Category Archives: I heart books

Chuck Wendig in the flesh

Yeah, I’ve have been slacking with the blog lately. Too much going on with life, the family, the day job… Then there’s the recent horrible events here in Orlando which I still don’t have the strength to write about. In fact, I haven’t written much at all over the last month. Mea culpa.

I DID have a chance to meet sci-fi and urban fantasy author extraordinaire Chuck Wendig at the Orlando Book Festival at the Orlando Public Library. Chuck is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, and the Heartland YA series, alongside other works across comics, games, film, and more.

But, many of us in the writing community know him best as our beloved foul-mouthed writing guru and author of the blog Terrible Minds. Seriously, he’s like our Yoda. Only taller. And I’m guessing minus the secret bad ass lightsaber skills. (Although he does write Star Wars books, so he may whip out some sabers as he plots in his writing shed.) His no-nonsense posts inspire legions of Penmonkies, driving us to sit our butts in the chair, keep on writing, and not stab our eyeballs out. And laugh. The man is funny.

And he is just as affable in person. Seriously.

The Kick Ass Writer

Writer that I am (ahem), I had him sign The Kick Ass Writer. My hubby had him sign a couple of his favorite novels, then bought a stack more for Chuck to inscribe.

Chuck began his keynote speech by saying he’d considered starting with a moment of silence, but then he realized that writers and artists are not at their best when silent. Six days before, 49 people had been killed and 53 injured at the Pulse Nightclub, a few blocks away.  (If you haven’t read his Recipe for a Shooting. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Some of the nuggets of wisdom he doled out to the audience of eager Padawans writers and readers:

  • Telling your parents you want to be a writer is like telling them you want to be a unicorn farmer.
  • In the game of writing, no one knows what their doing. (You’re not alone!)
  • Writing is a game of perseverance. It can be like putting a bucket on your head and head-butting a wall. Either you or the wall will fall down eventually.
  • Care less. Your writing and your life will improve. (And you’ll be less likely to start head-butting walls like a drunken billy goat.)
  • The man can write 30k words in a weekend. That is NOT a typo. THIRTY THOUSAND WORDS IN A WEEKEND. Forget man–he’s a myth. No, a legend.
  • And while we’re on the subject of writing faster than the speed of light, he wrote his first Star Wars book, Aftermath, in ONE MONTH. This was not planned. The publisher kept moving the release day up. The book hit the shelves exactly one year to the day after he tweeted about how he’d like to work on a Star Wars book. Note: this in NOT how anyone else will every procure a publishing deal. Like ever.
  • His measly little blog Terrible Minds get about 10k hits per day. Guess a few folks want to read his rants about writing. And food. And his kid. And don’t mind his creative use of naughty language.

 Chuck 2

Don’t bash the hair. The humidity hovered around 300% in downtown O-town that day. Between sessions, I’d made the pilgrimage to the makeshift memorial filling the grassy lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts just blocks away.

I had to see it with my own eyes. I had to honor those we’d lost. I had to let my heart bleed.

You see, even as I watched the coverage on TV, it didn’t feel real. The 24-hour news feed running “Orlando Massacre” and “America’s Deadliest Mass Shooting” played like a reality show. How could this happen here? We’re the land of fucking Mickey Mouse, fairy dust, and overpriced Harry Potter wands. Not mass shootings. Until now.

I’m going to get off this tangent. I don’t want to write about it. The wounds are too fresh.Pulse shooting, Orlando Massacre, Pulse Memorial, Dr Phillip's Center

Now back to good stuff.

My husband joined me for the Chuck meet & greet keynote speech. He has a thing for signed books (and comics, and photos…you get the drift). He brought along a handful of books, then had to buy a few more because the temptation was just. too. great.

Back at home, our 12-year-old eyeballed the hubby’s loot, and thought Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy Book 1) looked like a good read. Kiddo is pretty bright and an avid reader. But ready for his first “adult” book? And that book be one of Chuck’s? (As I mentioned, the man is infamous for his potty mouth.)

Then I realized that age 12 I was about to start on my Stephen King kick. That shut me up.

Kiddo ended up reading Chuck’s Star Wars: Aftermath first.

Read whatever you want, my child. If books are the most corrupting element in your tween life, we’re doing okay.












Spreading Some Love Between the Covers

“Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful.
And so are the women who write them.”

Last spring I wrote about how I was dying to watch LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS, a feature-length indie documentary film that explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance? I finally attended a screening thanks to the fine folks at the Orlando Public Library. I left inspired, enlightened, and I may have had a watery eye from time to time.

Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of the vast, funny, and savvy female community that has built a powerhouse industry sharing love stories. Romance fiction is sold in 34 languages on six continents, and the genre grosses more than a billion dollars a year–outselling mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet the millions of voracious women (and sometimes men) who read, write, and love romance novels have remained oddly invisible. Until now. For three years, the film follows the lives of five very diverse published romance authors and a unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with a tsunami of change in publishing, and earn a living doing what they love—while empowering others to do the same.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

Many aspects of the film had me in awe. Bella Andre writes 25 pages a day?!!

The segments following the video diary of aspiring romance author Joanne Lockyer had me feeling all swishy inside. I found myself discretely dabbing the corners of my eyes after she saw her book, her quest, her baby in print for the first time in all its tangible beauty.

There were so many more nuggets of goodness, conversations about diversity, desire, power shifts, and how to write a damn good book.

I tried to jot down a few of my favorite quotes as I watched, but alas, as I read over my chicken scratch, I’ve realized that these should more be considered paraphrases. My profound apologies if any of these are too far off. (Feel free to kill me off in your next book if I offend.)

We’re not looking for a stupid heroine … we’re looking for a story where the woman has her shit together and the man is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Beverly Jenkins

Loyalty, love, loss, courage–all books in ALL genres circle around to these eternal themes.

Eloisa James

I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.

Len Barot/Radclyffe

Yes it’s a fantasy. But so are Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. It’s no great surprise that he never dies in the end. So what’s wrong with our
Happily Ever After?

Beverly Jenkins

This is the one place where you will consistently find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively.

Sarah Wendell


But one of the main themes of the movie was the camaraderie. Through RWA (Romance Writers of America), these women, be them multi-millionaire business builders or publishing-shy newbies, shared a refreshing desire to share what they know to help others succeed. (I also see this in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, but this wasn’t their movie. Go WFWA!) They stress that there’s no finite number of readers, so we can publish an infinite number of stories.

After the movie screening, the Orlando Public Library hosted romance panel discussions about Tropes We Love and Hate and Vampires and Angels and Weres, Oh My!, followed by a book signing featuring local romance writers.


pro rwa


I’m offically a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Come on in. There’s room for you here too.


10 Things I Learned During an Evening with Bill Bryson

1. I can make Bill Bryson laugh!

Bill Bryson Rollins College book signing

No, that doesn’t count. To be honest, I simply cannot recall what witty quip I must have whipped out to cause the celebrated travel, science, and historical writer to chuckle, but I have the picture to prove I said something good.

During Notes from All Over: An Evening with Bill Bryson, the writer entertained the crowds with his renowned brand of cerebral yet homespun humor. Before a packed house at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, Bryson spun tales about his life between readings from some of his well known works, sparking alternating bouts of laughter and applause. I’ve binged on his audiobooks recently, so listening to him read passages from A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, and his new release The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain truly brought the books to life. The evening proved that America and Britain’s bastion of curmudgeonly wanderlust is just as charming, hilarious, and endearing off the page as he is on.

Some highlights:

1. On how to avoid a bear attack: wear bells so the bears know you’re coming. And keep your eyes open for bear scat on the ground. It’s easy to spot — it has bells in it.

2. When a British bookstore author questionnaire asked what he would like people to say about him 100 years from now: “Well, at least he was still sexually active.”

3. He’s never thought of writing fiction.

4. Reviewers of his new book,The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, have written that he’s far grumpier than he use to be. He used this as a segway into reading a passage from the book, a cautionary tale regarding the horrors of ordering for a large family at McDonald’s with grossly incompetent staff.

5. He profoundly curious and always does his own research. Writing is a difficult art, but through research, one gets to enjoy the joy of discovery. You never know what you’ll find.

6. On embellishment in his writing: it depends on which of the two types of books he’s writing. Ernest books of information have no embellishment. They’re meant to be reliable sources of information. However, when writing of his personal adventures, he freely expands and uses hyperbole or it wouldn’t be funny. He suspects his readers are intelligent enough to tell the difference.

7. He had nothing to do with making the movie version of A Walk in the Woods, having sold the rights to Robert Redford over a decade ago. The movie was supposed to reunite Paul Newman and Robert Redford for the first time since The Sting, but Paul got sick, and the movie was put on the back burner. When Redford decided to go forward with the production, Bryson wasn’t involved with the script writing. Bryson watched the movie for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival. He sat between his wife and Redford, and found it insane because there was Redford on the screen answering to his name.

8. Bryson thought the film somewhat accurately reflected his book until one particularly awkward scene. “Bryson” on film began flirting with a hotel-keeper (portrayed by Mary Steenburgen) and there’s obvious chemistry. He felt the strong need to lean over to his wife and swear this scene was not in the book and it never happened.

9. He sent his friend Katz (not his real name) the manuscript for A Walk in the Woods because he felt a bit bad that he’d portrayed him as such a buffoon (even though he was a total buffoon). Katz read the manuscript and said it was funny, but all fiction. Bryson walked him through each scene, and Katz fessed up to each antidote. Then how was it fiction? According to his Appalachian Trail companion, the stories were all true, but it was just fiction in the way Bryson told them.

10. Bryson’s greatest regret in life is not completing the (somewhere around) 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail hike. He never hiked or even saw Mount Katahdin, regarded to be the most difficult climb in the entirety of the A.T. Someday. Maybe.

Bonus: When asked what inspires him to write: bills.

Bill Bryson signed copy a short history of everything

My son’s first signed book!

And that, my friends, is the witty and wonderful Bill Bryson. If you haven’t read his books, you absolutely must. I highly recommend the audiobooks.

Some of my favorites:

And next in my queue:

5 Things I Learned During an Evening with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan

An Evening with Rainbow Rowell and Devid LevithanWriters are my rock stars. I am not afraid to admit I am an unabashed Rainbow Rowel fangirl. And when the Orange County Public Library hosted An Evening with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan, over four hundred writer-groupies drove from across the state to get up close and personal with two of the hottest names in YA fiction.

Rainbow is on tour for her latest release, Carry On, a Potter-eque/Twilight mashup story that delves into the fanfic world Cath created in the novel Fangirl. (Read both. Love both. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READS.)  David is promoting Another Day, a retelling of his previous bestseller Every Day told from Rhainnon’s point of view. Both novels are considered “companion” stories opposed to sequels, made to stand alone (though I recommend reading Fangirl before Carry On).

The dynamic duo entertained the crowd of booksworms with an hour of engaging conversation and readings from their new releases, followed an hour of Q&A.

rainbow rowell and david levithan at Orange County Public Library

Then came the book signings. Previously, the longest line I’d ever seen for a book singing had been for Queen of Romance Nora Roberts at the RWA Literacy Signing. This one beat it by a mile, but Rainbow and David stayed as long as it took to sign every books. (One public school librarian hauled a bag filled with every book by Rainbow and David in her school’s collection to autograph!)

rainbow rowell book signingThis fuzzy pic shows the people ahead of me when I finally made it to the line. There were just as many people behind me. And they’d been signing for at least 45 minutes.


 5 Things I Learned During an Evening with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan

1. Rainbow’s voice in real life is as funny, quirky,  and accessible as her voice is in her books. Seriously. I wanted to beg her to move next door so we could sip wine after a day of writing and I could stealthily siphon some of her literary juju. Rainbow and David bantered like best friends hanging out, who just happened to have an audience of hundreds hanging on their every word. Oh, and neither mind swearing.

2. Fangirl was a NANO book. Rainbow wrote the first chunk of that favorite during November’s National Novel Writing Month. She still uses daily word counts to get her shit done. She and David disagreed on this one. He’s all quality, not quantity.

3. Rainbow is a semi-plotter. She starts with a basic 1 1/2 page outline, whereas David is a total panster, letting the characters lead him where they want to go.

4. Eleanor & Park was not intended to be a YA novel, but her publisher marketed it that way in the U.S. When writing her first novel, Rainbow wanted to explore a first love story set in a place she held deep in her memory. As she commented during the program, no one else knew Omaha in the mid-eighties like she did: the neighborhoods, the hangouts, the music. She wanted to capture that unique place and time before she forgot. In a high school that was either black or white, she’d always wondered what it would be like to be one of the four Asian kids in her school. She’d looked back to that one cool Asian kid on her bus, and tried to imagine his life.

5. Rainbow, admittedly, writes better than she reads aloud. (Don’t we all?) The pair funked things up by switching gender rolls when reading from David’s Another Day. Rainbow read as Soul A (a boy), while David read as Rhiannon. This gender-bending was deliberate, not just for laughs. Both authors write gay characters indiscriminately, reflecting a fresh perspective for teens and adults alike. The laughs came when they read from Rainbow’s Carry On. David read chosen-boy Simon’s role and Rainbow voiced brooding possible-vampire Gaz. Sound effects and flubbed lines ensued. The selected passage contained an actual sword.Yet when read aloud, both authors and audience picked up on some “swordplay” of another variety as the characters attempted to outsmart each other with witty remarks and counter-moves, while fighting their growing romantic feelings for each other. Everyone laughed, and Rainbow swore that Simon’s sheathing and unsheathing of his blade had not been written with ulterior motives.

Rainbow rowell


david levithan
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
#1 New York Times best seller!

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here–it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

Another Day by David Levithan

The eagerly anticipated companion to David Levithan’s New York Times bestseller Every Day

In this enthralling companion to his New York Times bestseller Every Day, David Levithan (co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green) tells Rhiannon’s side of the story as she seeks to discover the truth about love and how it can change you.

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person . . . wasn’t Justin at all


Thanks to the Orange County Public Library for a delightful evening!

#Friday Reads: Mary Kubica, Taylor Jenkins Reid, & Jane Graves

friday reads 2

I read too much. Wait, no, I retract that statement. You can NEVER read TOO MUCH. Though I work at a library fondling handling books all day, I never have an opportunity to crack open a cover while on the clock. And in my “spare time” at home I’m bouncing on my yoga ball while attempting to coax words onto the computer screen. So reading is saved for work breaks and nighttime relaxation. Usually.  I still manage to squeeze it in. Priorities.

My time to write glowing reviews is zilch, yet I’m still reading SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS! Friday Reads is my quick way to share a short snippet of the books that keep me reading well past my bedtime and urge me to continue on my own writing journey. If I include a book, I’m recommending it to friends. (And you, my dear readers.)

This Friday Reads highlights books I read in August. Though this post disappeared in my draft folder for a few months, these are books I thoroughly enjoyed, so I still want to share the love.  (See, I told you I’ve been short on time!)

Pretty Baby
by Mary Kubica

When a compassionate Chicago wife and mother sees a teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms, she is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.


Genre: thriller
Print Length: 381 pages
Publication Date: July 28, 2015


Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Aimless wanderer Hannah Martin’s fate hinges on the choice she makes after bumping into an old flame one night in L.A. Uniquely told in alternating chapters, we see two possible scenarios unfold—with stunningly different results. As the two alternate realities run their course, we’re left to wonder if  anything is meant to be? How much in life is determined by chance? And is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Print Length: 353 pages
Pub Date: July 7, 2015


Baby, It’s You (Rainbow Valley #2) by Jane Graves

Runaway bride Kari escapes to the Texas Hill country and lands on a tall, dark, and gorgeous winery owner’s doorstep. All she needs is a job and a place to live until she can get back on her feet. Marc has devoted his life to managing the family wine business and being a single dad. Now with his daughter away at college and his brother taking over the winery, Marc is ready to enjoy his freedom, but when irresistible passion turns into something more, will Marc give up his future to take a chance on love?

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
Pub Date: May 27, 2014

What’s your Friday Read?


(not so) Trivial Tuesday: Banned Books Week Quiz

Banned Books Week take two!

For those of you who checked out this week’s earlier post on this book loving celebration of our freedom to read, this quiz should be easy!  (For those of you who somehow missed it, click here and check out 2014’s Most Challenged Books and the Most Challenged Classics.)

How much do you know about banned and challenged books?



Banned Books Week quiz


READ BANNED BOOKS – Top Ten Banned Books 2014

Censorship is wrong. Period.

If a person doesn’t like something in a book, than THEY don’t have to read it.  But they have no right to restrict another person’s access to information and ideas.

Banned Books Week (September 27−October 3, 2015) is an annual event celebrating open access to information and the freedom to read. During Banned Books Week, the entire book community— librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types—join in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some may consider unorthodox or unpopular. (Those are usually the best ones!)

Banned Book Week 2015 graphic

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions.
It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”

-Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

We all have the freedom to choose what we read and the freedom to express our opinions even if that opinion might be considered risque, or dare I say wrong. Want to learn about history? Read about it, even the dirty little subversive parts. Schoolbooks often gloss over our “glorious” past and humans have been known to be a nasty, blood-thirsty race. Those who don’t learn about all parts of our history are doomed to repeat it. (Sorry, I’ll get down off my pulpit. Oh, wait, I have the freedom of speech and this is my blog, so I can write whatever I want.)

Banned Books Week often makes me think of a button I pinned to my backpack in college days:

minds are like parachutes

So why do people “challenge” books, and try to keep others from reading them? Often challenges are motivated by a “desire to protect children from “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language”. Sorry, but as a parent, you can decide what your kids read, but not mine.

According to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, the top three reasons reported for challenging books:

  1. the material was considered to be “sexually explicit”
  2. the material contained “offensive language”
  3. the materials was “unsuited to any age group”

By whose standards and authority?

Certainly not the First Amendment.

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment,
it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply
because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” 

-Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Texas v. Johnson 

Below is the ALA’s list of the top ten challenged books last year. It’s a bizarre mix of children’s picture books, graphic novels, and powerful novels that will make you laugh, cry, and, heaven forbid, THINK.

And you know what I find pee-in-your-pants funny?  None of the graphic and sexually explicit best-sellers of the last few years (hello Fifty Shades!) are on the list. Ahem. I guess if you’re reading it under the covers, it’s okay, bondage and all. No double-standards around here.

Anyway, check these horribly inappropriate books your library. Buy them at your local bookstore or even Amazon. Tell those closed-minded tight-asses that they will not take away your rights just because a passage in a book may conflict their beliefs.



The top ten challenged books for 2014:

1) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, this book chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live. Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”


2) Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s powerful memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions #1 Best Seller n Literary Graphic Novels


3) And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

The heartwarming true story of two penguins who create a nontraditional family. (Narrated by award-winning actor Neil Patrick Harris in this book and CD package!)  Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”


4) The Bluest Eye , by Toni Morrison

A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing. Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”


5) It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health , by Robie Harris

For two decades, this universally acclaimed book on sexuality has been the most trusted and accessible resource for kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and anyone else who cares about the well-being of tweens and teens. Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”


6) Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Winner of the 2013 Hugo award for Best Graphic Story. When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.


7) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, this beautifully crafted novel is set in a country in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies. Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence


8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

One of my recently read favorites, this cult-favorite coming of age story takes a sometimes heartbreaking, often hysterical, and always honest look at high school in all its agonizing glory. Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”


9) A Stolen Life: A Memoir, Jaycee Dugard

Kidnapped at age eleven and held captive for eighteen years, Jaycee tells her story in an unblinking and harrowing narrative. Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group



10) Drama by Raina Telgemeier

When drama and romance—both onstage and off—cause problems, middle schooler Callie finds that set design may be the easiest part of putting on a play. – Reasons: sexually explicit



Check out this cool infographic provided by the American Library Association. (And visit their website for tons of Banned Book Week information and goodies.)

Most challenged books 2014 #BannedBooksWeek



And just for fun, here’s another ALA list of subversive and inappropriate books (according to some schmucks, not the ALA). According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts. (Those omitted have not been officially challenged.)  Find the ridiculous reasons here.

How many have you read?


Banned and Challenged Classics

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell

11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin

38. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren

40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

57. Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron

64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence

66. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence

80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer

84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser

97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

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DIY Book Fairy Costume

This time last year I sat at my laptop pondering my costume options. It was my first year working at the library on Halloween, and I was finally given the go-ahead to dress up like I haven’t done in eons.

But what to wear?

I love books. I love writing. And it had to be work-appropriate. (None of those NSFW hooker costumes for me, thanks.) Who better to be than a BOOK FAIRY? I imagined myself fluttering between the stacks sprinkling fairy dust, bestowing books upon grateful patrons.  (Okay, so maybe I snorted some of that fairy dust by accident.)

A Book Fairy I’d be. But how?

How to make a Book Fairy Costume--this is adorable! Perfect Halloween costume for book lovers, teachers, and librarians!

I scanned Pinterest and found a few examples Book Fairies, Library Fairies, and a cute Diction-fairy. Perfect. Now how to make the wings?

I rang a bell, but nothing happened. (Oh wait, that’s an angel gets her wings…) No magic would help me. I had to murder a book. Mea culpa.

I Instagrammed this pic while doing the dirty deed:

murdered book

And my book loving friends and followers united in their animosity.

But seriously, this was a donated book past its prime. It had lived a good life. And I like to think of it as recycling. Upcycling. Okay, I still felt an itty bitty bit guilty ripping the pages from the spine, but it had to be done. It wasn’t like boiling a live lobster.

The repressed Crafty-Girl in me had a blast designing the wings, cutting out favorite fairy tale passages to highlight, and making everything sparkle. Figuring out how to attach the wings AND make the straps adjustable for comfort—well, that straddled the line between mystery and adventure, but I figured out how to get my Happily Ever After. You can always cobble your own set of wings together with a nose twitch, duct tape, and shoelaces, but the method below worked for me.

(Please pardon the dorky pics. My hubby snapped a few photos before I ran to work, and of course, I was too shy to pose at the library!)

DIY Book Fairy Costume--love it!!

How to Make Book Fairy Wings


  • large hardback book (I used a 9×9 book, but any size larger than a paperback should work)
  • 2 sheets poster board
  • 3 to 4 yards sturdy ribbon
  • glue (Elmer’s or craft glue)
  • clear packing tape
  • scissors
  • Foam Paint Brush
  • hole punch (optional: Self-Adhesive Reinforcement Labels)
  • Awl or small screwdriver (to make hole in book cover)
  • optional:  spray glitter, regular glitter, or any other extra decorating elements


1.  Carefully rip the pages from the book binding. (Mutter apologies and try not to cry.) Set aside.

2. Draw wing template. I freehand drew mine—it doesn’t have to be perfect!  Start by placing the book on one sheet of poster board. Decide what wing shape you want (I went for butterfly) and in pencil, draw an outline of the wing. Make it as tall as the poster board, so you have plenty of wingspan, and make sure the inside edges are smaller than the height of the book.

fairy wing template, butterfly wing template

3. Like your wing design? Good. Cut it out. Use it as a template to cut out your other wing.

4. Rip or cut up your book pages. Creativity level is up to you. If you’re using a special book, maybe you’ll want to have favorite paragraphs or lines highlighted on your wings. If you’re using a book with small print, it might not make a difference. You can have rough edges, cut pages into scale or feather shapes—go crazy. If you’re in a rush—who cares—just get those pages ready to glue.  (Since I had a large print book of fairy tales and I am a total dork, I artfully tore favorite passages from stories such as The Velveteen Rabbit, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, etc. You don’t have to go through nearly as much trouble.)

5. In a small bowl, pour glue. Add a tiny bit of water to make it easier to spread. (No more than 3 parts glue to 1 part water). Now, using the sponge brush, coat each book page and glue it to the wings–front and back. It’s like decoupage. You can be as creative as you’d like.  Once both sides are covered, let your wings dry for several hours or overnight. (They’ll harden, yet still remahow to make book fairy wingsin slightly flexible when dry).

6. Meanwhile… Using your awl or something sharp and pointy, punch four holes in the back of your book cover. Make sure holes go all the way through the back cover only.

7. Have dry wings? Good. Hold them up to the holes you made in the book cover, mark the holes, then punch holes in your wings about 1 inch from the inner edge. (Hole punch does this nicely.) Strengthen the wing holes using reinforcement labels and/or tape.

8. Cut about 1.5 yards of ribbon for each wing. (My wing holes were 7 inches apart. If you have a taller book, you’ll need more.)  NOW PAY ATTENTION: the tricky part is coming up! With the inside of the book cover facing you (wings outside), thread about 1 foot of ribbon through the top hole, leaving it dangling outside. (This will be one of your adjustable ties.) Thread the rest through the inside bottom hole. Make a large loop on the outside of your wings (I used 2 feet) and thread it into the top (outside) hole (where you have that 1 foot of ribbon dangling). This will be your arm strap. Still with me? Pull ribbon somewhat snugly inside (but leaving that 2 foot loop outside) and thread end again through bottom hole.

It should now look like this:


INSIDE with two loops


OUTSIDE—two strings to pull to adjust the length of the big loop, a.k.a. shoulder strap

Got that? The purpose of all these loops is to make the shoulder straps adjustable. We’re all different sizes, and if you’re like me and wearing these babies all day, you want to be comfortable.

Now, Tie the strings in a pretty bow (yes, it can be ugly or pathetic—it won’t really show) and test out your wing sizing. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just close.

{NOTE: If your craft-cussing, spatially-challenged hands are a-flapping right now because this seems WAY too complicated, relax. You can always pick your strap size, thread each end into a hole, then tie a nice granny knot and be done with it.}

Yes, the book cover will be flapping open. We’ll take care of that next.

9. GLUE. Glue the covers together. Use good craft glue if you have it. Depending on the inside cover paper type, hot glue may or may not work. (My paper was glossy, so the hot glue didn’t hold.) Make sure no glue goes near your ribbon straps–we want this part to remain adjustable, remember, so limit your glue to around the edges. Now is also a great time to glue your wings to the cover of the book. I used heavy duty craft glue and clear packing tape to secure them.

Let it all dry.

10. Do a final wing sizing. Figure out the rest of your costume. Literary-themed dress or skirt? Fairy-like gossamer gown? Vintage dress?  (I found the dress I’m wearing at a Salvation Army back in college. Think it was a homemade 1970s bridesmaid dress!)  Funky steampunk leather and tights? The options and themes are endless!!!!

You can dress up your wings with glitter or rhinestones, as well. I had bought some metallic gold hairspray, but after reading the warning labels, decided it would destroy/incinerate/permanently discolor my hair. So I sprayed it on my wings, adding a delightful golden patina to the pages. It doesn’t show well in photos, but the subtle sparkle is absolutely perfect!

book wings

I added a tiara studded with aqua Book Page Roses—love!

Book page tiara--I wish I'd had one of these for my wedding!

I updated a gold leaf crown from an old Greek goddess costume, adding homemade blue book flower roses. Wish I’d had one of these for my wedding!


Lovely book page flower pendant


An extra Book Page Rose turned into a delicate pendent.


And this cheesy wand I made in less than two minutes.



Have fun! Make it magical! And spread your book love on Halloween!

Perfect Halloween costume for librarians, teachers, and book lovers!


150+ Life-changing Books (a list by ALA Think Tank Librarians)

Librarians love to talk about books. LOVE. You’d think we do that all day long, but for some of us, chatting with patrons about books is a rare and cherished perk of the job.

So what happens when you ask an active Facebook group of librarians about the books that have changed their lives?


You get answers. A mind-blowing amount of suggestions, both fiction and nonfiction.

Some of these profound books I’ve read, others are on my never ending TBR list, and at least a dozen I’ve never even heard of and I must discover.

lifechanging books

This list’s utter lack of organization is made up for by its richness and diversity. Sorry kids, but I didn’t have time to catalog by Dewey today. This compilation was copied/pasted straight from Facebook, so please forgive duplicates.

The results (in no particular order):

Night by Elie Weisel

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

Bury My Heart at Wounded Kneeby Dee Brown

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

The Stand by Stephen King

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Grace in the Wilderness by Aranka Siegel

Winnie the Pooh, The stories of Beatrix Potter, Saint Maybe, Jacob Have I Loved, Beloved, No God But God,  A Fine Balance, Wuthering Heights, Zealot, The Art of Loving, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Leaves of Grass be Walt Whitman

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Nausea by Sartre

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky,

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

The Dark Is Rising

Just Above My Head

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle

Les Miserables (Victor Hugo), Julian (Gore Vidal) The Truth About Stories (Thomas King), Archive Fever (Jacques Derrida)

Time Enough For Love by Heinlein

Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willet

The Likeness by Tana French

Waiting by Ha Jin

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Little, Big by John Crowley

Sandman by Neil Gaiman

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Dandelion Wine and Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

From the Teeth of Angels and A Child Across the Sky by Jonathan Carroll

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

The poetry of Pablo Neruda

the entire Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp. Also Art and Fear by David Bayles, Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression by Jana Evans Braziel, and The Zen of Creativity by John Daido Loori

Also Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The short stories of Jonathan Carroll

Black Boy, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Immigrant Series by Howard Fast, Love Story by Erich Segal, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep by Joyce Dunbar

Catcher in the Rye

Dandelion Wine & Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Cloud Atlas

The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read

A Field of Buttercups by Joseph Hyams

Little Women

Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath

Stone Fox

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock

The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Outsider, Albert Camus. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad. And a YA novel about schizophrenia called Meeting Rozzy Halfway, by Caroline Leavitt

Things Fall Apart; Siddhartha; The Stranger; Me Talk Pretty One Day

The Horsemasters by Don Stanford

Anthem by Ayn Rand

The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoyevsky)

The Diversity of Life (E. O. Wilson)

Bastard Out of Carolina

1984 and Brave New World

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

The Sneetches. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The Outsiders. The Stand. The Handmaid’s Tale. Letters of a Woman Homesteader. A People’s History of the United States. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E Butler

Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation by Mary Daly

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Same Kind of Different as Me

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Positive by Paige Rawls

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

The Front Runner

The Color Purple

The Other Man Was Me

Diving Into the Wreck



Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

World Enough and Time: on Creativity and Slowing Down by Christian McEwan

Peace is every step, Sherlock Holmes, Istanbul and Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Animal Farm, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451

You Can Save the Animals” by Ingrid Newkirk

Cat’s Eye by Margret Atwood, Eva Luna by Isabell Allende, everything by Tom Robbins, Bruce Chatwin and Terry Pratchett

Gifted Hands

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Last Exit to Brooklyn

The Orphan Master’s Son

Naked In The Promised Land by Lillian Faderman

Assata by Assata Shakur

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The Bridges of Madison County

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

As a Man Thinketh. The Book of Mormon. Seven habits of highly effective people. Outliers. Bridge to Terrabithia.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

The Name of the Wind

House of Leaves

Follow My Leader by James Garfield

Man’s Search For Meaning–Victor Frankl

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Velveteen Rabbit

David Copperfield, the Book of Mormon, and The Book Thief.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

Infinite Jest

The Wealthy Barber

The Incredible Journey of Edward Tulane

Biography of a face by Lucy Grealy

Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson

Looking for Alaska- John Green

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler; Faitheist : How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, by Chris Stedman; Biological Exuberance by Bruce Bagemihl; The Birthday of the World and other stories by Ursula K. Le Guin; The Brothers Lionheart and Ronia the Robbersdaughter – both by Astrid Lindgren

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

One by Richard Bach

People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn



Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky

e.e. cummings and David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary.
Toni Morrison, yes to A Handmaid’s Tale, Adrienne Rich, Alice Munro…

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Thank you, ALA Think Tank members, for your amazing suggestions! 

Readers: what books changed your view of the world?

Love Between the Covers (& some contest love!)

First, a bit of braggy news: my women’s fiction (with elements of romance) manuscript, THE LAST RESORT, is a finalist in the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America’s FAB FIVE contest! The Silver Quill Award winner will be announced in June.

Fab Five Finalist

::fingers crossed::

Speaking of romance, have you heard about LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS? This feature-length indie documentary film explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance. The film covers the story of five very different authors (whose day jobs include surgeon and Shakespeare professor) as they invite us inside the vast romance community that runs a powerhouse industry on the cusp of an irreversible power shift.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

I don’t know about you, but I need to figure out how to see this film.

I’m also going to check out The site showcases romance novels in a broad context across time and place—with a huge archive of Love Between the Covers interview excerpts, teaching resources, and blogs by romance authors, scholars and industry insiders.

And for those of you who still live under the delusion that romances are just trashy, cheap paperbacks written for those who “can’t read a real book”, a few stats:

Total Romance Novel Sales in 2013: $1.1 billion
That’s roughly one-fifth of all adult-fiction sales.

Voracious Readers
46% of romance consumers read at least one book per week.
In comparison, the typical American reads five books a year.
Romance Readers At A Glance
Age: 30-54
Education: College-educated
Average Income: $55K
Relationship Status: 59% are coupled, 84% are women, 16% are men
*Romance readers are more likely than the general population to be currently married or living with a partner

Top 10 Fiction Genres
1. $1.09 billion, Thrillers
2.$1.08 billion, Romance
3. $811 million, General
4.$548 million, Literary
5.$442 million, Mystery & Detective
6.$377 million, Fantasy
7.$185 million, Comics & Graphic Novels
8.$156 million, Historical
9.$143 million, Contemporary Women
10.$113 million,Action & Adventure

Reading Behavior
29% of romance readers usually carry a romance novel with them.
Romance readers typically begin and finish a romance novel within 7 days.
On average romance readers read more than one book:
A Week—25.5%
Every Week—20.9%
Every 2-3 Weeks—17.8%
A Month—16.1%
Sources: Love Between the Sheets Publicity, Nielsen, Bookstats, PEW Research Center, RWA,Entertainment Weekly, Author Earnings’ July 2014 Author Earnings Report, Harlequin