Ten October Book Releases

As winter draws in, and we all turn to curling up with a good book to get through the cold evenings, here are 10 of the new releases that are hitting the shelves in October.  This month is also the month, I usually start looking for books to give as Christmas gifts, a tradition in our home, and some of these may appear under our tree this year; if they do you can be sure a review will follow.

The Signature of All ThingsTitle – The Signature of All Things: A Novel
Author – Elizabeth Gilbert
ISBN – 978-1408841907
Pub Date – October 1 2013
Publisher – Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Description – Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Comments – Author of Eat, Pray Love and Committed


The Rosie ProjectTitle – The Rosie Project: A Novel
Author – Graeme Simsion
ISBN – 978-1408841907
Pub Date – October 1 2013
Publisher – Simon & Schuster

Description – MEET DON TILLMAN, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.


Bellman & BlackTitle – Bellman & Black
Author – Diane Setterfield
ISBN – 978-1476711959
Pub Date – October 8 2013
Publisher – Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Description – Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don’t forget . . .

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William’s life, his fortunes begin to turn—and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.

Comments – Author of The Thirteenth Tale


Hitler's FuriesTitle – Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields
Author – Wendy Lower
ISBN – 9780547863382
Pub Date – October 8 2013
Publisher – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Description – Wendy Lower’s stunning account of the role of German women on the Nazi eastern front—not only as plunderers and direct witnesses, but as actual killers—powerfully revises history. Many young nurses, teachers, secretaries, and wives saw the emerging Nazi empire as a kind of “wild east” of opportunity—and yet could not have imagined what they would do there. Lower, drawing on twenty years of archival research and fieldwork on the Holocaust, access to post-Soviet documents, and interviews with German witnesses, presents compelling evidence that these women went on “shopping sprees” and romantic outings to the Jewish ghettos of Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus; that they were present at killing-field picnics, not only providing refreshment but also taking part in the shooting of Jews. And Lower uncovers the stories of SS wives with children of their own whose female brutality is as chilling as any in history.

Hitler’s Furies will challenge our deepest beliefs: women can be as brutal as men, and the evidence can be hidden for seventy years.

Comments – A book review based on an ARC will be posted shortly.


Dr. KateTitle – The Trial of Dr. Kate
Author – Michael E. Glasscock III
ISBN – 9781626340138
Pub Date – October 8 2013
Publisher – Green Leaf Book Group Press

Description – In the summer of 1952, Lillian Johnson was found dead in her home, slumped in the wheelchair that had become her cage due to multiple sclerosis. An overdose of barbiturate had triggered a heart attack, but the scene was not quite right. It looked as though someone other than Lillian herself had injected the fatal dose.

Dr. Kate Marlow, Lillian’s physician and best friend, now sits in the Round Rock city jail. The only country doctor for miles, Kate cannot remember her whereabouts at the time of Lillian’s death, and the small Tennessee town buzzes with judgment.

As Dr. Kate’s trial approaches, another woman is determined to uncover the truth about the night of Lillian’s death. Memphis reporter Shenandoah Coleman grew up in Round Rock on the wrong side of the tracks, but unlike the rest of her unsavory clan, escaped her destiny. Now, back in the town she grew up in, she’ll have to turn every stone to keep Kate from a guilty verdict.

The Trial of Dr. Kate is the second novel in a four-part series from Michael E. Glasscock III that explores the intricate social cloth of Round Rock, Tennessee. Though each story stands alone, readers who enjoyed Glasscock’s first Round Rock tale, Little Joe, will delight in the cameo appearances in this one.

Comments – A book review based on an ARC will be posted shortly.


AllegiantTitle – Allegiant
Author – Veronica Roth
ISBN – 978-0062024060
Pub Date – October 8 2013
Publisher – Katherine Tegen Books

Description – What if your whole world was a lie?

What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?

What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

Comments – Conclusion of the Divergent trilogy.


Lost andTitle – Lost and
Author – Jeff Griffin
ISBN – 9781609381998
Pub Date – October 15 2013
Publisher – University of Iowa Press; Kuhl House poets series

Description – Lost and is both a chronicle of Griffin’s obsessive journeying and a portal into a world of dispossessed people and enduring desires. Comprised entirely of unaltered reproductions of extraordinary found materials—drawings, charts, questionnaires, compulsively detailed letters, legal documents, jottings, journal entries, stunningly vivid and mysterious photographs—this is a work of sociological and literary daring that defies categorization. Part documentary history, part literary adventure, part mystical detective story, Griffin’s immersion in extremity has yielded wrenching annals of the modes and manners in which lost people inscribe their psychic, sexual, religious, and economic yearnings.


Mad about the BoyTitle – Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy
Author – Helen Fielding
ISBN – 978-0385350860
Pub Date – October 15 2013
Publisher – Knopf

Description – What do you do when your girlfriend’s sixtieth birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend’s thirtieth?

Is it better to die of Botox or die of loneliness because you’re so wrinkly?

Is it wrong to lie about your age when online dating?

Is it morally wrong to have a blow-dry when one of your children has head lice?

Is it normal to be too vain to put on your reading glasses when checking your toy boy for head lice?

Does the Dalai Lama actually tweet or is it his assistant?

Is it normal to get fewer followers the more you tweet?

Is technology now the fifth element? Or is that wood?

If you put lip plumper on your hands do you get plump hands?

Is sleeping with someone after two dates and six weeks of texting the same as getting married after two meetings and six months of letter writing in Jane Austen’s day?

Pondering these and other modern dilemmas, Bridget Jones stumbles through the challenges of loss, single motherhood, tweeting, texting, technology, and rediscovering her sexuality in—Warning! Bad, outdated phrase approaching!—middle age.


UndertowTitle – Undertow
Author – K. R. Conway
ISBN – 9780989776301
Pub Date – October 18 2013
Publisher – Kathleen Conway

Description – Luckless Eila is unknowingly the last of her kind: Rare.  Gifted.  Breakable.  Stunning Raef is her kind’s historic enemy: Soulless.  Lethal.  Lost.  A legendary death 160 years before would set their lives to collide, forcing a beautiful killer to become a savior, a simple wallflower to become a warrior, and ruthless destiny to become a death sentence.

Comments – First in a trilogy for teens and YA


Beyond the Firefly FieldTitle – Beyond the Firefly Field: Book One of the Last Elfairian Series
Author – R.E. Munzing
ISBN – 9780983169932
Pub Date – October 20 2013
Publisher – BQB Publishing

Description – By the time he was fourteen, Clayton Curtis realized his whole life would be boring. Living in a middle-of-nowhere piece of the country would have been boring enough, but it was also the land that time forgot. Due to inherit the family home passed down through many generations, Clayton felt doomed to a life in the stone age.

Everything changed when a new subdivision was built a mile from his house. With scrap wood, he and his friends built a large tree house complex. From high in the tree, they saw a glowing faraway field one night and were determined to find out what it was. What they discovered there was beyond epically wonderful, and the boys knew it must be kept secret. They quickly became obsessed with going to see it often, even though being there was changing them and herding them toward a decision they didn’t want to make. They would soon either have to be willing to do whatever was necessary to keep the secret or never go there again.

Comments – Fantasy novel for 9-14 year-olds


“The time has come..”

mark twain

After a week of reading things I’m not supposed, and probably getting myself on the verge of being banned myself from my local library (I couldn’t believe there was no banned books display here this week, and let them know my disgust), I’m going to round out the week with the promised words from three more bestselling Authors, but also my own observations on this week.

It didn’t escape my notice that, apart from a very noticeable exclusion (think dictionary), most if not all the books that are being challenged have either been made into, or are in the process of being made into a movie.  This made me wonder if, for those that have already hit the big screen, the challenges people made regarding these works were the result of the visual images they had been given by the film industry, rather than them coming to their own conclusions from actually reading the book in its intended form.  After all we are all aware of how much poetic licence filmmakers take when adapting books for the movie going audience; with this thought planted I’m going to hand over to the Authors for the final words.

Jon-Land-smallJon Land, bestselling and award-winning Author of more than twenty-five novels shares his favourite banned book along with which book on the list surprises him the most:

“I’d have to say my favourite banned book is Huckleberry Finn. It’s not only one of my favourite books, but also arguably the greatest American novel ever written. To even consider taking it from shelves, and restricting its teaching by teachers, risks denying young people a coming of age tale that pictures America in the last moments before the Industrial revolution, capturing an innocence that in Twain’s mind was always a sham. Huck himself remains one of the great American heroes of all time and his character provides countless life lessons of loyalty, friendship, heroism, and sacrifice that are denied to those who reach up to grab the book only to find it’s not there.

As far as which surprises me the most? Well, the truth is any and all of them. But I’m going to focus on The Diary of Anne Frank because to deny access to this book, in any way, shape, or form, is to risk denying the horrors perpetuated on humanity by the most vile monsters in modern history. And to deny those horrors is to risk the very real possibility that such monsters could return in a different age with a different target. Could the banning of a single book cause such a thing? Of course not. But the mentality that would allow such a book to be banned could definitely allow, if not encourage, a new wave of monsters and the heinous acts they perpetuate.”

Loren D. estlemanLoren D. Estleman is the award-winning author of more than sixty-five novels, including mysteries and westerns. His most enduring character, Amos Walker, has been featured in twenty novels and his adventure novel, The High Rocks was nominated for a National Book Award, and here are his thoughts:

“I’m never surprised by any of the choices, however innocuous some of them may seem. There will always be pinch-brained bigots who aren’t satisfied just to take offense at a thing, but to keep everyone else from being exposed to it, and since these days the censorship comes from left as well as right, there’s no mystery of the length of the list.

I’ve read many, although, not most, of these books, and in some cases (1984, In Cold Blood, The Sun Also Rises) have re-read them more than once. The best ones make me reconsider my world or take me far away from it; but these are all my favourites if they spike the blood pressure – fatally, perhaps – of the human slime that would set a match to them.

I don’t waste time getting angry over the choices, because it infuriates me that any book should be banned for any reason. This is America. Our society was founded on the principle that no idea is as dangerous as any action taken to silence it.”

Susan IsaacsSusan Isaacs is a New York Times bestselling author of mysteries and literary fiction and shares her favourite on the Banned Books List:

“My favourite banned book is Huckleberry Finn. It’s famous for its depiction of race and class in America, but what I love most are the characters. They are so human — courageous, venal, funny, cruel — and seem more alive than half the people I meet every day. Yes, the escaped slave is called Nigger Jim, but that was the truth of the time, the offhand viciousness; suppressing that fact to save feelings from being hurt is the cowardly way out.

I don’t want anyone else judging what books I can read. I don’t need to be protected. Anyway, who is fit to judge? A Supreme Court Justice? A Librarian? Whom do you trust to ban books for you or your kids? And if the person you’d choose is too busy, or not interested in being a censor, who gets the job?

I am never surprised at any book being banned. Everybody has a sore spot, some idea he or she thinks is dangerous to let out. We want to shut up racists, gun advocates, gay advocates, blasphemers, and mega-church preachers. If we can ban Merchant of Venice or Catch-22, the world will be a better place. Wrong. Shut up a neighbour and next week or next year it’s your favourite book’s turn to get muzzled Weenies ban books. They’re scared of new thoughts and tough words. Be brave. Fight censorship. And buy a banned book.”

Everyone has something that they think are inappropriate or wrong, be it books, movies, advertising; but we all have the right to choose whether we want to subject ourselves and/or our families to these things; what we do not have the right to do is press those opinions and restrictions onto other people.  We need to realise that when we start down the slippery road to banning the written word from our libraries and schools, they will eventually be banned from our bookstores, and then where does that end?  Are we in danger of going down the route portrayed in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451?

“Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn ’em to ashes, then burn the ashes. That’s our official slogan.” (p.8)


Banned Books Awareness Week: The Alice Series ~ Phyllis Reynolds Naylor


THE BOOK:  Alice McKinley is about to become a teenager, but she doesn’t know how. Her mother has been dead for years, and what do her father and her nineteen-year-old brother, Lester, know about being a teenage girl? If only she had a role model, like the beautiful sixth-grade teacher Miss Cole. But instead Alice gets assigned to plain, pear-shaped Mrs. Plotkin’s class. Is Alice doomed to a life of one embarrassment after another?

21893_naylor_phyllis_reynoldsPhyllis Reynolds Naylor was born in Anderson, Indiana in 1933. She grew up during the Great Depression. Money was so scarce that Naylor used the backs of paper she took from the trash can to write her first stories on.  When Naylor turned 16 she published her first story in a church magazine. Naylor paid her way through college at the American University in Washington, D. C. by selling her stories. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, Naylor decided to devote her life to writing. She has written over one hundred books.

THE CHALLENGES (courtesy of Marshall University):

2012Banned and/or challenged for nudity, using offensive language, and religious viewpoint.

2007Banned for sexual content and using offensive language.

2004Banned for sexual content, using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.

2003Banned for being sexually explicit, using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.

2002Banned for sexual content and being unsuited to age group

2001Banned for sexual content and being unsuited to age group


Banned Books Awareness Week: The Handmaids Tale ~Margaret Atwood


THE BOOK:  In the Republic of Gilead, we see a world devastated by toxic chemicals and nuclear fallout and dominated by a repressive Christian fundamentalism. The birthrate has plunged, and most women can no longer bear children. Offred is one of Gilead’s Handmaids, who as official breeders are among the chosen few who can still become pregnant.

Margaret AttwoodRegarded as one of Canada’s finest living writers, Margaret Atwood is a poet, novelist, story writer, essayist, and environmental activist. Her books have received critical acclaim in the United States, Europe, and her native Canada, and she has received numerous literary awards, including the Booker Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Governor General’s Award, twice. Atwood’s critical popularity is matched by her popularity with readers; her books are regularly bestsellers.

THE CHALLENGES (courtesy of Marshall University):

2013 – Challenged as required reading for a Page High School International Baccalaureate class and as optional reading for Advanced Placement reading courses at Grimsley High School in Guilford County (NC) because the book is “sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt.”

2007 – The Judson (TX) school board overturned the superintendent’s ban of the novel from an advanced placement English curriculum. The review committee of students, teachers and parents had appealed the ban to the school board.

2006 – The Judson (TX) school board overturned the superintendent’s ban of the novel from an advanced placement English curriculum.

2002 – Challenged in Texas due to description’s of sexual encounters.

2001 – Downgraded from “required” to “optional” for the 11th grade summer reading list in Upper Moreland (PA) school district for age inappropriate subject matter.


Banned Books Awareness Week: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) ~ Philip Pullman


THE BOOK:  Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

philip-pullmanTHE AUTHOR:  Philip Pullman, born on 19th of October 1946 is a writer from Norwich, England. He is the son of Audrey Avelyn Pullman and Alfred Outram Pullman. He spent most of his childhood in travel as his father was in the Air force. Part of early days, he lived in Australia, as his mother remarried. That is where he developed his love for writing. He was very amused by the comics and their characters especially Batman and Superman. During 1957 Pullman spent his time with his grandfather in Norfolk where he found John Milton‘s ‘Paradise Lost’ that later became the base for his work ‘His Dark Materials’. After finishing school he studied in Exeter College, Oxford where he did his Bachelors in Arts in 1968. He also discovered William Blake‘s illustrations in 1970 that also influenced him in his works later on. In the same year he got married to Judith Speller.

THE CHALLENGES (courtesy of Marshall University):

2009 – Retained by the publicly funded Dufferin-Peel Catholic School District in Mississauga (Ontario, Canada) with a sticker on the inside cover telling readers “representations of the church in this novel are purely fictional” and are not reflective of the real Roman Catholic Church or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2008 – Removed, but later returned to the library shelves at dozens of schools in the publicly funded Halton (Ontario, Canada) Catholic School District despite that the books were challenged as being “written by an atheist where the characters and text are anti-God, anti-Catholic, and anti-religion.” The book and two other Pullman titles from the Dark Matters trilogy were pulled from public display for review, but available to students upon request. The publicly funded Calgary (Alberta, Canada) Catholic School District returned the book to its library shelves two months after ordering its removal. Detractors accused the book of having anti-religious content. Challenged at the Conkwright Middle School in Winchester (KY) because the main character drinks wine and ingests poppy with her meals and the book presents an anti-Christian doctrine. Pulled from the St. John Neumann Middle School and Lourdes High School in OshKosh (WI) because concerns about what critics call its “anti-Christian message.” Challenged at the Shallowater Middle School in Lubbock (TX) because of the book’s “anti-religious message.” Pulled from the library shelves at Ortega Middle School in Alamosa (CO) for what critics regard as the book’s anti-religious views. District officials later returned the book to circulation. Retained by the publicly funded Dufferin-Peel Catholic School District in Mississauga (Ontario, Canada) with a sticker on the inside cover telling readers “representations of the church in this novel are purely fictional” and are not reflective of the real Roman Catholic Church or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Banned Books Awareness Week: The Chocolate War ~ Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War

THE BOOK:  Jerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive? First published in 1974, Robert Cormier’s groundbreaking novel, an unflinching portrait of corruption and cruelty, has become a modern classic.

THE AUTHOR:  robert-cormier-1Robert Cormier was an American author and journalist, known for his novels/stories that have pessimistic themes. He authored ten major novels and several short stories, most of which are specifically for young adults. Although he did not enjoy initial commercial success, he always received immense critical acclaim. His novels and short stories are centred on themes of abuse, betrayal, mental illness, violence, and revenge. Another interesting feature in his novels is that good may not necessarily win over evil. This tendency of his novels to stress on the ‘negative’ led to the rejection of his publications from educational institutions and library lists. However, the author and several critics have explained his works as simply a realistic depiction of human nature. Owing to stories’ dark controversial nature, some of his works were initially banned. However, with time they have been accepted into mainstream publication houses and have also been translated into many languages. His works now appear frequently on the list of ‘Best Books for Young Adults’ of the American Library Association and are often recommended in the New York Times and School Library Journal.

THE CHALLENGES (courtesy of Marshall University):

2010 – Challenged and/or banned for nudity, offensive language, being sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

2008 – Initially removed from Harford County (MD) High School curriculum due to vulgar language overshadowing anti-bullying message, but in November 2007, the school superintendent reversed the ban to allow the use of the book in classes dealing with harassment for which all parents have signed permission slips. Challenged as optional reading in a bullying unit at the Lake Oswego (OR) Junior High School because the novel is “peppered with profanities, ranging from derogatory slang terms to sexual encounters and violence.” Challenged in the Coeur d’Alene (ID) School district where parents say the book, along with 5 other, should require parental permission for students to read them. Challenged as required reading for 7th-grade students at the John H. Kinzie Elementary School in Chicago (IL). Challenged at the Northridge School District in Johnstown (OH) because “if these books were a movie, they would be rated R, why should we encourage them to read these books.”

2007 – Challenged, but retained in the West Hartford (CN) schools. Parents of a King Philip Middle School eighth grader thought the language, sexual content, and violence made the book PG-13. Challenged in the Wake County (NC) schools because the book has “vulgar and sexually explicit language.” Parents are getting help from Called2Action, a Christian group that says its mission is to “promote and defend our shared family and social values.”

2006 – Challenged for sexual content and offensive language.

2005 – Challenged for sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint, being unsuited to age group and violence.

2003 – Challenged in Fairfax (VA) school libraries by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools for “profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct and torture”.

2002 – Challenged for profanity, scenes of masturbation and sexual fantasy along with segments denigrating to girls.

2001 – Challenged in York County (VA) for sexually explicit language. Retained as optional reading for eighth graders in Girard (PA) despite a grandmother finding the book offensive and not wanting her grand-daughter reading it. Challenged for being on the eighth grade reading list of Lancaster (MA) school district for language and content. Challenged at a Lisbon (OH) board of education meeting as a “pornographic” book that should be removed from high school English classes.


“And we’re off…”


Yesterday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week 2013 and, as promised in my post last month about this topic, I’m going to be looking at some of the books that made the challenge list this year and also include some other articles about this erosion of our right to read.

To start the week off, and courtesy of Open Road Media, some Bestselling Authors will be sharing their favourite banned books and speaking out on behalf of Banned Books Week.

Dame Ruth RendellDame Ruth Rendell has won three Edgar Awards, the highest accolade from Mystery Writers of America, as well as four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre from England’s prestigious Crime Writers’ Association. Her remarkable career has spanned more than forty years, with more than sixty books published. A member of the House of Lords, she lives in London and was surprised to hear any of the books listed on the ALA website had been banned or challenged:

“I had no any idea any of these books were banned anywhere.  My two favourites would be Orwell’s 1984 because it is, in my opinion, the best science fiction ever written, and a wonderful cry for freedom and exposé of what we have to fear in the modern world; Alice in Wonderland because I first read it when I was about five because it is funny, witty and clever, which most children’s books are not, and it stays with you in all its details for the whole of your life”

Stephen-Rebello-Stephen Robello is a Screenwriter, Journalist and the Author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.  Here he speaks out on the topic of banning books as it relates to Hitchcock, Capote and more:

“Banning books? What a pointless, wrong-headed, and flat-world pursuit. I’m with the much-censored Mark Twain who wrote, “The truth is, that when a library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me.” One of my very favourites on the list of so-called “banned books” is In Cold Blood, Truman Capote’s brilliant, bone-freezing nonfiction novel about the killing of the Clutter family in rural Holcomb, Kansas. The prose is beautifully lean and disciplined. Its documentary-like, you-are-there atmosphere is palpable. Evil has rarely seemed so banal, terrifying, and heartbreaking. I sometimes tend to bracket director Richard Brooks’ very good film version of In Cold Blood with certain aspects of Alfred Hitchcock’s film of Robert Bloch’s Psycho—a dark, nasty, despairing novel so many claim to have read but clearly haven’t. Both Brooks’ and Hitchcock’s films have eloquent, moody black-and-white cinematography, of course, but they also share a tough, bleak, unsparing view of the way the world works. They’re works of great outrage and compassion. Bloch’s novel has apparently never been high-profile enough to land on “banned” lists, but Hitchcock’s notorious and phenomenally successful 1960 movie brought on cries for censorship by a number of church organizations and at least one publicity-happy, barnstorming psychiatrist who, rumour had it, Hitchcock cleverly and quietly bought off. All that said nothing I’ve written to date has been banned. But rest assured, on my new stuff, I’m working very hard to rectify this oversight.”

Jonathan KingJonathon King, an Edgar Award-winning novelist and the creator of the Max Freeman Crime Series, talks about his favourite book on the banned books list:

“My favourite on the list is East of Eden, which I’ve read several times, and if it’s banned for some reason, pity. Louis L’Amour said: “Shakespeare’s work has lived as long as it has because he dealt with normal human emotions; envy, ambition, rivalry, love, hate, greed and so on. These are the basic drives among us humans and are with us forever.”

Put all those things in a story and you’ve got East of Eden. If you want to ban literary depictions of those emotions, put your head in the sand because you’ve got nothing.”

As the week progresses I will be looking at four books that have been challenged during this first part of the 21st century, and were listed on my blog in August.  At the end of the week, and to close everything out on Saturday there will be more Authors sharing their thoughts on this subject.

Now it’s your turn to take over the blog page; what are your thoughts on this form of censorship?  What’s YOUR favourite banned book?  What will you be reading this week, and is your local library having an event?





Three Passions ~ Bertrand Russell

bertrandrussellbigThree passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what, at last, I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

~ Bertrand Russell



Review: Bread and Bullets; The Story of Sacrifice in American Homes to Feed the Troops in World War II ~ Kent Whitaker

Bread and BulletsThe U.S. a collection of cities serviced by outlying farms and producers is amazingly transformed into a nation serviced, by a national food production industry to meet the needs of fighting a world war. The armed services, 350,000 strong at the war’s start, quickly grew to 11,000,000 men and women who had to be fed along with the millions more on the home front. This is the story of the transformation to meet those needs and the interesting stories about the people, prominent and not-so prominent, of the era and the food they liked to eat and more frequently, what they had to eat. Many stories from the troops on the front are included and so too, many recipes suitable for today’s dining.

3 Thumbs-UpThis book is a great piece of writing and research, and hit 3 areas that I particularly enjoy reading and learning about.  As I read this book it brought to mind another covering WWII recipes published by the Imperial War Museum in England, but ‘Bread and Bullets’ has a wider scope than the IWM book.

The book itself is divided into 3 sections; history, memoirs and recipes that I tried, some of which with excellent results.  The first section of the book covers all things related to the history of war-time food including famous people and food companies of that era.  The reader is educated in the ways of the military cooks and bakers that fed the armed forces in a time of combat.  Despite their often being ridiculed by those that had to eat their offerings, we learn that they did the best they could with the ingredients on hand and, often under some very stressful situations; trying to make sure that the fighting forces never went without a meal was no mean task, and the work that went into this adds new meaning to the phrase ‘an Army fights on its stomach’.  The numbers that had to be catered for were absolutely mind-boggling and, until reading this I did not realise how much of defining factor food actually played in the war effort.  Especially interesting from a historical point of view is the comparison between Allied and Axis food.

Memoirs from both military personnel and their families back home, add a human aspect to this book some of which make the reader chuckle and others which are quite poignant.  Through their words, and the skill of the Author, the reader learns about victory gardening and the impact of rationing on the daily lives of real people.  Reading these experiences makes one wonder why, in our times of plentiful food are we not more conscious of what we use, and aim to cut down our food wastage and even grow more of our own vegetables. The recipes, and yes the Author admits some of the ingredients are spelled wrong, are included for historical purposes only, but using modern hygiene standards and ingredients they are easily adaptable for any reader, like myself, who wants to try them out.  After all how many readers of this book would have access to a WWII helmet to cook in?  Also, as the reader who tries them out is not likely to be cooking for 100+ people, any scaling down of ingredients needs to be double checked before trying out to avoid disastrous results.

As much as I enjoyed reading this book, and putting my cooking skills and recipe adaptations to the test, there were a lot of proofreading errors that should have been picked by the Editor before this book went to print.  The result of this was it really pulled from my overall enjoyment of the book, and I felt that the Author had maybe used a generic spell-check program when going through their work as some words just did not make any sense in context.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoy WWII history, be it from a military or home front perspective; also readers who enjoy books that include recipes that they would like to challenge themselves with would be well advised to give this book a look.


Review: The Spirit of A Witch ~ Sarah Jane Avory

Spirit of a witchEver wondered what it would be like to truly understand a cat, every last meow, every narrowed glance, every jab of a paw?

When Briley Forester, a shy recluse and gifted games programmer, is torn from the world and dumped into the village of Maepole, she finds out the hard way. Trapped within a backward world without technology, she discovers that being a witch is hard, and that her grouchy talking cat Smokey knows more about men than she does!

Tricked into working as a delivery girl and aided by an ancient grimoire, only by learning the powers of witchcraft can she hope to return home. Not an easy task for a girl suffering from crippling self-doubt.

But her way home is fraught with heartache and danger, love and despair. The powerful Whitehead family, haters of witches, will stop at nothing to be rid of her.

And lurking within the forest, the dark spirit lies in wait, ready to strike…

2 Thumbs-UpThis is the Authors debut novel, and the first in the Briley Witch Chronicles.  If you are highly religious, or completely against the idea of magic, witches and unusual things happening to ordinary people, you may want to give this one a miss.

I’m going to start in this review by heading straight to the part of this book I didn’t like, and that was the main protagonist.  The fact that I didn’t like her one bit made it a chore rather than a pleasure to keep reading this book to the end.  So much so, it almost received the dubious pleasure of being the first book I have ever left unfinished.  The main character finds themselves whisked from her ordinary everyday life into another world and, while this can be disconcerting and hard to get used to, she complains and moans her whole way through the book.  She is such a negative person, and full of so much low self-esteem, that I felt she needed therapy rather than the chance to discover new and interesting things about herself.  There is one redeeming character in this book, and it is her cat; obviously a magical beast as it provides an excellent balance and provides reality checks for our ‘Minnie the Moaner’.  As this is the first book in this series, I am hoping that Author is going to allow the main protagonist to grow out of and deal with all her insecurities, to develop into a person some readers may like; it is possible that after reading this book some readers may already like her, but she was not for me.

Outside of the dislike I had for the main character, this Author has done an outstanding job in writing this book, it is well written and put together in such a manner that it flows along nicely.  Despite its slow beginning which covers some routes that have been covered before, the Author manages to make the new world she is building seem almost real.  As well as magic, the Author covers certain mysteries in the novels pages that are uncovered and solved as the book progresses; this helps the book become a stronger piece of work and also picks up the pace of the storyline.

I would recommend this book to YA readers and anyone who enjoys a fantasy read that contains a small helping of fairytale.