Banned Books Week 2017: Sept 24-30

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I love this year’s cover graphic from ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom that helps put on Banned Book week every year. I try to write about the week every year (or at least have since 2012). According to the ALA website, “It is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” I usually find that the books that people want to ban are usually really good books but for one reason or another people don’t agree with an issue that the book has brought up. If you would like to know more about banned books and fighting censorship, you can also visit this website, which co-sponsors the event with the ALA every year and this one because I love reading comics/mangas/graphic novels, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

I try to write about the week every year and encourage people to read banned books, and find out for themselves whether or not they think the book should be banned. I first got into banned books in graduate school when I was taking a class on YA literature and had to read a banned book. I picked Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher, whose books are notoriously getting banned and is therefore a big supporter against censorship. I really enjoyed the book, but would probably have never read as a kid because of the subject matter. I’m not gonna lie, the book is filled with reasons why a parent or concerned adult might want to ban it: the 30+ drops of the f-bomb and other curse words, discussions of physical/emotional abuse, suicide, abortion, masturbation, child neglect and more. It’s not an easy book to read at times, but there is a redemptive quality about the book that makes it awesome. In fact my mother was rather horrified when I described in detail while I was writing the paper for it. But as YA author Laurie Halsie Anderson has said,“Books don’t turn kids into murderers, or rapists, or alcoholics; Books open hearts and minds, and help teenagers make sense of a dark and confusing world. YA literature saves lives. Every. Single. Day.”

Updated infographic_Top 10 Banned Books for 2016_0

It’s not just Young Adult and Children’s books that are banned but Classics as well. According to the Office of Intellectual freedom, at least 46 books off this list of the top 100 books of the 20th Century have been banned. The ones in red are the ones I’ve read, and apparently I need to read many more. How many have you read? 

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 – my review posted here

15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley – my review posted on my previous blog, which also includes one for The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa (another banned book)
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 – my review posted here

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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The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker written and illustrated by Jen Wang

To be published: Feb 13, 2018

The graphic novel is a historical fiction set in Paris in the late 19th Century, and stars Frances a talented but frustrated seamstress, and her employer, the shy Crown Prince Sebastian of Belgium who turns into the fabulously outgoing Lady Crystallia, fashion icon to all the young Parisians. Problems arise when Sebastian must keep his personal life very secret as his parents are trying to marry him off at the earliest opportunity, so he is meeting eligible young woman during the day and becoming one at night. Of course things become complicated, and Sebastian pulls a really douche bag move trying to save himself and his reputation. Will he be able to salvage his friendship with Frances and become the person he really wants to be? To find out, read this fabulous graphic novel. Recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars. 

I loved that this volume was all about self-acceptance and self-discovery. Being on a bit of similar journey myself, I was really drawn into the story. I found it fascinating that it was involving a cute but awkward prince who doesn’t see the value in himself as a boy, and only feels confident when he dresses in women’s clothing. There has been a lot of press with this sort of story lately, so it is nice to see such as well-thought-out handling of the subject matter. Frances is able to show him how beautiful he can be in her gorgeous dress creations.She finds someone a real friend who supports her dreams and wants her to grow and improve, and finds the same in Sebastian. One example of this, is when Sebastian meets one of Frances’ idols Madame Aurelia when he is dressed as Lady Crystallia, and they both get invited to the Paris Opera House to see her latest creations for the ballet, and the opportunity to show her work to a master dressmaker and he’s as excited as she is. Then he takes her out to eat as the Prince, treats her like a princess, and tells her how much he admires her tenacity. Squeee! That is so adorable!

I love the artwork, especially all the gorgeous dresses and the time period (which seems to have been set sometime during the Belle Epoque – circa 1871-1914). The story, as other reviewers have commented on, does have a lot of “awww” moments where you just want to hug them both and tell them everything will be alright, especially Sebastian. And the part at the end with his dad was so sweet, though I’m not sure if it would ever happen like that in real life, at least not with royalty (we can always hope!). The part that almost made me cry like a baby was at the end when the King says to Frances, “When I first learned the truth, I thought Sebastian’s life would be ruined. But seeing you, I realized everything would be fine…Because someone still loved him.”

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from First Second Books, in exchange for my honest review. 

Black Dahlia, Red Rose

Black Dahlia Red Rose

Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder by Piu Eatwell

To be published: Oct 10, 2017

The Black Dahlia murder case remains a brutal unsolved mystery murder case. Committed by someone familiar with surgical techniques, the murder of twenty-two year old Elizabeth Short, the so-called Black Dahlia because of the lingerie she wore and her jet-black hair. The investigation has never been solved, but I believe Piu Eatwell has finally done that. Using previously unreleased FBI and LAPD files, in addition to the first-hand accounts of people like news reporter Aggie Underwood and Dr. DeRiver, psychologist of the LAPD during the time of the murder, the author makes a compelling argument about the identity of the killer. She also explains who else might’ve been behind the scenes of the murder, as well as the corruption and cover-up perpetrated by the LAPD and their associates. Highly recommended, 5 stars. 

I personally loved the way the author set the story for Los Angeles in 1940s post-war America. Narrative nonfiction doesn’t always work, but I really liked the way she blended fact and story to get a let’s-face-it not pleasant topic across. Elizabeth Short was brutally murdered, according to the author’s website, by being “bludgeoned to death, her mouth slit wide on each side. Severe post-mortem lacerations had been made to the body. Most shocking, the corpse had been hacked in two.”

The influences of Hollywood are all over Los Angeles (as they have been since the movie industry has been in existence), but there is also the influence of of gangsters and their cronies, like Mark Hansen, who peddled sex and drugs, and encouraged women to sell themselves body and soul to get into pictures and become famous. I had heard stories about the corruption of the LAPD but to read about it and the depth to which it went, was fascinating, and really makes me want to read a book about that all on its own. The lengths to which they went to in order to cover up the dealings of certain members of the force, basically sabotaged the entire Black Dahlia murder investigation. After reading this book, I can very much imagine a scene as described by the author, between the man who ordered Elizabeth Short’s murder and the man who actually committed it, just like Henry II telling his knights to “get rid of this troublesome priest” when they murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas a Becket. I found it very fascinating that the author, at the end of the book, discovered Leslie Dillon’s daughter was named Elizabeth, adding that just extra bit of creepiness to an already creepy story. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from W.W. Norton & Company in exchange for my honest review. 

 

 

The Other Side of the Gate

The Other Side of the Gate

The Other Side of the Gate (Into the Realms #1) by Craig Michael Curtis

Published: July 28, 2009

Fourteen year old Daniel Weaver arrives in a strange new world called the Realms one night by boat. He doesn’t know where he is or how he got there. He is not the first human to come there, nor will he be the last. He meets a local girl named Eleanor,  and together decide to travel through the sixteen Gates of the Realms on a “forward quest” in order to find out the truth about why humans have been coming to the Realms. Come explore the world of the Realms, and join Daniel and Eleanor as they begin their epic coming of age quest. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars. 

First I will discuss the things I didn’t like about the book. There were some obvious spelling errors and typos. The two spaces at the end of each sentence bothered me in the beginning, but I didn’t care so much about by the end of the book, probably because I got used to it. The biggest issue with the book, in my opinion, was the way the story dragged in the middle and end, and I felt like it could’ve been edited down a bit to help with that problem. 

On to the good stuff. I really liked the world-building in this book. I also liked the idea of getting a “Realm gift” from the prime-numbered Realms and a “power word,” which gives you another superhero-like power. The main character is transported to an unknown world and must survive by his wits and skills. He is good at helping people and encouraging them. Daniel meets Eleanor in a bit of an odd way, but they hit it off right away. I love both of these characters, and they really compliment each other. Their awkwardness as they start to fall for each other is adorable, the boy is a bit clueless and the girl is more forward (just like it usually goes in real life, at least in my experience). My favorite characters were the soul-bound couple, the Butterfields, because of the way they interact with each other – just like an old married couple even though they’re not. The most surprising character that I enjoyed reading about was Oka, the curmudgeon would-be wizard, who reluctantly helps Daniel and Eleanor at the end of the book. My favorite scene was probably the static electricity scene at the end of the book with the ghosts (can’t go into more or it will ruin it for everyone else). 

The end of the book especially had a Wizard of Oz theme to it, which I enjoyed as L. Frank Baum is one of my favorite authors. Think about the story summary: Two, and eventually four, teenagers go on a quest to seek knowledge and the help of a wizard. They finally find their wizard, who is actually not one (just like in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), and is conveniently named Harry Baum. Daniel doesn’t exactly find the answers he is looking for in the Fourth Realm with his “magician” and so needs to continue all the way to the end to find his reason for being in the Realms. 

Bottom line for this book, and the series in general: Yes it is a long book but well worth a read and I personally am excited to see what he does with the next book in the five book series. 

Disclaimer: I did receive a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. 

 

Kamisama Kiss, Vol 25

Kamisama Kiss Vol 25

Kamisama Kiss Vol 25 written and illustrated by Julietta Suzuki

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Nanami has been studying hard the last ten months and finally got accepted into Junior College in the Dept of Early Childhood Education, so she can work with kids. But she is wary of marrying Tomoe, and still doesn’t really want to leave the shrine and stop being the human kami. Kotaro, the human love of Himemiko, the fish yokai, that Nanami helped out in the beginning of the series, is gravely ill. Kotaro seeks her help. It turns out Himemiko is pregnant with Kotaro’s child and her people are not happy that the child is human. Himemiko wanted Nanami to come to her palace and get married to Tomoe so that her subjects would relent about her wanting to marry Kotaro, and see that a yokai marrying a human is perfectly normal. So Tomoe finally proposes and she says yes! They are getting married at Mikage shrine, and invite all their friends.  Will they finally get their happily ever after? To find out, read the heartwarming conclusion to the Kamisama Kiss series! Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars. 

I am sad that this is the last volume in the series, but I figured it was coming soon as they can only drag the Tomoe-is-still-stuck-in-the-body-of-a-fox for so long. I love Tomoe but I kind of prefer Jiro, the tengu chieftan,  for her even if he is a grumpy bastard. Hehe on that whole “you’re too tempting a sight tonight” comment. I loved it, even though the way she went about it was rather odd, when Himemiko kidnapped Nanami and dressed her in the traditional all-white wedding kimono. Nanami didn’t really want to get married probably because of what happened with her parents, but the look of pure joy when she put that wedding dress on and saw how beautiful she looked, was priceless. Not to mention the look on Tomoe’s face when he first sees her and the way he hugged her on their wedding day. I liked Ami being brave and finally talking to Kurama and told him how she felt about him. 

Disclaimer: I received this ARC, from Viz Media, in exchange for my honest review. 

 

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol 10

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 10

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 10 written and illustrated by Aya Shouoto

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Himari Momochi is still in shock after Aoi’s love confession. She goes exploring the house on her own and almost gets kidnapped by a female ayakashi (or what is left of it), only to be rescued by the Guardian of the Gate between the spiritual and human worlds, who she met a few volumes before. He wants the power in her last name now and decides at first that the best way to do that is to marry her, which she of course refuses, then decides that becoming the guardian of the Momochi House (the omamori-sama) would be the better route. Aoi also completely refuses to allow either of these things to happen, but the Guardian forces his hand by kidnapping Himari and forcing him to play a dangerous game to get her back. Aoi thankfully wins but at what cost to Himari and himself? Bonus story about Ise included at the end. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars. 

Mangas like this crack me up. This book is basically a reverse harem, a manga where the main character is a girl who has a bevy of hot young men that are falling over themselves to get her attention and/or protect her. The Guardian of the Gate is handsome and charming, and it seems used to getting his own way, but is defeated using his own vanity/bad habits in the end. Bit poetic if you think about it. Aoi, despite looking exactly the same, seems to have changed and become more powerful/ruthless since he revealed his true feelings for Himari. And that scene where the Guardian gets all cheeky and kisses Himari and you see Aoi literally crack and turn into the bloodthirsty Nue, is pretty bad-ass. I was honestly a little confused about what exactly happened with the new shikigami at the end of the manga, so hopefully the author/illustrator will explain it better in the next volume. 

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this manga from Viz Media in exchange for my honest review. 

Honey So Sweet, Vol 8

Honey So Sweet Volume 8

Honey So Sweet, Vol. 8 written and illustrated by Amu Meguro

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Yashiro,  after weeks of teasing, finally kisses Misaki. Both are shocked by it, and Yashiro ends up avoiding him for a few days. Yashiro goes to talk to Nao about it and finally confesses that she likes Misaki but hadn’t intended on kissing him originally. Nao encourages her to tell Misaki how she really feels, and she does by kissing him again and swearing more in the future. Nao and Tai have been going out for a year, and go out on a date to celebrate. They see Sousuke, Nao’s guardian at a diner with Tai’s mom, and Nao realizes she’s never thought about him having any kind of love life or wanting to be with someone. This comes into sharp focus once Nao and Tai meet Aoi, a former high school classmate of Sou’s and they see the reaction Sou gives when they see each other. Is love in the air for Sou? The end of the book fasts forward to seven years after their second year of high school and it is now Nao and Tai’s ninth anniversary. What surprises are in store for the couple? To find out, read the exciting conclusion of the Honey So Sweet series. Recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars. 

I was so sad to learn that this was the final volume of this series! It seems way too short. Misaki and Yashiro’s budding relationship is so awkward and adorable, especially when he tries to be “be a man” and kiss her first, failing because she kisses him first again. But of course nothing is as cute as Nao and Tai together. The title is very appropriate in this volume, as we see how much the two of them care for each other – wanting to share the gifts they gave each other to other and being able to express their feelings to each other (i.e. Nao commenting that “just being with Tai makes [her] feel giddy”). I’m glad Sousuke gets some face time, he’s probably one of my favorite characters in the series because he’s so selfless, but there’s hardly any mention of him except in the context of Nao liking him more than an uncle in the beginning of the series, or as a passing mention when Nao does something stupid and he has to be her parent. Aww, I adore the part when Aoi tells Sou talk about how happy Nao looks and how that is entirely because of him and how he has raised her. And it was totally sweet when Tai told Sou that he is his role model, as Sou had been questioning himself being a good parent, and I think it was exactly what he wanted to hear. I’m not usually a fan of guys giving girls roses because it is pretty cliche, but I loved the enormous bunch Tai gave Nao at the end of the manga. 

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Viz Media Inc. in exchange for my honest review.