It's RIP Time!!! What Are YOU Reading?

It’s the MOST wonderful time…of the year….Well for me at least 🙂 I just love Halloween to pieces and with this time of the year comes my favorite reading challenge of the year, the Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge FIVE. Can you believe it’s the Fifth RIP already??? And as always, it’s hosted by the amazing Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings, one of my very favorite bloggers. My goal is to read nothing but spooky books for the months of September and October! Now I’m in the middle of Mockingjay and Heirloom right now, so those won’t count, but Curse of the Wolfgirl and The Stand certainly will count! And here’s a GIANT pool of other books that I’ll be dipping into for the next two months…though I certainly won’t be reading all of these:

Did you expect anything less from me? I thought not :p Plus I have a few preorders on the way that I’ll want to read…..yeah…we’ll see how many I actually get read, lol.

After The First Death by Robert Cormier

After the First Death takes us into the heart of a terrorist hostage situation in more ways than one. Yes, we’re shown the thriller aspect of it all….the negotiations, the demands, the events of the situation, but all of that is almost meaningless in this story. What shines through in this story more than anything are the people involved on both sides. And this is where Cormier excels and instantly puts himself on my list of authors that I need to read more of immediately!

In this story, a small group of extremists of an unknown nationality (we’re just told dark skinned and from overseas), take over a school bus full of children and the young teenage girl, Kate, who is driving it and hold it hostage on a railroad bridge where all can see their displays. They make their demands, namely that an underground US organization be revealed to the public and state that for each of them that is killed, a child will die too.

On the other side, we hear the story of Ben and his father. His father is part of this underground US organization and towards the beginning of this story, we don’t know much except for the fact that Ben and his father are not close. There seems to be some animosity from Ben towards his father and it seems to stem from this event as “the bridge” is constantly mentioned. More is revealed of course in the alternating chapters of this book, but I won’t go any further here 😉

I don’t even know how to describe this book adequately. One of the group of extremists is a 16 year old boy named Miro. It is his assignment to kill the young girl, Kate who is driving the bus. As you can imagine, there are many psychological games going on in this book but as those games are going on, what we as readers see is a true human side to Miro. We’re trained by the media and other outlets to look at terrorists, extremists, fundamentalists as inhuman. I know I’m treading deep water here, but let’s face it…all humans are human and have emotions. And Cormier shows it in this book.

Cormier brings us inside of Miro’s mind during his first act of terrorism and shows us his uncertainties, his love for his family, for his country, his hurt for his past losses, his susceptibility to find anyone that will take him in. You’ll never see me condoning terrorism. I think it’s wrong in every since of the word and the horrors that have been done in the name of religion and politics sadden me more than I can ever say. But Cormier gives us a good picture of a lost child trying to find someone to accept him. He shows us how these ideals may form. And shows us that down inside, we’re really not all that different despite our radical differences in belief.

Another warning, I won’t pretend that this is an easy one to read. There is a lot of heartbreak and sadness in this novel. Cormier went places that I didn’t think he was going to go, but he went places that are real in situations like this. There’s really no way to wrap up a novel like this nicely with a little bow and I’m glad that Cormier didn’t try to. Because I think if anything, THAT would have disappointed me. Kudos to him for writing such a gripping, strong, intense read.

Don't Tell: The Sexual Abuse of Boys by Michel Dorais

I fear that this is one of those reviews that people are likely to pass up or one of those books that no one would read really, but if there’s ever a book that I reviewed here that I wish everyone would read, it’s probably this one. And that’s because there’s probably a male in everyone’s life who’s been affected in one way or another by sexual abuse whether you know it or not. Even if there hasn’t been someone you know affected by sexual abuse, it’s so important just to be aware of these issues. The number itself can be eye opening to some people. One in six boys is the victim of sexual abuse. Think of how many men you know. And sadly, that’s lower than the number of girls. For girls, it’s more like one in four.

I don’t want this review or this post to at all seem sexist or gender biased. I plan on focusing on the sexual abuse of boys because that’s what this book is written about, but I don’t by any means mean to diminish the abuse of girls and women. It’s a problem that’s even more prevalent than with males and needs to be talked about more openly as well. Sadly, abuse in general tends to be very hush hush and it becomes a subject of taboo so that the victim feels that they are the ones who have done something wrong. They are the ones who are less of a person because of it. As Don’t Tell points out, this is a culture that’s been formed by families who have turned on victims who have come forward, children who have been called “gay” and teased for being abused by another man, being forced to stand trial and relive their abuse in their testimony only to be accused by the defense of lying, etc.

I’ve preached so many times on my blog about how I feel about gender and lgbt issues and this book brings up so many points on those issues. A person who’s abused by another man often is left not knowing anything about their own sexuality. It’s natural to feel some type of sexual excitement or gratification despite the horrendous experience of the abuse. We can’t control our bodily functions. It leaves a young boy very confused and our society has raised boys not to ever question their sexuality and certainly not to talk about it at the dinner table. What is a 13 year old going through puberty to think when he’s discovering girls, but has been abused in the past by a man with no one to talk to?

The book points out that instead of turning to family or peers for support, they’ll often turn to miscellaneous sex, sometimes prostitution, or drugs to deal with the question of their identity. A sort of desperate search of some kind of meaning. It also mentions that sometimes those who have been abused will in turn abuse others, repeating the cycle. I was hesitant to believe this at first, finding it hard to believe that anyone would reenact that horror on anyone, until I read some of the victim’s stories. There are quite a few in here. And there are a few people that did in turn abuse others as a form of curiosity as to why others did it to them or as a form of some type of universal retaliation. Abuse of any kind forms nothing but a dark cloud that it’s hard to escape from, it seems.

But this is why I want people to read this book. To understand it! To understand how it can happen. To bespell the myths. To be educated on it. To be aware of it. And most importantly to not be afraid to TALK about it. Most abuse of young boys happens by relatives…people close to the home. In most cases, it’s immediate family. Sometimes cousins or uncles. It’ll sometimes extend to friends of the family or neighbors. We often think “strangers with candy” but that’s not the case most of the time. I’m not saying that we don’t need to be afraid of strangers with candy and I’m CERTAINLY not saying that we have to raise our children to be wary of our relatives. Not at ALL! But don’t be afraid to educate children. Teach them what a bad touch and a good touch is. And don’t just say people shouldn’t touch you “there”. The word “penis” is ok to say. Children also need to know that more than just a touch can happen. I don’t know the best way to go about this, but maybe just saying if anything doesn’t feel right you need to say stop! Because so many of the victims in this book said that things didn’t feel right, but they didn’t know if it was wrong the first time. Yes it may be uncomfortable talking to kids, but imagine the alternative.

And most importantly, it’s important to let people know that you accept them, I think. So many people who have suffered abuse feel used and rejected by the world. And they’re scared of the world. Scared to form any kind of relationship again. And I think they just need to know that that’s ok and it’s understandable and that they’re not judged because of what was done TO them. That they didn’t do anything wrong. And that who they are is not a bad person.

This book goes into so much more. It’s really THE resource on the topic of sexual abuse of boys and how it affects them and I’m so glad that I read it. I think it was a tremendous resource to me both personally and professionally. If you want statistics, it’s here. If you want stories, it’s here. If you want to know how to help someone, that’s here too. If you want to know how abuse affects people, that’s definitely here. How to overcome it? That’s a long road and I don’t know that there’s a definite answer but there are several roads to take that are all listed here. Like I started out in this review…I hope that people do read this book. You know, even if one person reads this book, I’ll be happy. There’s much to learn here, much to share.

Bad Bloggers – The Damage Part Two

So this is the post where I display the second round of damage from my trip to visit Debi in New York :p Yes, it was bad enough to warrant two separate posts. The last book was waiting for me when I got home, but aside from that…yeah, they’re all a result of my trip to New York. Can I just blame them all on Debi?

1. Small Wonders by Barbara Kingsolver – This was just a magical find for me. I’ve been wanting more nonfiction by Kingsolver ever since reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and this looks like just the ticket. It’s essays by her on our earth basically and what we do to it. It includes essays on sustainable living, gardening, culture, society, feminism…all the good stuff! Can’t WAIT to read this one!! (Bought it)

2. Manic by Terri Cheney – I found this one in the bargain section at Debi’s Barnes and Noble and it just sounded really good. It’s the memoir of a young woman with bipolar disorder. Mania has always been something that’s really interested me, so I’m looking forward to this one. (Bought it)

3. Out by Natsuo Kirino – You know, I’m totally SHOCKED that I haven’t given more points to Nat over at In Spring it is the Dawn, but I think this is the first point I’m giving her!! And if I recall, I don’t even think she was that crazy about this one…but she still made me want to read it :p And I found a used copy at Debi’s local book store! (Bought it)

4. Lasher by Anne Rice – Oh how I love this series SO. DAMN. MUCH. This is the second book in the Mayfair Witches series by Rice and I lost my three Mayfair Witches books in Katrina 😦 I rebought The Witching Hour awhile ago and plan on rereading that one soon and I got SO excited when I found Lasher for cheap at the used bookstore in this nice trade paper back!! If you haven’t read this series yet, you seriously should!!! (Bought it)

5. Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks – Yes, Rich…you’re going to have to accept a point for a book that you gave to me :p I actually DIDN’T buy this one believe it or not!! It was given to me. By Rich. The number one Sacks fan. And it really sounds fantastic. Can’t wait to read it. Point for Rich. (Gift from a friend)

6. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – This is a title that I’ve known for years, and I’ve thought of reading it for a long time but never had any real interest in it until Debi read it. And then….well, I had to have it. And of course she found it in the bookstore and put it RIGHT into my hands and made me buy it :p So a point goes to her for this one. (Bought it)

7. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – Fun story behind this one. Debi and I were perusing the shelves at the used bookstore and I said “I really hate that I can’t get interested in Steinbeck, especially since I know he was one of Dewey’s favorite authors.” And she said “oh have you read Of Mice and Men?? It’s one of my favorite books!!” So of course at that point, I instantly had to pick up a copy since it’s one of her favorites 😀 Now I can’t WAIT to read it!! It’s a short one too which makes me much less intimidated, though I have to admit that I’m still super intimidated by Steinbeck. But anyway, Debi is totally getting a point for this one! (Bought it)

8. Tickets For A Prayer Wheel by Annie Dillard – This is just a completely random collection of poetry that I picked up. They had a decent section of used poetry at the used bookstore we went to and I was flipping through this one and happened to like some of the poems I stumbled across…so I bought it :p It was cheap enough! (Bought it)

9. Blood Child by Octavia Butler – I’m so so so excited about this one!! I had never heard of it, but it has two novellas by Butler and an essay by her at the end. It’s just such a neat looking collection. Couldn’t pass it up. (Bought it)

10. Teenagers From Mars by Rick Spears – You know, I’ve heard the title of this one before, but I have no idea where. It’s a graphic novel that I found in the bargain section of Barnes and Noble. I started flipping through it and it looks really cool! And it was only $2.98!! How could I possibly pass it up?? (Bought it)

11. Sweet Tooth Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire – This is another graphic novel that just sounds way too cool for words! Debi’s getting the blame for this one too!! I don’t remember entirely what happens in this one but something happens and people somehow end up being part animal. Yeah, right up my alley! Point to Debs. (Bought it)

12. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks – This is one that Rich found for me at the used bookstore and literally put into my hands, but it’s Eva that’s getting the point for this one! I’ve been wanting this one for a long time…ever since she reviewed it on her blog awhile back. And now I finally have it 😀 (Bought it)

13. Tommy’s Tale by Alan Cumming – Total random find on paperback swap that just sounded too good to pass up. It’s an lgbt book written by THE Alan Cumming who I just love! I had never even heard of this one before, but PBS recommended it to me and I fell for it 🙂 (Paperback Swap)

Saturday Farmer's Market – 8/28/10

It’s that time of the week again…time for a garden update again. I’m actually thinking of possibly putting in another 4×4 bed this weekend. Most everything in my current 4×4 bed can stay in until December and I have a bunch of stuff I want to plant coming up in September…stuff like green beans, turnips, carrots, kohlrabi, and spinach in October. So I’m going to need some more room! But for now, this is what’s going on:

We have black eyed peas growing like crazy!! I’m really excited about these because they’re the first bean or pea that I’ve ever grown before with any success. Technically, I could pick a bunch of these right now and eat them fresh, but I don’t think there are enough of them to have a whole pot of fresh black eyed peas, so I’m going to harvest them dried. I learned that if you want to harvest them dry, you actually let the whole pod dry on the plant. When the pods turn yellow or brown, then you pick them and shell them! So that’s what I’m going to do.

My sunflowers are finally starting to bloom!! So far only two have bloomed, but there are tons of buds just waiting to unfold. The picture on the left is one of the smaller sunflowers. These are just going to be gorgeous because they come in all different sorts of shades and grow multiple heads per plant. The one on the right is one of the mammoth sunflower heads and this one is just partially opened. It still actually has a LOT of growing to do! As you can see, it still hasn’t formed it’s black center and isn’t near it’s expected 1 foot diameter that’s eventually expected. And as of right now, it’s already as tall as the fence as you can see in the picture! They’re just so beautiful. I really love these flowers!! So glad I decided to grow them. And I have a whole garden of them 😀

My pepper plant is looking so darn healthy, I just wish it would actually do something! It’s so very green and loaded with flowers! I don’t know if we have a cool front coming through or what, but  temps are supposed to be in the 80’s this week instead of the normal 90’s that we’ve been having, so maybe that will allow some of these flowers to actually make peppers. We’ll see. My jalapeno peppers are finally doing well again. I didn’t think it would come back after a tomato hornworm ate half of the plant, but it has and I have a couple of little jalapenos growing. So that’s good.

And finally, here’s a look at the whole main garden since it’s been tidied up. Yep, the big change you’ll notice is that my beloved okra plant is gone. It’s now in the compost bin. It had done it’s job. It was now producing these little tiny okra that weren’t doing much or gigantic tough okra, so it came up. In it’s place and in some extra space, I planted four new tomato plants for my fall crop of tomatoes. We’ll see if I have better luck with these than I did with my summer crop. I just got started way too late this summer. It was too hot for my poor tomatoes 😦

As always, Saturday Farmer’s Market is hosted by Heather, the Capricious Reader. If you have a gardening post to share, please link your post to her site!!

Bad Bloggers: The Damage Part 1

So I’m dividing this Bad Bloggers post up into two posts :/ Yep it’s that bad. These are mostly all of the books that I got from my trip to New York when I went to visit Debi and family. I had to ship them home in a box and they arrived already!! Some of them I had acquired before the trip, but the majority of them….yeah…I got them there. So here are the first fifteen books and I’ll post the rest of the books on Sunday!

1. I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth The Trip by John Donovan – This one just sounded really good so I preordered it! It’s a classic LGBT book that was just recently reissued in this nice new format. Looking forward to reading this one. (Bought it)

2. Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before by David Yoo – This one was one of the books from the first Nerds Heart YA tournament and I’ve been wanting to read it ever since. Just sounds like a good one. (Paperback Swap)

3. The Unwritten Volume 2: Inside Man by Mike Carey – Oh man this was an awesome book!! Really excellent graphic novel series and if you’re not reading it yet, you really should be!! I already read this one and reviewed it yesterday. (Bought it)

4. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender – The first of many books that I bought in New York :p After reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake I just had to have more Aimee Bender. And this was all that I could find. It’s a collection of her stories and despite it being a bit bizarre at times, I enjoyed it. I already reviewed this one too. You can check out my review here. (Bought it)

5. After the First Death by Robert Cormier – I’m in the middle of this one right now and damn it’s a cool book! It’s about a bus that’s taken hostage and about those who are holding it hostage and those trying to free the kids inside and make negotiations. Debi told me about this book while we were shopping at Borders so she’s totally getting the blame for it! (Bought it)

6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – I guess I don’t really need much of an excuse for this one, huh? I just preordered it. I started this one but haven’t read much of it yet. Dare I say that I haven’t been all that excited about it? *ducks tomatoes* Maybe once I get into it I’ll get more excited! (Bought it)

7. My Queer War by James Lord – I bought this one in the used section of Debi’s Barnes and Nobles. Yes they have a used section at their B&N!! I was originally just drawn by the title of this book and then read about it and damn it sounds good. It’s about a gay soldier during WWII. When you think of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell now, just imagine what it must have been like back then. I can’t wait to read this!! (Bought it)

8. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – Ok, so I was introduced to the most INCREDIBLE little used bookstore while I was in New York and went just a little crazy while I was there. I bought 14 books for $62 dollars! And all in perfect condition!! This was one of them. I’ve heard great things about Hammett and Nancy told me that she thinks I’ll really like this one, so I got it! (Bought it)

9. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk – So for this one I’m giving a point to my friend Rachel that I work with. I wanted to read a book about sex addicts and she recommended this one. It’s a long story, but we have a compulsive behavior program at the psyc hospital that I work with and I was asking about sex addicts anonymous and she asked if I’d ever read this. I said no and she recommended it! So point to Rachel! (Bought it)

10. Owls and Other Fantasies by Mary Oliver – So very happy about this book. After reading Thirst by Oliver, I fell in love with her poetry and wanted more more more. The title of this book appealed to me more than any of her other work and I found it at Barnes and Noble! I can’t wait to enjoy these 🙂 (Bought it)

11. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer – Sweet sweet Debi gave all of us a book one night as a present and this is what she picked for me! She couldn’t have picked a better book as this book reminds me so much of DEWEY. I remember Dewey reviewing this ages ago. I remember her review specifically. So Dewey will be getting a point for this one and I’ll think of her when I read it. (Gift from a friend)

12. The Poems of Sappho – I was so very happy to find this book!! It’s a little treasure! It’s from 1965 and it’s in near perfect condition. I found it at that little used bookstore. I’ve always loved Sappho. Well, since I discovered her in my Ancient Greek Literature course during my freshman year of college. I really can’t tell you how excited I am about this little book!!

13. French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman – I’m about to give a point to Debi for this book, but I won’t since she hasn’t heard of this one either :p But as if I didn’t have enough books already, she picks this one up off of the shelf and says “oooh, Chris…I think YOU need this one!” And of course, I did. It just sounds like my kind of book. About a guy who leaves New York and moves to France to garden. Ah…the life. (Bought it)

14. Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – I had to get this one. It’s short and it sounds so good! It’s about a priest who goes to exorcise a young woman and falls in love with her. Right up my alley. (Bought it)

15. Kindred by Octavia Butler – Another one that I just don’t know who to blame really! I’ve heard so much about this one for so long now that I could blame any number of people. I’m just excited to actually have it now 😀 Can’t wait to read it!! (Bought it)

Actually not as bad as blame game points go as I thought it would be. Which is bad for me I guess because now I’m just buying without being able to push the blame off on other people :p Hopefully the books that I post on Sunday will have more blame to go around!!

The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man by Mike Carey

So you may not remember me reviewing The Unwritten Volume 1….well that’s because I didn’t. But I’m going to review volume two because if you’re not reading this series you absolutely HAVE to! This is one of the best comic book series to come along since Fables and I’m just absolutely loving it so far. And I can only see it getting better and better as it goes along.

The Unwritten centers on Tom Taylor, son of the now thought to be deceased author of the books of the famous Tommy Taylor children’s books, a popular fictional series about a wizarding boy. Yes, if you’re thinking Harry Potter, points for you. After events in book one go horribly wrong, Tom Taylor is accused of murder and finds himself in jail. He also finds himself with powers that he never knew he had…powers very similar to those in the books that his father wrote.

Oh but there’s so much more to this book. There comes the quest for his true identity. The escape from fame and the dragging through the mud of his name. The “dangers of children’s books” that’s addressed here. What Carey gives us throughout this whole story is constant engagement and something to constantly think about. This is truly an intelligent comic with literary and historical references constantly being intermingled throughout the storyline.

There’s a classic good vs. evil story to be told here, but there’s also a point where those lines begin to blur. And isn’t there really that point in every day life? Where good people make bad decisions and vice versa. There’s a constant questioning here on who’s who. I found myself facing characters that I couldn’t stand doing things that made me smile. Like the mayor who locked up Tom and treated him with complete contempt sticking up to his wife for his children for enjoying the Tommy Taylor books.

I think what makes me happier than anything about this series is that it’s only on volume two! Which means we can probably expect much more to come. There was a little offshoot comic at the end of this comic that was very bizarre. It was more of a fable of sorts that featured very innocent looking animal art like and dialogue like “there once was a bunny named Mr. Bun”….and it’s juxtaposed with Mr. Bun calling people “cunts” and saying “fuck” every other word. Just a fair warning to those offended by such thing. Needless to say, he ends up being a bad, bad bunny, but I actually found the story quite interesting. Anyway, can’t wait to read more of this!