Books Young Adult

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wow. This is SOME book!
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
There is so much going on in this book it’s difficult to know where to start. Our heroine is Hayley and her father is an Iraq war vet. Dad suffers from a MONSTER case of PTSD and isn’t able to follow through with treatment. As a result, poor Hayley’s life is a nightmare. Hayley has had to care for herself and her father in a way that only children of mentally ill or dysfunctional families can understand. The best bit about Hayley is that she has a few friends who try to get close to her. And of course, there’s a boy. Hayley’s been through a lot of crap but she also realizes that she’s not the only one who has a bad family life at home. And this knowledge helps her.
I am at times so angry with Hayley’s dad that I want to jump through the (audio) book and grab that poor kid and get her out of the situation and leave Dad to his own destruction. This is a thought provoking book that will rip your guts out.I can’t say that it’s my fave LHA book but it sure makes you think. LHA knows how to get to the meat of the issue; I’m still recovering from Speak.  LHA needs to hug a puppy or something!
I’m not sure if I should classify this as diversity. The characters are white but the mental illness issues in here are devastating. Have you read this? What did you think?
Banned Books

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop: The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom To Read

All this week I’ll be celebrating banned books week by highlighting challenged or banned books. Why is banned books week important? According to the American Library Association (of which I’m a member),

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

As a parent, you have a right to decide what your own children should be exposed to, but I strongly believe that you do not have the right to dictate what other children have access to. So, let’s celebrate the books that have been challenged and see if you’ve read any of them and you can make the decision for yourself. Each day of Banned Books Week I’ll highlight several of the titles that were challenged or banned last year. Let’s see how they stack up.  Also? This is a blog hop so I’ll giveaway a $10 Amazon gift card to the winner!

Let’s look at titles from the Middle East Today.

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq


There is so much to learn about the Middle Eastern region and so little time to read.

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken country where civilians–especially women–have little power, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

Sounds great, right? Other people obviously don’t feel the same way and have challenged the book “because of violent illustrations and storyline” which  is rather irrational because what would kind of story do you expect to hear when reading about a war torn country? Perhaps the age group was not appropriate for the book.

Another book about growing up in war ravaged countries?

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood



Persepolis is another example of a book I’ve been meaning to read.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family.

This challenge and ban is particularly interesting; it was removed from the shelves  due to “graphic illustrations and language” and concerns about “developmental preparedness” and “student readiness.” The students, however, took to social media and traditional media voicing their displeasure with the school’s decision, which was eventually overturned.

Again, we should read these and judge for ourselves.  Have you read either of these titles?

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway:

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Books Non Fiction

Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalvan

I’ve had the recent honor of being promoted to book club doyenne at the book store where I work (Towne Book Center & Cafe) and our pick for December is Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalvan.


Montalvan is a career Army Captain stationed in the recent war in the Middle East.  He’s suffered some debilitating PTSD for which he receives the most darling and helpful golden retriever named Tuesday. Since I’m a dog lover, I thought the book would be the perfect blend of oohing and ahhing over how adorable the pooch is and how helpful he’s made Montalvan’s life.  To be sure, Tuesday is helpful and probably kept Montalvan from hurting himself and others.

What’s surprising about the book is how much the author talks about the war effort. War is gruesome stuff and Montalvan describes the atrocities that he and others faced more than I cared to read.  it gave me nightmares, this stuff.  I cannot even begin to imagine how these heroes live now that they’ve been to war.  What else I cannot believe is how it’s only been very recently that vets have been getting accurate treatment.  We’ve been fighting war for millenia and vets are only just now getting treatment for PTSD.

It’s sad.

Amazingly, Montalvan (and I suspect his ghost writer) added relevant, thought provoking quotes at the beginning of each chapter such as:

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over.  Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

That quote was from the famous writer Kurt Vonnegut, a WWII veteran.  You’d be surprised how many famous writers were war veterans.

As a civilian, I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes during war time.  Montalvan gives us some insight into the mismanagement and I’ll admit it makes me a bit angry.  But you try to stow that anger when you read Tuesday’s goofy personality or his contagious smile or the way he calms Montalvan’s tension, potentially staving off an anxiety attack.

Where would we be without our pets?  You know I love my Bailey, and while he’s no service dog, mostly cuz he’s a little neurotic,  his daily greetings make me feel like I’m the best person he’s seen all day (at least until someone else comes home).

Bailey, not a service dog

My hope is that service animals will become more available to those who need them.

World peace wouldn’t be too much to ask for, would it?

Our book club meets at 7pm and I’m sure there will be a great discussion surrounding this book (and prolly a war discussion).

I give Until Tuesday 4 paws!

Children Reviews

The Obsidian Mask by Caroline Ludovici

Adventure, intrigue, and precious gems; all items necessary for a good novel, right?  Then you’re in luck if you pick up a copy of The Obsidian Mask by Caroline Ludovici!

Allow me to tempt you a little bit with history.  What’s that you say? History’s not your thing? Maybe not, but reading this book might change your mind.  Ludovici, a charming Brit, has taken the cradle of civilization, ancient Mesopotamia, and turned it into a thriller for middle grade readers.

Imagine ancient Mesopotamia

courtesy How Stuff Works

Look really closely.  You’ll see that the Mesopotamia area crosses over a large portion of the world that has been in the news lately: Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and a teeny part of  Iran.

So what, you say? Well, here’s what: during the course of the novel, four young friends help uncover ancient secrets and are kidnapped because of a very valuable mask that is found in that area.  The mask, belonging to an ancient warrior queen, contains glass known as obsidian, a beautiful, dark, and volcanic glass stone that makes the mask financially priceless.

The glass can look like this:

courtesy Wikipedia

You’ll accidentally learn about history and the Middle East as you read the book.  If you’re like me, you’ll want to know more about the region: what’s the weather like? How did they access water in the desert?  What part of London are the teens from? Who is from Italy?  What in the heck is cuneiform?

Cuneiform is an form of writing.  It’s how ancient people wrote.  Wanna see my name in cuneiform?

I”m not sure what it really says but it prolly says “enjoy this book”!

Which I did and you know what? A second book is coming out next year, how fun will that be??

Stay tuned for more from this exciting series…