I (still) read banned books

bbw-fd2015

Celebrate Banned Books Week with me!  According to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, there were 311 challenges to books last year.  Check out the infographic below for 2014’s list of top 10 challenged books, plus a bunch of other info.

There are three graphic novels on the list this year: Persepolis, Drama, and the Saga series. (Korean manhwa The Color of Earth has also been on the list previously.) Graphic novels are an interesting case.  People who are unfamiliar with them may see “comics” and assume that children are the intended audience when that is not always the case.  And the visuality of the medium sometimes makes things that might not be so racy in a written book seem much more…graphic.

I absolutely adore Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples.  You can read my previous thoughts on it here.  To be honest, its content is very adult and I would be hesitant to include it in a high school library collection or assign it for a class unless there were a specific reason a teacher wanted to teach it.

Public libraries are a different story; I first read Saga by checking it out of my local public library—I found it in the section specifically for adult graphic novels, distinct from the comic/manga section in the young adult area.  I think that kind of labeling is useful because it helps readers (and parents of readers) make an informed decision about the kind of content they are selecting.

I am tickled by the fact that one of the reasons for challenging Saga is that it is “anti-family.”  I think most people who have read it would agree that it is, in fact, very pro-family.  The cover of issue 1, shown on the infographic below, depicts the main characters Alana and Marko (a married couple) and their infant daughter Hazel (who narrates the story).  Much of the story has to do with them struggling to keep their family together in the face of racism and war.  What is more pro-family than that?

I have just picked up Persepolis from the library and will be reading it this week.  Are you reading any “banned” books right now, or have you in the past?  What is your favorite book on the 2014 challenged list?

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2014 Reading Review

I read approximately 50 “new” books (including a few graphic novels) this year.  Here are some that stood out:

leviathan wakesSci-Fi:

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

This book, the first in The Expanse series, is summer blockbuster sci-fi at its finest.  Here’s my original mention.  I am looking forward to reading the other books in the series (which is being adapted for TV) in the upcoming year.

I recently played Eclipse Phase, a tabletop RPG, which reminded me greatly of Leviathan Wakes.  The setting has some similar elements, and the Ego Hunter one-shot we played really had some of the same concepts and themes.  Definitely recommend it if you are a fan.

YA series:

The Thief by MW Turner, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Legend by Marie Lu

This year was for me the year of YA series.  I had a lot to catch up on (and still do) because there’s been an explosion of YA fantasy and dystopian series in the past few years.  These were 3 that really stood out to me as adding something to the genre.

The Queen’s Thief (now a 4-book series) is definitely the most intelligent of the lot. Some of the best YA writing I’ve read recently, and you must be a careful reader.  The characters feel like dear friends at this point.  Here’s my original review.

I was ready to write off The Girl of Fire and Thorns as being slightly above average when I gave the second book, The Crown of Embers, a chance and was blown away.  If you like YA fantasy romance, look no further.  Here’s my original review.

While I had some issues with the stupid science writing in Champion, it did not detract from my appreciation for the exciting Legend series.  There were some really nice sci-fi elements that elevated it from other dystopias, and the two main characters, June and Day, have really stayed with me.  Here’s my original review.  I recently read Marie Lu’s The Young Elites and I look forward to more books from her.

Parkour!Latest installment:

Skin Game (The Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher

I can’t believe these books are still this amazing at number 15 in the series.  Here’s my review.

countofmc“Literature”:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

A very very long book, but there’s a reason it’s a classic.  I began reading this one when I went to Europe way back in 2012, but finally got it finished over a long weekend early in 2014.  If all you know is the 2002 Jim Caviezel movie (which I admit is good), then I highly recommend you pick up an abridged copy.  Hint: the book ending is different.

Fellow bloggers:

Not surprisingly, many of my fellow bloggers are authors.  Two standouts this year:

  • Benevolence Archives by Luther M. Siler, a humorous series of short stories in kind of a Star Wars/D&D mashup world (my review)–it’s FREE at Smashwords
  • Kiss of the Fey by Charlotte Cyprus, a quick fantasy romance (my review)

Saga1Graphic novel:

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Just got volume 4 and I’m still in love.  Here’s my original review.

Liebster Award

liebsterblogaward-small1A big thank you to Hannah over at Things Matter for nominating me for a Liebster Award.  This award is meant to help bloggers discover new blogs and give some love to smaller blogs like mine.

I’d like to nominate some of my favorite blogs that I think should have more readers:

I know several of you guys already have Liebsters, so please please please don’t feel obligated to respond to this in any way.  The last thing I want is for this to feel like a chain-letter obligation.  Just know that I love your blogs, and I want others to be able to love them, too.  If you feel like it, you can answer the same questions I’m answering below (which are the same ones Hannah answered).

Why did you decide to blog in the first place?

I wanted to get back into writing, with the goal of actually writing the stories/novels that have been floating around in my head for years.  Writing about nerdy stuff was an obvious choice, because that’s what I’m mostly thinking/talking about anyway.  My husband picked the blog name.

Name three of your pastimes or hobbies.

Does reading count?  That is how I’d spend all my time if I could.

  1. Tennis (I was varsity in high school)
  2. Flute (I played through college and still play in my church choir)
  3. Crafty things (sewing, cross-stitch, scrapbooking)

If you could interview anyone (dead or alive), who would it be and why?

Maybe Jane Austen.  Or Martin Luther King Jr.  Or my grandfather who died before I was born.

Do you have any pets? If not, what would you consider getting?

I have a cat, Jolee Bindo.  I’ve had hamsters, fish, and cats before.  I love dogs, especially pit bulls, but they have way too much energy for me.  Cats are more my style.

I’ve worked with rats, mice, cats, dogs, rabbits, goats, ponies, river otters, ducks, muntjacs, etc. in my various jobs as well.  Not the same as pets, but still.

What is your favorite movie and why?

Star Wars.  Return of the Jedi is probably my favorite of the original trilogy.

What is your favorite comic book and why? (If you don’t read comics, just name a favorite book).

 If we are counting graphic novels/manga, it’s hands-down Cardcaptor Sakura by the incomparable CLAMP.  The artwork is incredible, and the story is beautiful.  It was my introduction to anime and manga.

Also, I just raved about Saga recently.  And Captain Marvel’s recent issues are pretty good, too.

What is your favorite Youtube channel?

Confession: I don’t watch YouTube.  Like, at all, ever.  It was probably about a year before I saw that Rebecca Black video “Friday.”  But my husband watches it constantly.  He’s watching as I type this.  So thanks to him, I am a big fan of Nerdy Nummies, Dorkly, and The Warp Zone.

If you could cosplay as any character, who would it be and why?

Meiling Li from Cardcaptor Sakura.  I love her fighting costume.MeilingLi

What is your favorite topic to write about?

On this blog?  Books.  In fiction?  Magic (both arcane and divine), futuristic technology, friendships, and True Love.

What’s your favorite fandom?

Star Wars.  I’ll see you all at the Episode VII premiere.

Obsessed with Saga

American invasion
American invasion

As I’ve said before, I’m a little late to the world of American comics.  I’ve been reading manga since I was a teenager but have only recently started to turn to its American counterpart.

And I continue to be amazed at the depth and quality of American graphic novels.  I’m now hooked on Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples–I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the best comic series I have ever read (for whatever that’s worth).

I picked up the first volume at the library; I was back later that week for volume 2.  And a few days later I gave in and ordered all three volumes (18 chapters thus far) from Amazon.  I have read the series about 3 times now, and each time I keep finding new little things to love.

There’s a reason this series won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story last year, and 3 Eisners both this year and last year.  It’s part action, part philosophy, and the perfect marriage of engaging writing and stunning artwork.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are my favorite things about Saga:

  1. Character design: Artist Fiona Staples has done a marvelous job of populating the Saga universe with a diverse cast of characters:  interesting species, varied races, and different women actually having different body types (what a concept!).  Everything down to the clothing and color choices is so well done.  You can tell so much about individual characters just by the way they look, which is important in a visual medium like comics.  And the art is so beautiful you will just want to put posters of the characters on your walls and stare at them all day.  Not that I’ve done that.  No, really.Saga1
  2. Mix of sci-fi and fantasy: Saga reminds me of Star Wars in the way it blends sci-fi and fantasy concepts in a space opera format.  We have androids, spaceships, and futuristic weapons, but we also have magic.  And sometimes the spaceships are trees.
  3. Adult contentSaga has Game of Thrones levels of swearing and graphic sex and violence.  These are not things I really revel in (I read a lot of YA, remember?), but they do give the story a sense of realness that keeps the wide-eyed fantasy aspects in check.  Ghost of a cute little girl?  Has intestines hanging out.  Slave Girl with Princess Leia-style hair?  Is a 6-yr-old refugee.  Just when you start thinking some aspect borders on gratuitous, Saga slaps you with character development or world building or some deep theme based on that aspect.Saga2
  4. Narration: The main character of Saga is really baby Hazel (perhaps slightly ironic, given #3 above), who provides occasional voice-over narration.  She’s telling her family’s story from the future, so we get some glimpses of things outside of the current storyline.  Some of these hints we may see developed as the story progresses (or not).  The narration is also non-linear, jumping back in time to tell how her parents met, for example, and also switching between characters frequently, and Hazel’s voice-overs really smooth these transitions nicely, often with a wry humor.
  5. Foreign language (untranslated): The denizens of the moon Wreath speak a language called Blue (the text is literally blue).  There are occasionally whole frames/pages where characters speak in Blue, and no translations are provided.  Don’t be intimidated; it’s awesome!  I found that just by looking at the character’s expressions and other context clues, I could pretty much guess what was being said.  That’s how good the art is.  Also, it was clear to me right away that Blue has some basis in Romance languages, so I used my Spanish to translate quite a bit, which I found to be great fun.  It was like those untranslated previews of the next volume you sometimes get in the back of manga; I always love using my rudimentary hiragana knowledge along with the artwork to try to figure out what’s coming up next.  And if you really, really must know every word that is being said in Saga, I’ll tell you: Blue is actually Esperanto.  Go use Google Translate.Saga3
  6. Bonus–Lying Cat: She’s a big blue hairless cat that announces when people are lying by simply saying “Lying.”  And she is my favorite character.  There are just not enough words to describe her awesomeness.

    Lying Cat
    I have started using Lying Cat’s catchphrase all the time.