Category Archives: books

Banned Books Week

Years ago, (more years than I care to admit) my eldest sister and I visited the Ousterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I have very fond memories of that library, but that’s another post for another day. The importance of this particular visit is that it occurred during Banned Book Week. There was a display near the front desk all about the freedom of the press and why it’s so important. It included bookmarks which listed the most commonly banned books. My sister handed me one and said, “I want you to read every book on this list.”

I was eleven at the time and had already discovered the joys of forbidden reading. I’d spent that summer devouring paperbacks left behind by my sisters. Novels of which our conservative, religious mother would not approve. I’d spent many warm days, locked in my bedroom, reading until my head throbbed, but never minding the pain. Forbidden fruit really is the sweetest.

The library’s list of forbidden treasures included The Handmaid’s Tale, Ulysses, The Great Gatsby, Gone With the Wind, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, 1984, The Call of the Wild, The Handmaid’s Tale, Of Mice and Men, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Slaughterhouse Five and other titles full of intrigue and infinite potential. They excited me. I wanted to read them all.

Why did I react this way? Certainly my sister, twelve years my senior and infinitely cool in my eyes, had plenty of influence. But here were other adults, no, not just adults, Librarians encouraging people to break the rules.  My world view broadened a bit in those moments because I realized that not every adult was like the faculty at my religious school, seeing the devil in every corner.  Perhaps I was rebellious (okay, there’s really no perhaps about that) but in the battle between books and those who opposed their content, I sided with the books and found I was in excellent company.

I’d already read Mark Twain, and surprisingly enough, thanks to one of those religious teachers, Jack London.  Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut became fast favorites. I was, and still am, awed by the beauty of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale opened my eyes to disturbing trends in society and the government. Cuckoo’s Nest fed my distrust of authority. I was probably a bit young for some of these titles, but they never did any harm. I firmly believe I am a better, wiser adult for having read these books.

To this day, I make a point of reading banned books. I never outgrew that rebellious streak. If someone says, “You shouldn’t read that,” I’m going to start reading immediately. Ignoring narrow minded people who call themselves authority figures is still plenty of fun.

So in celebration of the freedom of press and reading, I’d like to send out a big THANK YOU to my big sister Jenny, Ousterhout Free Library and most of all, Banned Books Week for helping to cultivate my mind, my rebellious nature and making me the person I am today.

Movie Review: The Raven

Disclaimer: I’m a total Edgar Allen Poe fangirl. He’s been and influence for much of my writing life. I even have a tattoo of a raven, sitting on a bust of Pallas on my right shoulder. See it and read my post about tattoos here: https://jessicazellman.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/ink-a-needle-in-your-skin-let-the-world-know-where-youve-been/

I was introduced to Poe the same way as many other things. As the second youngest child of six, my older siblings influenced my taste in music, television, movies and yes, books. In this case, an older sister was reading Poe and decided I should know about The Black Cat. Also, “The Bells” and of course, everyone’s favorite, “The Raven.” Later that year, she bought me a leather-bound collected works which has an honored place on my bookshelf to this day. I devoured those tales like a favorite snack. Sherlock Holmes had offered some intrigue and gore, but Poe went much further. I loved him immediately.

I remember frowning at the pendulum at the Franklin Institute because it had no mechanism for starting out high and lowering with each swing. In high school, we saw The Fall of the House of Usher performed at what was I presume, a local theater. Also, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge and another short piece which I don’t remember, possibly because I so loved the other two and was less familiar with that one. That rare field trip (Thank you, Mrs. Birch.) awoke my passion for theater and just increased my love of Mr. Edgar Allen Poe.

So I was delighted to learn that a movie about my favorite early master of the macabre had been made. I hoped Johnny Depp would play Mr. Poe, but it was John Cusack. Sigh.

The story is worthy of a Poe tale. A murderer is on the loose in Baltimore. The deaths are gruesome (as befits Poe) and inspired by various tales by the author himself. The Pit and the Pendulum was an early favorite of mine and the movie’s depiction did not disappoint. The ticking clock arrived when Poe’s girlfriend was kidnapped and the murder demanded an account in the local paper depicting a fictional solution to Poe’s real problem.

There were twists and turns in the path. Poe’s desperation pushed him close to madness and Cusack played this well. There was one moment where the writer had a chance at being an action movie hero. The police detective shouted “Find him, Poe! GO!” A high speed (on horseback) chase through a fog filled forest ensued. Had it ended there, with Poe shooting the bad guy and finding his beloved easily, I would have walked out in disgust. But it didn’t. There would be a few more turns of the screw.

As is appropriate to any Poe tale, this one did not have a happy ending. Justice may have been done, but the hero did not go riding off into the sunset with the heroine by his side. Nor should he have done. This isn’t fairy tale land after all, this is Poe’s world, where life is grim and hard, and often ends senselessly without reason other than evil does exist. In fact, it is often found in each of us.

“And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

One post script, as the credits rolled, Ian Astbury’s voice soared and echoed eerily through the theater. Since he’s one of my favorite singers, I was thrilled. Here’s the song, if you care to give it a listen.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eRyzZJML78

Guest Post by Samantha Anderson: The Panic-Stricken Non-Conformist (Sort Of)

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing my first guest blogger! Samantha Anderson is the author of The Devil’s Angel available now. The sequel is scheduled for release this spring.

So without further ado, here’s Samantha! 

 

The Panic-Stricken Non-Conformist (Sort Of)

You see why I go with the title of Oxymoron most days? 😉 Even in a moment which requires only minimal conviction I somehow still come off like an indecisive fool. Root causes of this? I have no idea, I’m not a psychologist. Most would say Daddy issues… most would likely be right. Oh well, I’ve accepted who I am, you should too.

As I was saying before I rudely got sidetracked (sorry folks, it happens often), I consider myself a non-conformist… in most instances. Meaning that I march to the beat of my own drum, don’t like following a crowd (or being a part of one in any way), and in general, if you ask my opinion be prepared to deal with what I say.

That being said, I’m a total nutjob over things as well. Conviction comes across easy, perhaps even a bit arrogant at times, but what most don’t see is the inner turmoil I have when I voice a decision. I over-analyze every little detail… to DEATH.

The most recent came when writing the sequel to my debut release. I have struggled since the writing of the first novel over which point of view to use. First person literally came so easy to me when writing the main character, it was a very easy natural choice. However, now that I’ve at least gotten a first draft done of the second book, I’m stuck in the terrible world of making a decision about a POV again.

I wrote it in first person, same as the first novel, but there are other key players that the reader needs to know. Dialogues between two characters that are not the main character, scenes in which things occur where the main character isn’t involved but are crucial to the story (in my honest opinion anyway).

Those scenes I’ve written are done in a more third person feel, as they should be. However, many things have led me to be panicked over this very jumpy method of writing. Here are just two of the biggest…

  1. – It’s comfortable to me, not just in writing but reading back.
    The kicker to this is that the story SHOULD be comfortable for me to read and write, I’m the writer!
  2. – I have done my research and all the high-profile critics say you should never do this, or that 1st person POV writing is for lazy authors.

The flip side is, I don’t want to be a cookie-cutter author and the beta readers so far have LOVED it.

It was with much inner turmoil, late night crash-writing sessions, and editing the first 5 chapters into 3rd person that I came to a realization.

Agents and Publishers keep looking for fresh, new writers, something out of the norm. They want a non-conformist, so screw the experts who say that I shouldn’t, screw the people that are stuck in their little niches and don’t like change… It’s my book and I’m going to do what I want. My goal isn’t to make friends, or enemies even. It’s just to write. Whether anyone really buys my books outside of the people I know and love, I honestly don’t care. I don’t write to make a living, I write because if I don’t, I think I might go insane.

So my advice to you is this… be yourself, write for you and forget all the rest. Most of the greats did exactly that and look where they are now!

 

Samantha Anderson is a single mom that works in the IT field for a large company in the Midwest. She is a published author, slated to release the sequel to her debut novel, The Devil’s Angel, in Spring 2012. A self-proclaimed oxymoron(loves thunderstorms but hates rain), she admittedly obsessives over random things, her favorites being the Bobby Bones show (radio show out of Austin TX, can be found on iheartradio), The Vampire Diaries, and can quote almost every episode of the series Friends. She is an avid music fan and enjoys spending time with her two daughters, Kaylee and Trysha.

Will e-books destroy home libraries?

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/will-the-home-library-survive-the-surge-of-the-ebook-2298751.html

The question posed by this article is: Will the home library survive the e-book?

Personally, I’ve been reading e-books for quite a while. My first e-book device was a palm pilot. Need I say more? Sprawled over the databases of my PC and laptop, and the virtual bookshelves that Amazon and  www.ereader.com are nice enough to keep for me, I have close to 200 e-books. This past year, my DH (darling husband) bought me a Kindle to celebrate my new job. I love my Kindle. I love that I can read e-books on a Kindle app on my phone and that the Kindle device and my phone will “whisper” (synch) to each other to keep me on the right page. Also, I can download audio books from Audible.com and play those on my Kindle too. Great little device. It’s in this picture somewhere. Can you see it?  No? Neither can I.

That’s my fiction section.

Here’s non-fiction, not quite so full:

 

And there’s my answer about the home library vs the e-book. My home library is doing just fine, thank you. My enjoyment of e-books has had little effect on my enjoyment of paper books. Actually, I’ve read many e-books and then bought the paper version. Why not? The convenience of an e-reader is undeniable, just like my beloved MP3 player. It’s not like I can carry my whole paper library with me, any more than I can carry my whole CD library with me. On vacation, a Kindle is easier to carry than even a paperback, let alone a hard cover. And if I finish reading one book, another is there waiting.

Best of all, there’s an instant gratification aspect to e-readers. I can shop from pretty much anywhere and have a new book within seconds. If a new Charlaine Harris book comes out, I can download it and start reading at 12:01 am on release day.

But then again, there’s the joy of arranging my paper books on the shelves. I spent three excellent days filling my new bookshelves, (after my DH finished building them) and much more time tweaking my arrangement. I don’t see myself stopping that any time soon.

My answer for paper books vs e-books is always the same. Why not have both?