Bookmarks

I recently had someone ask me if we still had novelbookrating.com bookmarks available to be passed out. We do and we would love to send some to anyone who would like to pass them out to their book club or to give to their library or any other community board. Just go to our home page and find the “Talk to us!” button towards the bottom of the page. Let us know how many you would like and where you would like us to send them. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Books I Never Get Tired Reading

I did it again. I went to pick up a recent novel to read. But I couldn’t settle on anything. So what did I end up reading? Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. I have read this trilogy too many times and so I didn’t think I would want to ever read it again. But it is an incredibly fast read (It is really just a long book, more than a trilogy) and I love how he made a science fiction book into a mystery book. And even though I know exactly how it is all going to turn out, I still enjoy the lead up to the surprise at the end. There are some books that I can read over and over and this is one of them.

My daughter borrowed my copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. That is another book that I can read every year. Ender’s Game also fits that category. Please give me any suggestions of books that you read repeatedly but don’t get sick of it. I would love to find another book that I can read over and over again.

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From Reed: Violence in The Hunger Games

I guess it is time that I break down and read The Hunger Games. I think I am one of the last three people on earth that hasn’t either read the book or seen the movie. I have been told by many people that I would really like it. Then I read scathing reports, editorials in the paper mostly, stating that we should avoid the book (and movie) because of the violence.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

What better place to go for guidance than Novelbookratings.com! Sure enough, there are several reviews of the book. The violence level is high according to the reviews. But despite that, the book is universally given high overall marks. Our readers enjoyed this book.

I really hate violence in a book that is placed there just to spice things up or to shock us (sometimes just to wake us up since the plot doesn’t engage us). I detest violence that is glorified. I am frustrated by books that make killing cool and I have a low level of tolerance for this kind of violence in books.

On the other hand, I love to read history and history is filled with violence. But the accounts of violence in history teach us to deplore violence, even if it must sometimes be used to defend ourselves. When used as a lesson, as a moral, I find that I have a high tolerance level for violence in books.

So thank you for your reviews! Keep them coming. People really want to know what you think and you have the ability to shape what people read. And, thanks to you, I am now quite sure that I am going to love this book.

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From Craig: Timeout for some Non-fiction

I recently decided to take a break from novels and read some non-fiction. I picked up “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan.

Carl Sagan

It is a bit long-winded in places, but Dr. Sagan issues a wake up call to an increasingly illogical, or perhaps “anti-logical” society.
He analyses society’s historical attraction to the mysterious and unexplainable. From witches and ghosts to aliens and psychics, he exposes all sorts of pseudoscience and addresses a range of conspiracy. He points out how we humans love the mysteries much more than we enjoy explanations.
My favorite part was his “Baloney Detection Kit”, a “must have” for logical thinkers. (I am not going to describe the content here, you will have to read the book.)
Reading the book was an opportunity for me to examine my set of beliefs and to think how I can inoculate myself and my family from misinformation and fraud (my daughter loves ghosts!) It is very worthwhile and very timely.

So, when you take a break from fiction, what do you read? What have you read lately?

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Guest Post by Andy Tilley: Testing the boundaries of Dark Humor

Recently at a gig in Manchester, Jimmy Carr (one of the UK’s more controversial comedians) stunned his audience with the following gag. ‘Say what you like about these servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we are going to have a ****** good Paralympic team in 2012.’
There was said to be ‘some laughter’ but most of the audience were reportedly stunned into silence. Some laughter eh?  Then we can infer from this that a few found it funny. So my question is simple: which side of the auditorium would you have been sat on and where are the boundaries between comedy and taboo?
In reality the question is a bogus one  because defining where funny ends and bad taste begins is more than just a tricky thing to do, it’s impossible. There are no lines, only an infinite number of greys between white and black. So anyone who decides to enter the world of dark comedy, either as a practitioner or voyeur, better be prepared to find out some rather uncomfortable things about themselves because it is a fact that funny and sick are not mutually exclusive. I admire Carr for his commitment to walking this blurry tightrope and on this particular instance feel compelled to defend him. Which is worse; for Jimmy Carr to take a terrible personal tragedy and use it to make us laugh or for a politician to use images of those same unfortunates to make us hate?

About Andy Tilley:

Andy Tilley is a UK based author whose no holds barred approach to story telling is combined with a sharp wit that he will tell you was an essential survival tool developed whilst growing up in Manchester, Northwest England. Darkly comic, the thoughts and ideas expressed in his books will not only bring laughs but often force the reader to consider aspects of life that most of us usually try to ignore!

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2012

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and that you got all of the books on your wishlist.  I got a couple of shirts that my wife bought and a DVD from my daughter.  Other than that my Christmas consisted solely of books.  The books are quite diverse; Fever Dream by Preston & Child, The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry, Micro by Michael Chrichton and Richard Preston and a few others.  I was so excited for Christmas morning to come so that I could start reading but then something strange happened.  I opened the presents and didn’t want to read any of them.  They all looked like really great reads but for some reason I didn’t want to pick any of them up, despite the fact that I have been anticipating them since Thanksgiving.  I ended up picking up a couple of history books instead and have yet to start a novel.  I guess I really need a novel with some meat on it.  Suggestions would be welcomed.

By the way, another book I received was Paul of Dune.  I have real mixed emotions about reading it.   When I was a teenager I read Dune by Frank HerbertI really loved it and so I read the entire series.  But I liked every other book a little less than the one before.  So now that Brian Herbert, the son of Dune author Frank Herbert, is writing prequels and sequels I have decided to give the entire series another try.  I am hoping that I might like the books better as an adult.  The problem is that it has been so long that I can’t even remember anything about the books.  So if  anyone has any insight as to the best way to enjoy the new books let me know.  I can’t decide whether I should begin reading with the new books or if I should read the original series first.  By the way, if any of you have read these books recently, I would love to see a review.

I hope you all have a great year of reading ahead.

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Thanksgiving and Christmas

I hope that you are all having a great Holiday season.  I love this time of year (except for the cold which I am beginning to detest).  It is a time for reflection and gratitude.  I sometimes forget just how good life is.  Everyone has problems and I am no exception but too often I let the problems block my sight of all the good things that I have in my life.  And one of the things that I am grateful for is my ability to read and that I live in a time when there are so many books to choose from.

Maybe that is the other reason I love this time of the year so much.  I tend to indulge my love of reading and buy books that I might not buy the rest of the year.  For me, there is no tangible Christmas gift better than a book.  I want to thank all of you out there that have submitted reviews.  As I have browsed our website, I have found some books that I now want to buy.  So the time that you put into this site really is valuable to others.  Take a minute and review the latest book that you have read.  If you loved it, then someone else will be able to share your love of the book by following your recommendation.  If you hated it, well, you may have saved someone twenty hours of their life. 

Again, thanks to all of you out that have used this website and we hope that you enjoy it more each passing month.  Have a great Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas.

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We have Bookmarks

We have been trying to figure out ways to get word out about novelbookratings.com.  Our growth has been fairly steady.  We appreciate the word of mouth spread by our users as the site continues to grow.  To help that growth, we would love to get the word out to library patrons or to other community gathering places.  We have therefore printed bookmarks that contain a brief synopis about what novelbookratings is all about.  Hopefully people will enjoy the bookmark and join our growing community.

If any of you have a way to distribute the bookmarks (such as at a library) and would be willing to help us out, please provide us with contact information and we would love to send you some.  We don’t want to be pushy but would love to get word out about the tools for finding good books contained on the website.

Again, thanks to the great users of novelbookratings.com.  We love your comments and hope that you are finding great books to read.

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Banned Books, Part 2

Thank you for your input regarding your feelings about book banning.  There is a wide variety of views on the subject and I thought I would just do a quick follow-up to my September post on the same topic. 

I was sent an old list of the fifty most frequently banned books (which was taken from a book published in 1994, titled Banned in the U.S.A., by Herbert N. Foerstel).  http://www.nytimes.com/library/cyber/nation/082297nation-list.html.  I don’t know how the list was compiled but I found it revealing.  First, I clearly understand why some of the books would be of worry to parents and recognize the objectionable material in them (for instance, Catcher in the Rye).  However, I found myself reacting with great surprise to some of the banned books.  It has been awhile since I read a Roald Dahl book but I always loved them, as did my children.  I really can’t think of what could be found objectionable.  And I think that Tom Sawyer made the list just because it was the companion novel to Huckleberry Finn.  A Wrinkle in Time?  Really? The Great Gilly Hopkins?  That is one of the best children’s books ever.  Maybe I am not sensitive enough, but I don’t get it. 

As I indicated in my previous post, I believe we have a responsibility to protect our children from the garbage that sometimes passes as literature.  I admire parents that truly take the time to protect their children, but sometimes I think we can be a little too sensitive.  My feelings on this subject crystallized when I read about a Virginia school board that removed the Sherlock Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet, from the shelves.  Why?  Because it is “offensive to Mormons.”   I have read all of the Sherlock Holmes books several times.  I read A Study in Scarlet when I was very young (preteen).  As a Mormon myself, I found the references to Mormonism to be unflattering.  However, I still enjoyed the story and the literature of Sherlock Holmes.  I was not offended, even though it taught me a little about how others may view me.  I would never think about stopping my children from reading A Study in Scarlet, although I would probably want to identify for them the bigotry that is contained in the story. 

My bottom line is that we shouldn’t ban great literature merely because it might in some way make us uncomfortable.  Sometimes we learn from our discomfort.  And it wouldn’t hurt to learn to laugh at ourselves a little more.  Too much sensitivity may close us off from wonderful perspectives of those who see the world differently than we do.  Protect our children: I am all for that.  Protect ourselves:  I am all for that too.  That is one of the purposes of this website.  It helps us chose the books that fall within the standards we set for our literature.  But let us also be careful not to miss out on great literature by eliminating every book that contains anything with which we might disagree.   

 

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Banning Books

I have been reading with interest the most recent controversy over Mark Twain’s classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  It is well known that the book has a long history of being banned from libraries.  Upon publication in 1885 it was banned from the public libraries of Concord, Massachusetts.  Since that time it has been banned from a variety of schools and libraries.  Earlier this year NewSouth Books published a new version in which they replaced the “n” word with the word “slave” and eliminated the word “injun.”  In publishing the altered edition, the publisher reasoned that by changing the language, the bans could be lifted and the book would again be read by students that otherwise would not be exposed to the book.

While I applaud involved communities, and especially parents that care about the content of the books both they and their children read (after all, that is the purpose of this website), I sometimes wonder if we do ourselves a disservice by avoiding what could be life altering–or at least soul searching–discussions with our families and friends.  As I have said before, knowing the content of a book is extremely important, but sometimes context is even more important.  The mere use of the “n” word in a book tells us something but not everything.  Was it used to shock?  Was it used to demonstrate the superiority of one race over another? Or perhaps it was used to show ignorance and prejudice–and therby argue for change in its readers.  If the use of offending words in a book causes us to examine our own prejudices and to lead to our commitment to eliminate prejudice, then our exposure to that word may well be beneficial.  My personal opinion is that Huckleberry Finn does just that.  Jim is  moral and upright and serves as an example of those qualities for Huck.  But the ignorance and prejudice of the times minimizes the opportunity to benefit from exposure to Jim’s morality.  Instead society distances itself from Jim.  The “n” word epitomizes that distance; that minimalizing of Jim.  In this way the book stands as an indictment of both the attitude and the “n” word that places Jim in an inferior position. 

As a side note, I am also bothered by the fact that the “n” word was replaced by the word “slave.”  Jim was not a slave, but a free man–at least as far as his legal status was concerned.  The “n” word was used in a more insidious manner and the word “slave” deprives the book of both accuracy and the ability to provoke thought.

Ultimately, the issue of banning, editing (and sometimes simply avoiding) will be a personal decision.  Some books have no redeeming value, or the value is so hidden that trudging through the muck for the single gold fleck simply isn’t worth it.  On the other hand, if we can inspect a fleck of filth, recognize it for what it is and thereby improve ourselves, isn’t the examination worth it?

As I intend to examine this topic further in future posts, I would welcome your feedback.

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