I am going to use this as a summary post of what I've read during September and October that falls into the R.I.P. category.  And, no, not everything I've read would qualify.  Most things, but not all.  Here's what I read for Peril the First:


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl In The Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

Dust And Shadow by Lyndsay Faye

Salem's Lot by Stephen King

As you can see, I was kind of focused on the Lisbeth Salander books.  The first 3 were re-reads for me in preparation for the 4th.  All good.  Then a little Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes and then some Maine vampires.

Books in Print or E-Books

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan (aka What She Knew in the US - will be published 12/1/15)

Long Upon The Land by Margaret Maron (the last Deborah Knott mystery - #20 - sob!)

After The Storm by Linda Castillo

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

Disclaimer by Renee' Knight

Bliss House by Laura Benedict

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Missing You by Harlan Coben

I managed to read some of the newest books in several of my favorite series and also picked up some new authors.  Bliss House would qualify as horror and Missing You was a book group read.  The goal was to read 4 books in the category and between the audio and regular books, I read 15.  Score!

I totally failed on reading or watching any of the items that I shared in the picture above (which was on my original post).  What is it about making set lists or publicly sharing your 'picks'?  I immediately want to read something else.  Ha!  Well, all of these are still in my home, so maybe next year, right?

I guess the new fall shows in my regular TV watching would qualify for Peril On the Screen.  I watch a lot (really a lot) of crime shows.  And I'm happy that the new season has begun.  I wasn't overly enthused with this summer's Masterpiece Mystery.  There was no Lewis.  I'm waiting for the next season of that show - have to have my Hathaway fix.

Hope everyone else had a good reading time in September and October and you can bet that I'll be joining in again next year.  Here's to R.I.P. XI, yes??

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Salem's Lot Read-a-Long - A Stephen King classic!

I was delighted to participate in the Salem's Lot Readalong that was hosted by the lovely ladies, Melissa, Trish and Care.  Totally delighted.  Thanks to all of them for thinking of it, suggesting it to all of us, and giving me a little push to read this long-loved book by Stephen King.  Also thanks to Melissa for my little extra that she sent.  You can see it in the picture below.

Salem's Lot is the perfect October read.  Truly.  Well, maybe if you don't like vampires, it may not be.  But for me.  Yes, yes, yes.  And as much as I love Edward Cullen (and I do), King's vampires definitely do not sparkle in the sunlight.  Ha!

This was actually the first Stephen King book that I read - way, way, way back when I was a junior in college.  I remember that I was waiting for my car to be serviced at Sears.  I walked over to a nearby grocery store to buy a soft drink and took a look at the paperbacks that were on one of those turning displays.  This was the cover that I saw:

A little creepy, right?  Or maybe more than a little.  I bought the book and started to read.  The first book I ever read that included vampires.  I had not read Dracula at that point and I think my impressions of the Count were tinged with laughter.  Bella Lugosi and company.  This was the time of Young Frankenstein and I thought that 'I want to drink your blood' sounded comical.  Hmmm...not so much to Mr. King.  I honestly remember being pleasantly scared and then not so pleasantly as I continued reading.

I went to college in Abilene, Texas - land of wind and dust storms.  My roommate was gone that weekend and as I read further and further into the story, the wind rose and the screens on the windows rattled.  I think I was at the part where it was apparent that the person had to invite the vampire in.  I heard scratching at the window.  I about jumped out of my bed.  Still a vivid memory.

By the time I finished Salem's Lot, I was a fan of Stephen King.  I went on to read many of his books and The Stand is one of my favorite books ever.  I loved how he took the ordinary - a pet, a car, a flu, a teenage girl that feels left out, a hotel closed for the winter, or even clowns or spiders - and made the situation extraordinary.  He dared to confess that he still thought there might be something under the bed or in the closet or outside the window.  I was happy to know that I wasn't the only one that didn't dangle my arm over the side of the bed or my foot.  I wasn't the only one who always, always looked in the backseat before I got in the car (still do).

I listened to Salem's Lot on audio, read by Ron McLarty.  He did a good job.  The tension was still there.  Maybe not quite so much as when I was 20.  I've learned a lot about horror stories since 1977.

I did notice some fun cultural details that brought back memories.  Everyone smoked so much.  Wow.  That's how it was.  And they smoked everywhere.  Drive-ins.  Used to love the drive-in (and not for that!).  Even little things like 'putting down the phone receiver'.  And who remembers Wolfman Jack?  He might have been the most famous disc jockey of that era.  I could get his show late at night on a radio that I had in my room at home.  Loved his voice.  I've never been to Maine, but I feel that Stephen King made all of us think that the woods were certainly 'dark and deep' there.

I know this hasn't been a review of any sort, just a mishmash of my thoughts.  However, it has whetted my appetite to do some re-reading of my favorite King books.  It's about time for me to visit The Stand again and did you know that Mr. King won an Edgar Award for a book recently, Mr. Mercedes?  Who would have thought it?  Thanks again, Melissa, Trish and Care!  A perfect October read.    

Monday, October 26, 2015

Semi-monthly (?) update - 10/26/15 - mostly what I've been reading....

Hello everyone!  Did you think that I disappeared forever?  Well, I almost did or rather I thought about it.  However, I'm feeling a little motivated this morning to share a bit about what's going on with me and mostly about my reading.  Here's what's up:

Life in General...

Things are still good for me healthwise.  I visited with a nutritionist and she gave me some good feedback, while mostly being really encouraging about what I'm already doing.  It was nice to hear that I'm making good choices.  The weight loss and walking more quest continues.  Isn't it funny how the pounds lost rate slows down when you start moving more?  I know - it's totally normal, but still!  I do feel good and am making it a priority to walk at least 5 days a week.  So far, so good.

We've been out of town a bit lately and will be again in coming weeks.  My area had lots and lots of rain this last weekend, like 10+ inches.  Remnants of Patricia, the hurricane that hit Mexico, plus some other moisture.  It's a good thing that we are used to rain in big bunches.  The flooding was not as bad as earlier in the year.  Seems our drought, which came right after the May floods, is over for 2015.

Life in Reading (Audios)...

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercranz - I ended up enjoying this one.  I could tell it was a different author, but I was satisfied overall.  Simon Vance's narration was lovely, as usual.  More is told about Lisbeth's life prior to meeting Blomkvist.  There was a lot of hacking, the NSA, artificial intelligence info - really an update of the tech stuff that has become a bit out of date since the first books were published.  I liked it and will read another in the series should the author write one.

Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye - I listened to this book to satisfy my mystery book group October commitment.  It's an imagining of Sherlock Holmes investigating the Jack the Ripper killings.  With Dr. Watson narrating, of course.  My group has read another book by Lyndsay Faye - The Gods of Gotham - first in a series about the beginnings of the NYPD.  It was liked by almost all.  I really liked this book as well.  I'm very partial to Victorian mysteries and the author did a bunch of research here.  Also narrated by Simon Vance.

I also finished Salem's Lot by Stephen King, but I'll save my thoughts about that book for another post this week.  Currently, I'm enjoying the 3rd book in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), Career of Evil.  Narrated by Robert Glenister, another wonderful reader.

Life in Reading (E-books or Print)...

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger - Had a good time with this epistolary novel.  Susan Rieger's debut book.  In a previous career, she was an attorney, a law professor, a dean of a law school...you get the idea.  The book is about a young criminal lawyer who gets saddled with handling a divorce case for one of her firm's largest clients or rather his daughter.  I loved the way the story was told.  Perfect for in between a bunch of crime novels.

Disclaimer by Renee' Knight - A decent psychological crime novel.  A woman picks up a book and begins reading and finds the story is about her life.  The usual disclaimer that is present in most books has been crossed out.  This one took a while to get going for me, but in the end, I enjoyed it.  Had hints of the 'secret', but had a good time with the journey.  Some quite odd people here.

Bliss House by Laura Benedict - Perfect book for the fall/spooky season - not exactly a haunted house, but of a sort.  Rainey and her teenage daughter, Ariel, move into Bliss House and are caught up in some very scary events.  They've lost their husband/father in an accident that has injured Ariel and left Rainey with huge amounts of guilt.  Bliss House has had lots of strange goings-on in it's past.  Rainey's family has lived there for many years.  The house kind of takes over their lives and affects all the people who come there, for whatever reason.  I liked it!

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter - Wow, just wow.  OK, I'll confess that I may have warped or traumatized a couple of members of my mystery group years ago by having us read Karin Slaughter's first book, Blindsighted.  Several of them are still talking about it.  Ha!  I was totally caught up in Pretty Girls.  And it was very, very violent and related terrible events.  It was a little hard for even me to take.  However, I persevered.  I don't know that I loved it (can you love a story so twisted?), but I think this author has said what she felt she needed to about violence against women.  Not for the faint of heart.  Will I continue reading her books?  Yep.  Did I wish for Will Trent in this book?  Oh, yes.  Bring back Will!!  

Missing You by Harlan Coben - The discussion book for November at my mystery book group.  I'm not going to say anything else about it, other than that I enjoyed it.  I'll perhaps say more after our book group meeting in early November.  I've loved Coben's Myron Bolitar series.  This is not part of it.  A good standalone that talks about online dating sites, identity theft and cold cases.

Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney - Just finished this one last night.  Another nice in-between book.  Angela, mother of 4 and wife of Nick, always sends a Christmas letter to friends and family.  She and her brood live on an Australian sheep station.  Her kids are mostly grown but her life is still as busy and frantic.  What to write in the letter?  She's always only told positive things, but lately - well, things have been tough.  She decides to write the letter and tell the truth for once.  Not send it, of course, but just have the peace of saying what she really thinks.  And then circumstances interfere - an accident, a hospital visit, life...and the letter gets sent accidentally.  Chaos ensues.  I really like this family drama book.  It was a little long, but I didn't mind that.  I've been reading so much in the spooky, dark range of books, it was time for a little gossip and family upheaval.  And yes, I'd read another book by this author.  And just may soon.

Life in Reading - What's Next...

I'll be back later in the week with at least one post about the Salem's Lot Readalong and also talk about or at least list what I've read for R.I.P.X.   I haven't done much about watching anything for R.I.P.X, but I guess that the crime shows I watch on TV would count.

As to what I'm reading now...well, I started Smoke this morning.  It's by Catherine McKenzie and is about a woman who had a career fighting wildfires.  So far, so good.  Otherwise, my choices will be whatever appeals at the moment.  Hope you are all well and I suspect I may be around a bit more to comment on your blogs if I get a chance this week.  I've been reading them mostly, but just not stopping in to say hi in the comments.  Have a good week!!

Monday, October 5, 2015

To blog or not to blog....that is the question

Just wanted to stop in and say that I am fine.  Reading a lot.  Taking care of myself physically.  And seem to be turning my time to other pursuits for now.  I'm not feeling the 'write about what I read' urge that kept me sitting at the computer for most of this year.  So, I'll stop in if it that reappears.  If it doesn't for a while, I'll still be checking in on what you guys share when you have a chance.  And commenting as I have time.

Not saying this blog is at an end, but posts may be sporadic.  With us moving on into the holiday season, well, lots of things going on.  This always seems to be the time of year that I lose my blogging mojo.  Take care and keep on reading!!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bookish Nostalgia - October 2015

And now we are in a 'real' fall month - October.  I do like October.  It's not usually yet fall in my part of the world - we have a very short fall season, but it is mostly out of the 90's.  And sometimes Halloween is actually nippy or even cold.  We'll see how this year goes.  It's time to share my best remembered books that I read in the years 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010.  You'd think that they would be ghostly or spooky perhaps.  Well, they are at least all mysteries - shocking, I know!  Here we go:

October 1995 - Under The Beetle's Cellar by Mary Willis Walker - This was a local author for me, who wrote about a journalist, Molly Cates, from Austin.  At the time I read this book, we were living in Portland, Oregon.  And I was a bit homesick.  Under The Beetle's Cellar won several mystery awards and honestly, I just remember it scared me.  It was about religious fanatics and an Austin school bus driver who was kidnapped, along with the schoolchildren.  This was only a couple of years after the David Koresh thing in Waco, which weirded all of us out.  I might need to go back and reread Under The Beetle's Cellar.  Time has passed and 20 years later, there have been a lot more strange cult type groups uncovered.  I'm curious as to what my reaction would be now.

October 2000 - Seven Sisters by Earlene Fowler - This is the 7th book in the Benni Harper mystery series that I talked about last week in the 'My Name In Books' post,  I shared that each title of these books is a quilt pattern and that Benni is a quilter and director of a folk art museum.  She's also married to the police chief.  In my reading journal (in which I very rarely wrote notes), I mentioned that this was the 'best Benni Harper book yet and that the characterizations were improving'.  The Seven Sisters is apparently a challenging quilting pattern and the mystery here was also challenging.

October 2005 - California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker - This was a stand alone book by this author and I remember really, really liking it.  In fact, after my library branch agreed to let me start up a mystery book club, it was one of the early books that we read and discussed.  The story of some Orange County, California brothers and their relationship with a girl who is eventually murdered.  It takes place over decades and we see what happens to each brother.  Lots of California culture and history in this one.  I found it fascinating.  Another one I ought to reread.

October 2010 - Crying Blood by Donis Casey - This is the 5th book in Casey's Alafair Tucker mystery series.  Set in early 20th century Oklahoma, it's a series I've mentioned several times.  Crying Blood is primarily Shaw Tucker's tale.  He is Alafair's husband and in this book, Shaw goes hunting with his brother and their sons.  Stuff happens and it's nice to see things from Shaw's point of view.  Shaw is part Native American and there is a whole storyline that follows the lore and legends of the Native people in Crying Blood.  Enjoyed this one very much.

And that's the end of our tour of books for October.  Join me next month when I see what was capturing my attention in November.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Banned? Seriously? But why?

I'm very pleased to be joining in on Sheila's Banned Book Week event at Book Journey.  As a former library employee, I certainly have my own opinions about banned books and we always highlighted some of the so-called 'banned' books during my time there.  I used to love doing a big display of some of the books and then watching them be picked up and checked out during that week.  Doing my little part to see that those books or ones like them circulated.

So, you may be asking - what are banned or challenged books?  They are books or materials that someone wishes to remove from the library shelves or restrict in some manner.  Here's a link to the American Library Association's website.  And here's a link to several lists of frequently challenged books.  In my years of working at a library, I talked about books with patrons all the time.  Sometimes, people would have a question about a certain book - was it appropriate for children or was it shelved in the most appropriate location?  Occasionally, someone would ask how they could get the library to remove a book from the shelf permanently.  I don't think I ever thought that anyone did this with bad intentions.  More often than not, it was about their children and about protecting them from what they perceived as 'bad things'.

One of my first questions was always, 'have you read the book yourself?'.  Sometimes the answer was yes, often it was no.  Sometimes I would have personal knowledge of the book or material mentioned, having read it myself.  Sometimes not.  I was not the manager of my branch and so I would pass along information about how they could pursue their challenge if they wanted to.  However, there were times when I could talk them through their uncertainty and provide information enough to satisfy them.  I always suggested that they read any book that had been assigned to their child or indeed that their child wanted to read, if they had concerns.  I would explain that in my experience, tough topics learned about together with your child could provide much food for discussion.  I would relate my own experience as a parent and try to find common ground.  I would also suggest that if their child had been assigned a book at school and they, as the parent, genuinely felt uncomfortable with it, talk to the teacher and ask for a substitute book.  It would always be given.

Occasionally, a patron would be angry and belligerent regarding some library material.  Usually, these individuals were not interested in discussion - they just wanted their way.  Happily, we didn't have too many of those instances.  The assistant manager of my branch was on a committee that considered challenges that had been bumped up the line to the library director's office and they met monthly, read the books or materials challenged, and then made recommendations to the director for her decision-making process.

Did I ever see a book banned while I was there?  I honestly can't remember one.  I did see a few items removed from the children's section and moved to the adult shelves.  One in particular, and I can't remember the name but it was about women's bodies, I felt was a good decision.  It was still available, but not so easily picked up by a child.

So, take a look at the books most frequently challenged in 1990-1999.  And the books most frequently challenged in 2000-2009.  From these lists, I'd like to recommend 10 books for your enjoyment and edification.  You are probably at least familiar with several of these.  In my opinion, they are all worthwhile.  And Happy Banned Books Week!!

by Shel Silverstein

by Roald Dahl

by Caroline B. Cooney

by Katherine Paterson

by Laurie Halse Anderson

by Anonymous

by David Guterson

by John Grisham

by Ken Follett

by John Steinbeck
(Austin's Mayor's Book Club Read for 2015)