And the Most Banned Book of 2013 is…

ImagePhoto Credit: AbeBooks

Actually, I’m not sure if this list is 2013 or 2014, but let’s just say 2013. Eh. Before we delve into the list let me first say that I see no point in banning books at all. Actually, I do have one exception. I apologize beforehand if you happen to be a fan of this author or her writing, but there’s an author on WordPress who writes a series of stories that follow a stepbrother and stepsister who are involved with each other. Sexually. Yeah, ban that. Ban it here. On Amazon. Everywhere. And the titles of the books are so horrible. Ugh. I’m leaving it alone. Other than that, I’d say most everything else is fair game.

10. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith

I honestly have never heard of this series of books. But the reasons listed for its placement on this list were political viewpoint, racism, and violence. I won’t comment because I simply am unaware. I will say that the cover shown in the article I’m referencing looks to be aimed at children. I think it would be understandable for a book aimed toward a younger audience to be included on this list if it has racism and violence.

9. Bless me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Another book I’m unfamiliar with. The reasons given were Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, and sexually explicit. Hmm. Okay.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I haven’t read the book, but I have seen the movie. I thought it was great. But I also find its placement on this understandable. I mean, this is geared toward teens, right? Well the nature and things discussed in the book are definitely serious in nature. The reasons given were drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Can’t say I disagree with any of those. Though this is a book I want to read at some point since I’ve seen the movie.

7. Looking for Alaska by John Green

Hasn’t John Green become something of a superstar recently? I’ve never read his books but I hear his name all the time and see blog posts about him just as often. I assume this is a YA book? The reasons given were drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. And here I thought YA was all about vampires and paranormal romances. Guess not. But then again I have no earthly idea what this about.

6. A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

I’m starting to see a patten here. The reasons given were drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, explicit language, sexually explicit. Never read this. Never will. Moving on.

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

WHAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTT?! Last I checked Katniss isn’t running around having sex with everyone or drinking or smoking or anything besides trying to stay alive! This is stupid. Do I agree with this making the list? No. Do I understand it making the list? No. Do I want to find someone who helped come up with the list and punch them in the face? Yes. The reasons given were religious viewpoint and unsuited to age group. Shut up. Before I get angry.

4. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

I can honestly say that there was not single tidbit of surprise in me when I saw this book made the list. I mean, it doesn’t get any more self-explanatory than this, right? I’m not going to list the reasons given because you all know them already. If you don’t, good. Stay away from the internet!

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Never read, Reasons given were drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. I’m assuming that this is another YA book or geared toward even younger audiences because that seems to always be the case when you see “unsuited to age group.”

2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

I thought Toni Morrison was one of those authors who everyone loves today? I’ve never read her books, but I swear I’ve read plenty about her. Hm. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence. What’s with all the sex and drugs in these books? I guess someone’s got to write about it all, right?

1. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey

Ha. Seriously, this just tells me what a joke this list is. I mean, most of the books are so understandable that explanations aren’t necessary when you see the content you’re dealing with. But this? Really? I remember EVERYONE reading these books when I was in elementary school. I never read one, but everyone else did. Because they were pretty funny, I assume. Reasons: offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence. I’m done. This is no longer relevant. To find this book on the same list as some of the other titles. And I’m seeing here that it’s not the first time it’s made it. Oh well.

So there you have the most banned books of 2013. What do you think? If you’re anything like me, about a third of the list is a laughing stock.

You can read an article about the list on The Huffington Post here.

 

Advertisements

Literary Characters who Should Die

ImagePhoto Credit: A Book Lover’s Diary

I love books. You love books. We know that. But we’ve also all read characters in books who we just wanted to push off the side of a cliff for any number of reasons. Don’t shake your head. Yes you have. Liar.

Anyway, why don’t I just start listing off the characters I’ve disliked so much that I wanted to dedicate an entire post to them.

Draco Malfoy

I actually have a friend who loves Draco. We used to randomly discuss HP and it was before I’d read any of the books and she banned me from ever having an opinion on the series. So what do you think I did, I only talked about the one character I knew she adored, Draco. Ew. What was she thinking. I HATE Draco. Seriously. Yes, I’ve only read the first book in the series, but I already hate him even more than before! The worst part is that she loves Tom Felton too. Huh? But really, Draco should just die. Like right now. I don’t have anything more to say about him.

Keller

You know those books you’re looking forward to reading and you end up being utterly disappointed? That was me when I read Hit Man by Lawrence Block. If you’re unaware, Lawrence Block is a Grand Master with the Mystery Writers of America. He has a large body of work and he’s won eight Edgar Awards. He’s the real deal. So imagine me when I found his series revolving around an assassin by the name of Keller. I thought I’d found a new author and series to read for years to come. Wrong. The book was so bad. I did finish, but man was it awful. Keller would assassinate a random person pretty much every chapter. He wasn’t funny. Likeable. Or anything but boring. Suffice it to say that I won’t be buying another of Mr. Block’s books and definitely not in the Keller series.

Kinsey Millhone

Do not yell at me for this. I am well aware how popular the alphabet series by Sue Grafton is. And I know that Kinsey is Sue Grafton. There have been 23 books written in the series so far, I’ve read letters A-F and S in the series. There’s a book for every letter through W. I’ve always read such raving reviews about her attention to detail and how great Kinsey is as a character. I just don’t feel the same way. At all. I’ve had the book for G on my TBR shelf for years. Years! I’ve started and stopped it twice! To me, Kinsey is awkward and mediocre at her job as a private investigator. She’s not as funny as she thinks. And she drives, at least in the books I’ve read, a Volkswagon Beetle. I mean, no. Just no. But what do I know, right? Not like her books are consistently #1 NYT bestsellers or anything.

President Snow

All you THG fans better feel the same as I do about this guy. Seriously, look what he puts Katniss and Peeta through. Sure, they defied the capitol in their first Games, but EVERYONE loves them! And then to personally threaten her family before she begins her Victory Tour. No. President Snow, go in the arena and eat some poison berries or shoot a fireball at yourself. That’s about all you deserve. I think Donald Sutherland is great as Snow in the movies. To be fair.

Okay, now I’d LOVE to hear about some of the characters you’ve forced yourself to read who you thought were ugly and disgusting and just bad. Tell me!

The Lack of Diversity in my Reading

Photo Credit: Valparaiso, IN

Before I continue with this post, I’d like to let you know that I’ll be talking about the lack of racial diversity in my reading. But I know that some people see anything Race related and automatically turn away, which is why I left it out of the title. The topic of racial diversity in publishing will NOT be discussed. This time. We’re strictly talking about my reading. Let’s begin.

One more point that I need to make before moving on is that in no way am I saying that these books, authors, or series are any less worthy of reading. We’re talking about me.

I’ve talked quite a bit about my reading habits on here. I mean, I have three different pages that are dedicated to books I’ve already read or want to in the future. And obviously reading is a big part of any discussion about books, so it makes sense to devote a good amount of space on here to my reading. But I realized something earlier today that I honestly hadn’t noticed before. It was something of a shock, actually. A huge percentage of the books I read not only have White protagonists, but they’re written by White authors. I can assure you that this was not done on purpose. That would be me saying that protagonists or authors of another Race are less worthy of reading. Absolutely not. I’m Mexican! Yes, I realize that in itself does not mean much, but I’m a Mexican author too. I want EVERYONE to read my books. And quite honestly, I believe my audience to be middle-aged, educated, White women. This is based off of the author events I’ve attended for writers in my genre. I saw the same person in the audience over and over again. I can tell you for certain that I was the youngest at every event I attended. By decades.

Anyway, let’s get back on topic. Let me tell you about some of the series and authors I read.

Authors

James Patterson – White

Suzanne Collins – White

Lee Child – White

Steve Hamilton – White

Robert B. Parker – White

Robert Crais – White

You get the point. There are more but it is not MOSTLY the same, it is EXACTLY the same. There is one author out of all of my books who is not White. Michele Martinez. I do have all of her books, but she only has four. Now let’s look at the protagonists I read.

Series

Spenser – White

Katniss Everdeen – White

Harry Bosch – White

Elvis Cole – White

Kinsey Millhone – White

Alex McKnight – White

Merci Rayborn – White

There are a whopping two series I read that revolve around non-White protagonists. Alex Cross, who is African-American. And Melanie Vargas. This is disappointing to me. Quite so.

I can guarantee that the Race of the main character is never once mentioned in any of these series, except for Alex Cross and Melanie Vargas. It’s not mentioned because it’s so obvious to the reader that it never needs to be mentioned.

I love all of the authors I’ve listed, all of them. Their books and writing and careers all speak for themselves. But I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I consider myself an avid reader and yet, it would appear that I’m an avid reader of the exact same thing over and over again. I’m sure plenty of readers are the same way, but I don’t want that to be the case with me. I want to be a well-rounded reader because there are plenty of great writers out there who are worthy of reading but may not be well known. It’s time for me to make an effort to read more books that follow a Black protagonist or Mexican or whomever, along with the series I already enjoy.

And the absolute worst part of all this, and I do mean the worst, is that I wrote a protagonist who is me in every aspect…except Race. And I’ll even tell you why. Because I thought him being White would attract more readers than him being Mexican. I sincerely love Andrew and the character I’ve created, but I HATE that I did that. Hate it. I don’t know if this is me conforming to the publishing industry or what, but I need to figure out whether I want to write the stories I want to write or whether I’m writing what I think might get me published one day. They may or may not be the same thing. Which is unfortunate.

I know my posts are typically witty, funny, and informative, but this was a post I needed to write for me.

Thanks for reading.

I ask that you glance over at your bookshelf and see if you find the same problem I did.

Never Ask a Reader About Their Favorite Book

Photo Credit: sodahead.com

It seems like a simple enough question when you ask, but can turn into a whirlwind of things for the person who is trying to come up with an answer. Because any person who has read as few as fifty books will likely struggle for an answer. Here’s what would happen to me if asked about my favorite book.

The first thought to enter my head would be the list I keep of my top/ favorite books read. It’s a list in the ballpark of 150 books. I would think of the top five. The top five includes Michael Connelly, Suzanne Collins, T. Jefferson Parker, Marcus Sakey, and Eric Nylund. Three of these authors are crime novelists and two are not. I would think back to each of the books and decide that it’s near impossible to pick any one over another, no matter how I have them ranked.

Then I’d think of my first book. Could that be my favorite? I’ve read it more times than I’ve read any other book. I wrote it. The protagonist is me. Surely it’s at least in the conversation. But does the book stand up against the others I’m thinking of? And how could I forget The Great Gatsby?

Then my Excel spreadsheet of all of the book authors I own would come to mind. I would think about the fact that a handful of authors make up a huge chunk of my reading. My favorite must be written by one of them. Maybe Robert B. Parker or Steve Hamilton? Maybe Robert Crais or James Patterson?

Then all of the series I read would jump into the equation. Katniss Everdeen is one of my favorite literary characters ever. And Alex Cross. And Spenser. And Elvis Cole. And Karen Vail.

And finally, with my head spinning in circles, I would accept the fact that it’s impossible to pick a single favorite. All while the person asking the question was simply trying to make small talk by asking in the first place.

BUT if you had to pick one favorite book that you’ve read, what would it be?

Literary Adaptations: TV or the Big Screen

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago titled Has Hollywood Run out of Ideas in which I discussed the nature of the relationship between Hollywood and bestselling authors. You may want to take a look at that post once you finish or before you start this one because the relationship is somewhat fascinating.

Let me ask, if you happen upon an article discussing a new adaptation of your favorite book or series, would you prefer a full-length theatrical release or a TV series? I won’t wait until the end of the post to give my answer because it doesn’t matter to me. Both mediums have proven in recent years that it’s all about the product. A bad movie is no different from a bad TV show when it comes down to adaptations.

TV

Books that are adapted are often hundreds of pages long, no matter the genre, right? One of major advantages of a TV adaptation is that it allows for more of the story to be told. I don’t watch Game of Thrones but I do know that it has been wildly successful on HBO. I also know that the books have been VERY successful. TV gives the reader/watcher more of what he/she wants, the story. What is it that we always hear after going to our neighborhood movie theater to watch the most recent literary adaptation? “I can’t believe they left that part out.” As readers it’s hard to justify leaving ANY part of a great book out of its movie adaptation because that’s part of the reason why we liked it in the first place. But we also don’t know a thing about writing a script or making a movie. Things are left out not because those working on the movie wish to upset fans, but because there are very real constraints to making a movie.

A TV series also gives viewers something new each week. It isn’t a one time thing that goes and comes in a matter of an hour or two.

Movie

I would guess that authors prefer their books be adapted into full-length movies over TV shows. I don’t particularly agree with this sentiment because movies are limited in how long they can be, they cost A LOT of money and guarantee no return, and not everyone is willing to dish out ten bucks for a movie ticket. I’ve done so myself only three times in the last two calendar years, two of those were for The Hunger Games movies. But I think there is a great amount of pride for an author to have one of his/her books adapted into a theatrically released full-length movie. J.K. Rowling had eight. Stephenie Meyer has had five. Suzanne Collins will have four by the end of next year. These are some of the bestselling authors today who keep making their books into movies. AND the money made by these authors from their movie adaptations is something we can only dream of. I mean, J.K. Rowling became the first billionaire author recently, until she fell below that threshold after taxes and charitable donations the following year. Movie adaptations of books enable authors to get their product in front of millions more people than ever before, because let’s face it, not everyone is a reader.

I’d love to know what you think.

Male or Female Protagonist: Why does it even matter?

male-or-female

This is one of those questions that really irks me. And I think it goes into the larger question of male or female author. By the way, I hate saying ‘male’ and ‘female’ because they are social and not biological terms, but it doesn’t make sense for me to say man protagonist, so I’m going to stay with the social terms for the rest of this post, but just know that I don’t like them.

I mentioned that this question is part of the larger question of whether or not you or I or whomever the reader is prefers books written by men or women over the other sex. If you happen to be one of those individuals who says, “I only like books by men. They tend to be better written with better stories.” you can just stop reading this post right now, because I do not fall into that category and you’ll find the rest to conflict with your tastes. But if you’re not like that, then let’s discuss the question a bit more in depth. Here is my question to you.

Do you prefer to read books written by men over those written by women, or vice versa? If so, why?

This would be my answer if asked this particular question.

“Is that a joke?” There is no hint of sarcasm when I say that this would be my response. It’s a ridiculous question that merits no response at all. I mean, let’s think about some of the very best authors writing today, no matter the genre. Stephen King. J.K. Rowling. Lee Child. Suzanne Collins. Mitch Albom. Veronica Roth. See what I did there? For every great writer today who happens to be male or female there is a great writer of the opposite sex. So for someone to sit there and say that men write better than women or that women write better than men is simply inexplicable. And there are so many more authors that I could have mentioned, but for the sake of this post chose to limit the list to a handful.

Now that that’s out of the way, why don’t we go into the titular question of this post.

Do you prefer to read a male or female protagonist?

I think some readers would say that women mostly write women leads and men do the same with men. Maybe, but that has nothing to do with your own personal preference, right? Don’t mistake this question for asking if you have a favorite author or two, because I definitely do, the question I’m discussing is whether or not your reading habits tend to involve more protagonists of a particular sex because you have mindfully made that happen.

You see, my list of favorite authors includes James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Suzanne Collins, Robert B. Parker, T. Jefferson Parker, and Marcus Sakey. You’re probably telling yourself that I just named six authors, and only one of whom is a woman. I did that on purpose because I hoped that you’d catch onto that. Yes, my favorite list of authors may only have one female, but let me tell you about the books on my shelves right next to me. I have several by Sue Grafton. I have even more by Karin Slaughter. I have all of the books Michele Martinez has written. I have a book by Tess Gerritsen. I have several by Karen Traviss. I could continue but I think I’ve made my point. Yes, my favorite authors happen to mostly be men, but my reading tastes include plenty of books written by women with female protagonists. I just happen to read what I read when I read it. I don’t log into my Amazon account thinking, “Oh, I can’t buy any books with female protagonists right now. They’re too emotional and clueless.”  And I hope no one else does that.

For example, I’m currently reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. My third favorite book ever is Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, which we all know has Katniss Everdeen as the protagonist.

The point that I’m trying to make is that there is no real reason to go out of your way not to read books with protagonists of a particular sex. And there is no real reason to go out of your way not to read books written by authors of a particular sex. I understand that we all have our preferences, but there’s something to be said when you look at your shelf of 200 books and only a handful are written by either a man or a woman. There are bad books and bad writers, but they are absolutely not limited to one sex. So if you find yourself with far too many books with male protagonists and not so many with females in the lead role, I challenge you to go to your neighborhood Barnes and Noble or log into your Amazon account and a find a book with a female protagonist. If you haven’t read any of The Hunger Games books then I would highly recommend you take a look at that trilogy. If you happen to fall on the other side of the stick with books starring mostly women, then I challenge you to do the same thing and find a book with a male protagonist. The first in the Alex Cross series by James Patterson is Along Came a Spider, I’d recommend it.

A Valentine’s Day Duel: Ron & Hermione vs. Katniss & Peeta

ImageHappy Valentine’s Day! Hopefully you spend the day with someone special. Or, if you’re like me, you can spend it with your books. So, since it is Valentine’s Day I thought it only fitting to discuss two of the most well known literary relationships of the last decade. I’ll give you a hint…there have been a total of ten movies in which these two pairs of lovebirds appear so far, with two more on the way. Any guesses? Ron and Hermione of Harry Potter fame and Katniss and Peeta from The Hunger Games. Let’s dive right in.

Image

Ron and Hermione

I am a HUGE fan of the Harry Potter franchise, but I have to admit that I have not read any of the books yet. I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me. I NEED to read them. I will at some point. But that’s not the point of this post. We’re talking about witch on wizard love. I considered including Harry and Ginny in this conversation, but Ginny isn’t quite one of the big three in the series, so Harry gets left out even though every book bears his name on the cover.

I’m sure every person keeping up with the literary world, and probably plenty who don’t, heard J.K. Rowling admit that Harry and Hermione would have been the better couple rather than Hermione and Ron. I tend to agree with her. Again, this is coming from someone who has not read the books, but Ron and Hermione just seem….odd together. One of the images I have in mind as I write this is in Deathly Hallows Part 1 when Ron abandons Harry and Hermione. While he’s gone they share a pleasant moment in which the two are seen dancing even though they’re in the midst of a dire situation. You can’t possibly tell me that Ron would be capable of such a thing. After all, he did abandon them.

Also, Ron isn’t exactly the brightest of the wizards attending Hogwarts. We all know Hermione is a brilliant witch. I can’t be the only one who pictures her with a similarly brilliant wizard. I think Harry fits that mold quite well.

I applaud J.K. Rowling for writing the story as she originally imagined it. But I also applaud her for admitting that she should have done things a little differently.

Image

Katniss and Peeta

The unlikeliest of partners. I HAVE read all of the books in The Hunger Games series and I’ve seen both movies. So I guess you can go ahead and call me an expert on the matter. Okay, maybe not an expert. BUT I absolutely love the series and not just because my future wife Jennifer Lawrence happens to play Katniss.

The two are thrown together during the first chapter of the first book in the series during the annual Reaping in which one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts is chosen to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games. Katniss’ younger sister is actually chosen but Katniss does the unthinkable and volunteers in her place. She’s the first ever volunteer from her district in the 74 year history of the Games.

The relationship between the two starts off a bit rocky. Katniss is independent and not the most sociable person while Peeta is about as likeable as it gets. The two remain polite with each other until Peeta admits during an interview before the Games are set to begin that he’s got a crush on Katniss. I mean, I don’t blame him. She’s perfect! Katniss doesn’t like being thrown a curve ball and gets a bit upset. Then she goes on to score an 11 out of 12 during her individual showing for the Gamemakers. Peeta then decides that he no longer wants to be trained alongside Katniss because there is only one winner.

Once the Games begin and Katniss is on her own and Peeta is nowhere to be found it is announced that there can be two winners from the same district. Katniss goes on to keep Peeta alive with the help of sponsors and the two ultimately win the Games, but not before they tick off the Capitol in doing so. Katniss put on a show for everyone watching to make out like the two were madly in love. She did it to survive while Peeta wasn’t acting.

The two are forced to act as if they need each other in order to live after the Games, and although they do their best, it may already be too late. They may have inadvertently started a rebellion.

Image

My Favorite

This actually isn’t all that hard for me to decide. Katniss and Peeta. Hands down. I didn’t go into the second or third books of the series because I refuse to spoil those for any person who reads this who may not have read them. If you have read them then you are well aware of how their relationship evolves over time. But in the first one Katniss is about as upfront as she can be with Peeta under the circumstances. While the cameras were rolling she acted in a manner that kept both of them alive. And as soon as they were out of the limelight she made it known that it wasn’t as real for her as he might have thought. I guess my reasoning for liking their relationship slightly more than Ron and Hermione’s would be because we know what we’re getting from the start. Ron and Hermione take FOREVER to make it happen. (At least in the movies)

So tell me, which would you rather be a part of….Ron and Hermione or Katniss and Peeta?

Just for kicks, which nickname do you like more? The Boy Who Lived or The Girl on Fire?