Thursday, August 20, 2015

This summer, I read comics

I've been reading a lot of comics this summer, and it's the greatest.

I just finished Ms. Marvel Vol. 3: Crushed and the series continues to be fun, as was Rat Queens Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'Rygoth. I love to read about girls kicking ass! (See also, Nimona) One thing I really appreciate about Rat Queens and Nimona is that it's fantasy kick-ass fun, but there's underlying basis of pain. It's not always there or the focus of the narrative, but it bubbles up to color the story in a way that's really compelling. (Plus, now I have an excuse to yell I'M A SHARK! and see who laughs--new bestie test)

Oh, and I also read Lumberjanes which I loved for it's kick-ass girls and silliness, but also its friendship and their long-suffering camp counselor. I love these girls as an ensemble and their relationships. FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX for reals.


Also in ongoing series... Fables Vol. 22: Farewell happened. The final Fairest, Fairest Vol. 5: The Clamour for Glamour comes out on Tuesday, but Fables is done. This is the series that turned me onto comics and my feelings about it ending are so bittersweet. I'm going to miss these characters and their stories and their lives and how Willingham played with meta-fiction and what happens when you put fictional characters in the real world. At the same time, the final volume was wonderful. I think it was a fitting tribute and end to the series and, in many ways, it was a farewell. It wrapped up the narrative arc nicely, left some loose ends, but not ones that will drive me batty, and let the characters say goodbye (sometimes very literally). I have been nervous lately because the last few volumes have been a bit of a blood bath, and there is some of that here, too, but... it's good. It's really, really good. My only complaint is that it's done and I very selfishly want more, more, more, more. (Also, I asked my friends at Secret Stacks what I should read to fill the Fables void, and they got Bill Willingham himself to answer and zomg.)

But also, I've been reading some new series!

I read the entirety of Y: The Last Man because Bellwether Friends did an episode about it. I am in love with Saga (which was also a Bellwether recommendation) which is also by Brian K Vaughn, so I thought I'd pick up all the Y before listening to their episode, so I'd be able to better understand. Y is the story of what happens when suddenly, all males (human and animal) drop dead. Except for Yorick and his monkey Ampersand. Science and governments want Yorick, but he just wants to get from New York to Australia where his girlfriend-maybe-fiance was when the gender-cide hit, but it also explores what happens when a gender dies. You get radical feminist movement burning sperm banks, countries that had higher gender equality do better than those who had more men in charge, and also a lot of people in deep morning. Plus little things-- it hit at rush hour so a lot of the highways are clogged with cars and what do you do with that many dead bodies? It was really interesting and good. I like the way it explored the different aspects of this new world as well as all the different theories people had for what caused it. (People have feelings about the ending. It wasn't the ending I necessarily wanted, but I think it was good for the story, if that makes sense. Fangirl Jennie was "eh" but literary critic Jennie was "oh, yes.") Also, let's talk Saga. I've read the four volumes that are out now and so good. It's about love and family and survival against the backdrop of intergalactic war! And their nanny is a ghost. (Basically, star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of this inter-galactic war have a kid and everyone wants them dead because there can't be proof that the two sides can get along and all they want to do is live and survive as a family, but always running puts strain on a relationship!) Also, let's just talk about how the romance novels are also political tracts wrapped in love story, because a romance reader, YES. There is meaning and metaphor and all the other trappings of HIGH LITERATURE in romance (and really, all genre) but it gets written off so often, but not here. That warms my heart.

I've also picked up the first four volumes of East of West. It's this story of a futuristic alternate history US where the country's fractured into several other countries and there's a religious cult and Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are reborn, except for Death, because he's left them for love and it all ties back to this religious cult and a prophesy and it's weird and not quite my usual thing, but really good at the same time.

Also for something amazing, but a little different than my usual fare, Secret Stacks also recommended I check out Pretty Deadly which is also about Death falling in love with a person. But this time it's Death's Daughter who's riding for revenge. And there's a girl in a feather cape and old man who travel from town to town to tell her story. It's hauntingly surreal and I cannot wait for more. (Please tell me there's more!)

What comics are you reading?


Books Provided by... my local library, except for Fables, which I bought.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Talking to RT and Library Journal about That Book

I was going to post this a few days ago, but didn't have time and then Bethany House came out with their gross statement and I decided to save this post for today, so we can end the week on a high note!

When I contacted Bethany House and RWA, I did not contact RT* or Library Journal, even though the book was very favorably reviewed in both places (it was a Top Pick for RT and it got a coveted star from LJ). Not because I didn't want to, but unlike Bethany House and RWA, I have bridges to burn at RT and LJ. (So, full disclosure, I review both for RT and for LJ's sister publication, School Library Journal.) I reached out to people I know and trust at both organizations to seek advice on how best to handle the situation (Should I email the editor-in-chief? The reviews editor? My editor and have her pass it on? etc.)

I got a lot of support and advice, and sat down to craft my emails.  Within an hour of contacting Library Journal I had a response that the person I contacted takes the matter seriously, but key people to the conversation are out of the office, so they need to wait. Totally valid and I look forward to seeing what happens.

While I was still crafting my email to RT, my former editor forwarded me an email that had been sent out to their reviewers who cover Inspirational Romance. It is not an official response from RT, but does show they take the issue seriously and is an example of what you SHOULD do in this situation. With permission, I'm posting it here:

Hi inspirational reviewers,

I wanted to reach out to you because of a 2014 inspirational romance that's been getting a lot of attention. You might've heard, but For Such a Time by Kate Breslin was nominated for two RITA awards and received rave reviews from Library Journal — and from us.

For Such a Time's critical acclaim has been a source of great pain for many in the romance community. For those of you who don't know, the central plot involves a blonde, blue-eyed Jewish woman who falls in love with a Nazi commandant who is in charge of a concentration camp. The heroine's appearance allows her to conceal her ancestry and grow close to the SS officer.

This is problematic on many levels. That the heroine's non-"Jewish" appearance saves her is deeply troubling: it essentially — and somewhat insidiously — valorizes not looking "Jewish" without examining the anti-Semitism inherent in that assessment.

But the most painful: For Such a Time casts a Nazi officer — who's presumably overseen the systematic murder of a number of Jews — as a romantic hero. Even viewing this in the most generous light, granting such a character redemption and a happily-ever-after is — at best — hugely insensitive. This book is set against the monstrous historical backdrop of so many lives being brutally extinguished. We're talking about a time when Jews were fleeing their homes in terror, families were separated, children were murdered and buried in mass graves. Let that sink in for a second.

One of the most moving and wrenching moments of my life was when I went to the Josefov, the historically Jewish district in Prague. In the Pinkasova synagogue, there's an exhibit dedicated to children's drawings from Terezin. Terezin was a camp in the Czech Republic where Jews were held before being sent to their deaths at Auschwitz and Treblinka. The children there, mostly orphans, were given art lessons — they drew their homes, they drew what they imagined Israel to be like, they drew what they saw in their dreams. As you might expect, none of those children ever made it home.

When an author chooses to set a story during World War II, right in the thick of one of the most soul-crushing examples of genocide in human history, she takes on a huge responsibility. As does the publisher who sells and distributes her book. As do the people who read and review it. The reason I'm addressing this with you all is that I believe there is a certain lacuna in the publishing industry, particularly in the inspirational/Christian market. I don't say this pejoratively, but merely as a statement of fact: the Christian fiction market is narrow and insular. Because it is written almost exclusively by and for Christians, it's born out of an inherently limited perspective — one that isn't as finely attuned to the struggles of non-Christians as it could or should be.

It raises the question: What can we, as staff of this magazine, do? What can we offer? Empathy. Sensitivity. A conscious effort to broaden our own perspectives.

We gave For Such a Time a Top Pick review, which can't be undone. I'm not here to censor or wrist-slap your ratings and reviews. But I am asking you to strive for a greater awareness when you read and review, especially where it concerns Christian handling of non-Christian religions, history and identity.

To that end, when you have time, here are two posts about For Such a Time and RWA's decision to honor it, from Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches and from our own reviewer, Jennifer Rothschild, both of whom are Jewish:

http://sarahwendell.tumblr.com/post/125859299894/letter-to-the-rwa-board-regarding-for-such-a-time
http://www.jenrothschild.com/2015/08/an-open-letter-to-bethany-house-and-rwa.html

It would mean a lot to me if you would read both.

Thanks for your time.

See everyone? That's how you do it! You look at the issue head on and confront it. You don't dismiss the people hurt, you listen to them, and you take steps to do better next time.

Easier said than done, but it makes such a difference.

Such a difference.

It's amazing how a little bit of real compassion and respect can do.

*For those following this story who aren't part of Romancelandia, RT is a big romance magazine (it used to be called Romantic Times) We're not talking about Russian State Media.


Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bethany House and Kate Breslin Respond to That Book

Yes, I'm still talking about this. It still needs to be talked about. Yesterday, a Jewish community in San Antonio woke up to find their cars and homes had been covered with Anti-Semitic graffiti.

Yesterday, Bethany House responded to the criticism in the most tone-deaf statement ever. I'm going to copy the whole thing here so you don't have to click over:
Bethany House Publishers is saddened by the offense some have taken at the novel For Such a Time by Kate Breslin. We respect and honor the Jewish faith, and this novel, inspired by the redemptive theme of the biblical book of Esther, was intended to draw on our common faith heritage.

Breslin reframes the Esther story in a Nazi transit camp during the Holocaust and portrays a courageous Jewish woman who by God's strength saved fellow Jews from death, and in so doing awakened the conscience of a man thought to be beyond redemption. She wrote this carefully researched story with respect for the Jewish people and their history. It was neither the author nor publisher's wish to offend, but rather to depict how one person can choose to put the lives of others ahead of her own and shine God's light into darkness.

For Such a Time has garnered favorable reviews from readers in many markets. The book was a finalist for several literary awards including two in the Romance Writers of America RITA® awards for "best first book" and "inspirational romance" categories.

Bethany House Publishers supports Kate Breslin and her writing. We have heard from many readers who are moved by this portrayal of courage, and we hope it continues to provide inspiration to others in the spirit of the author's intent.

Jim Parrish
Executive VP and Director
Bethany House Publishers
Division of Baker Publishing Group

They are saddened that people fighting for the right to safely worship recognized their book as part of the problem. They're not sorry about anything. They're just really sad. Our hurt and anger hurt their feelings. Our feelings don't matter, just theirs.

Because, they respect and honor the Jewish faith! (Just not actual Jewish people). Breslin did not write this book with respect for the Jewish people and their history. You do not respect a history by changing it. You do not respect a history by repeating the lie that blond hair and blue eyes would save you from the Holocaust. You do not respect the Jewish people when you have your character convert to Christianity. You do not respect the Jewish people when you use them and their history as props and plot points for your religious message. Because that's what Breslin respected with her book, her own religious world view. Not that of the Jewish faith.

I get that the author and publisher didn't mean to offend, BUT THEY DID. And they need to address that.

And hey, remember RWA's non-response?
The problem with it being a Finalist that they just didn't address? Bethany House is using that as a shield. (RWA likes us, why don't the Jews?) Who could have seen that one coming? (Oh wait, everyone. Everyone saw that coming.)

For an article in Newsweek (don't read that article. It's bad.) Breslin provided a statement:
I have previously stated in posts and interviews on social media that my inspiration for For Such A Time was borne from a compassion for the Jewish people, as in reading from the Book of Esther I realized how they have suffered at the hands of one society or another throughout history. It was my intent to write a book that told a more modern-day story of a courageous Jewish woman who, through strength and faith in her God, used her situation to try to save some of her beloved people—much in the way Esther saved hers. And like that Biblical queen’s influence with King Xerxes, through her brave and sacrificial actions, she helped to bring one man to a sense of conscience, prompting him to join in the attempt to save her people. I am heartsick and so very sorry that my book has caused any offense to the Jewish people, for whom I have the greatest love and respect.

She doesn't get it. She really doesn't get it, but you know what? She says she's sorry her words caused offense. She has great love and respect for the Jewish people. And compassion. Which is why she thinks "Jewess" is a good word to use. It's why she thinks images of Auschwitz with a Mother Theresa quotation are a great way to market her book about Theresienstadt .



She also co-opts Purim for her marketing, because COMPASSION AND LOVE AND RESPECT



(if she ever takes those tweets down, screen grabs here)

But then again, she thought Holocaust Remembrance Day was a GREAT time to promote her book that redeems Nazis.

Feel the respect and love? I don't. I feel used and co-opted for her message. There is no respect here.

(But according to Anne Rice, I'm not allowed to voice my concerns about this, because that's the same as murdering someone for fun and spectacle.)

The take away from all this? When it comes to the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, the Jews need to sit down and be quiet. The Christians are talking now.

So yes, I am still talking about this, and I will keep talking about this as long as I have to.

(But hey, I also have some positive response news to share. I didn't want to lump it in with these garbage responses, so I'm saving it for tomorrow. Stay tuned!)

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Friday, August 07, 2015

RWA response to That Book

In my post on Wednesday I wrote I haven't had to explain to her (yet) why our Temple has a perimeter of ugly concrete planters, because if you put flowers in it, maybe we can glide over the fact that our house of worship needs protection against car bombs.

She asked this morning when I was dropping her off at school (her preschool meets at our Temple.) And yes, because we put flowers in them, I could glide over the fact they're there to protect against car bombs. I told her they were planters for flowers, for decoration, to make things pretty. I dodged the question. Maybe I shouldn't have, maybe I should have tried to put a positive spin on them and said they're REALLY COOL because we can put flowers in them AND they protect us. They're pretty AND strong! And put it in a way she could understand, but after this week and the conversations online about this book and all the greater issues it raises and brings up, I'm just tired and sad and hurt. So I told her they were planters for flowers, for decoration, to make things pretty.

And when I got home, I saw that RWA put out an official response. I'm going to quote the entire thing here:

The Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) has received a great deal of heartfelt and moving feedback about some of the finalists in this year's RITA contest. We want the membership to know we have heard your concerns and have spent days discussing them.

The question that we must answer is what RWA as a writers' organization should do when issues arise regarding the content of books entered in the RITA contest. Discussions about content restrictions inevitably lead to concerns about censorship. Censoring entry content is not something the Board supports. If a book is banned from the contest because of its content, there will be a move for more content to be banned. This is true, even especially true, when a book addresses subjects that are difficult, complex, or offensive.

There were 2,000 entries in the RITA contest this year. The RITA is a peer-reviewed award. There is no vetting of content before a book may be entered. Books are entered, not nominated, and those books are judged by fellow romance authors. The Board believes this is how the contest should be run. RWA does not endorse the content of any book entered in the contest. We do believe, however, that education and conversation are important in dealing with the concerns expressed. To that end, we will open an online forum on the RWA website for members to discuss their concerns. This is not a perfect solution, but we believe open dialogue, not the censorship of content, is the right way to handle the issues expressed.

They missed the point entirely.

Because here's the thing: there are already a lot of guidelines and content restrictions surrounding what is eligible to be entered. For instance, the book has to be a romance, and they define what that is. (And let's not forget, the set-up of this book is not a romance. The set-up of this book is a major imbalance in power dynamic [honestly, I can't think of a larger one right now] leading to Stockholm Syndrome disguised as a romance. If they had sexual contact, it would be straight-up rape.)

Guidelines aren't censorship. (And let's be really careful using the word censorship when we're talking about the Holocaust, ok?)

Mostly, this statement utterly fails to address the fundamental problem. RWA does not endorse the content of any book entered in the contest. The problem wasn't that the book was entered. I've been on several award committees--bad stuff gets nominated and entered all the time. That's why there's a process between entry and winner. The board believes in the process, but that process completely failed this time. Because the problem was never that the book was entered. The problem is that it was a FINALIST. Being a finalist is a big deal. "RITA FINALIST" becomes part of an author bio and book marketing. It's a big deal. RWA endorses its finalists. If it didn't, the RITA would become a meaningless award.

But we should all feel great, because RWA is going to have a new forum on its (member-only) website where the echo chamber that created this debacle can talk about it. I'm sure the people who were betrayed and now feel unsafe by this book being a finalist and this non-response will feel super-duper comfortable participating in this forum.

I've gotten a lot of support these past few days. So many people have shared my post and reached out to me. I haven't heard anything from Bethany House, but four members of the RWA board wrote back in a personal capacity, and at least one more shared my post on Twitter. I've dodged a lot of the hate that others have gotten. There was deafening silence from some quarters, but it's the same places that are usually quiet when Jewish issues come up, until they're called out on it. I had hoped they wouldn't ignore something this egregious, but wasn't surprised when they did. But I also found some really strong allies, and greatly expanded my "Jewish twitter" circle.

In response to Wednesday's post, many Jews nodded and said "yep" and many non-Jews went "wait, what? really?" at my experiences. It's one of the reasons I shared, because I think it's often hidden. As Katherine Locke said in her post,
It is not easy to be Jewish in America. Many think it is because of stereotypes, but when push comes to shove, especially online, we turn toward our own and huddle close. It’s a collective memory safety measure.

It's also one of the reasons why I've started Instagramming our Shabbat candles.

I'm Jewish by Choice, which means I converted 4 years ago, after going before the Bet Din, after years of studying and classes, after a decade of soul searching. I made a conscious decision to be Jewish and I love it.

This morning, after I dodged the planter question, before I saw the RWA response, I celebrated Shabbat with my daughter's preschool. We said our blessings and thanked G-d for all we have. We sang joyful songs. It was adorable (because, preschool) and wonderful.

Shabbat Shalom.


Bim bom, bim bim bim bom, bim bim bim bim bim bom.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

An Open Letter to Bethany House and RWA

Yesterday, Sarah Wendell (from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books) posted the text of a letter she sent to RWA about For Such A Time, an inspirational romance that retells the story of Esther by setting it in a concentration camp between a Jewish prisoner and the Commander of Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. She felt compelled to talk to RWA about this because it was nominated for a RITA award (one of the biggest, if not THE biggest awards for romance books) in two categories. (Best First Book and Inspirational Romance)

Rose Lerner gathered some 5-star reviews of the book. While I was writing this post, Katherine Locke wrote a powerful response. And parts of twitter retweeted and raged together about this. But only parts. It was telling to see who didn't acknowledge the conversation. It was heart-breaking to see who didn't. It wasn't surprising to see who didn't. Very little about this whole thing has surprised me.

I have been saddened by this whole thing since I first became aware of the book, the day Smart Bitches posted their review at the end of June. (Unlike many other reviews, this is one that won't make you weep for humanity.)

But yesterday I became angry. I needed to do more than tweet about it. Which Jeanne then reminded me of.



So, I wrote a letter to RWA and Bethany House and am sharing a version of it here (I tailored each letter to be a more organization specific)

The morning of the RITA awards, I took my daughter to celebrate Shabbat and she finally noticed that there is a police car and a police presence at our Temple during services. My daughter just turned four and I had to explain to her why, in a way that wouldn't freak her out, we needed police protection to go to services in 2015, just outside of Washington DC. I had to explain this in a way that wouldn't make her scared of going to a house of worship that she adores, in a way that didn't make her fearful because of her faith. I had to explain why our place of worship needs police protection every week. This is not a temporary thing. This is just our reality. One day she'll realize this is not the reality for her non-Jewish friends.

I haven't had to explain to her (yet) why our Temple has a perimeter of ugly concrete planters, because if you put flowers in it, maybe we can glide over the fact that our house of worship needs protection against car bombs. One day I'll tell her about other Temples and congregations I've worshiped with, about the times I've gotten my bags searched to be allowed into a building to worship, about the lectures we used to get from the bimah at the start of High Holiday services about suspicious packages and evacuation routes (because we may be there to celebrate a new year and to atone for our sins, but first we must deal with the mundane matters that our faith makes us targets of mass murder. Repeatedly. In the US. In 2015.) My daughter likes seeing the doggies at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. She doesn't know they're a bomb-sniffing K9 unit.

The day after the RITAs, Mike Huckabee claimed that Obama was leading the Israelis to the doors of the ovens, because in current rhetoric everything from a nuclear deal with Iran to universal health care (both sides of that debate are guilty here) is the same as the systematic rounding up and murder of ethnic groups (not just Jews) across a continent and beyond* in order to eradicate their cultures and faiths from the world.

My Christian coworkers feel comfortable wearing a cross necklace. I do not wear a Star of David and I hide my last name when dealing with the public at work. I have been ranted at too many times with ideas from the Protocols of Zion, been given too much literature, too many lectures to try to bring me to Jesus, when I'm just trying to do my job. A job where I have to use vacation days to get off major holidays, vacation days a former employer used to deny because the other Jewish person I worked with had seniority.

This is modern Anti-Semitism, the micro-and-macro aggressions of daily life that come with being Jewish in the US in 2015.

This is the culture where it's seen as perfectly acceptable to publish a book like For Such A Time, and to then nominate it for a prize like the RITAs (in multiple categories!). This is a culture where we can have a book about how a Jew and a Nazi Kommandant can find true love through Jesus because she doesn't look Jewish. This is a culture where such a story may disgust me, but it doesn't surprise me in the least. Of course Nazis** are redeemable and of course beautiful Jewish heroines don't look Jewish.

And of course, a happy ending is one with a conversion. I understand that for a Christian publisher, a happy ending involves finding Jesus. But, wanting Jewish people to find Jesus led to the Spanish Inquisition. It was an unsuccessful way for people to try to survive the Holocaust. But it's not just history. Even today, I deal with too many people that think the way for a Jew to find happiness is a renunciation of faith in order to turn to Jesus. They come to my door and interrupt me at home. They come into my work. They leave literature on my car.

And they scare me, because that version of Happily-Ever-After means a world where everyone has converted to Christianity. That version of Happily-Ever-After means a world with no more Jews. It's not physically violent, but it's still terrifying. It's not inspirational.

For Such A Time may be a product of such a culture, but it also legitimizes this hate and fear. And in publishing it and honoring it, Bethany House and RWA have legitimized it as well.

This past weekend, I had to start to explain the Holocaust to my daughter. It is the story of the murder of her family, it is the story of how they immigrated to this country, it is the story of the people whose name she now carries. It is not a story where a Jewish prisoner falls in love with a Nazi and finds Jesus.

It's heart-breaking that your organizations created and honored a book that contributes to such thinking. Not only did Bethany House and RWA not see a problem here, you thought it was something worth celebrating, something to recommend, something everyone should read.

It's heart-breaking, but it's not surprising. Anti-Semitism doesn't surprise me anymore. But it also sure as hell doesn't "inspire" me either.

I hope you seriously take the everyday suffering of Jewish people into account the next time you consider publishing a manuscript or honoring a book that uses us as props for your message.




*They pressured the Japanese to have plans to exterminate the Jewish refugees living in Shanghai.

**Yes, many Germans were forced to join the German army whether they believed or not, but that's not who the "hero" of this story is. The "hero" is in charge of a concentration camp. He would have to be a member of the SS--the most loyal and fanatic.

EDITED at 5pm, August 5th: Fixed some typos.

Also, I have had two RWA board members respond to me in a personal capacity, and at least one retweet the link to this post to share it. I do feel heard by the RWA board and hold out hope we'll get an official response at some point. There has been nothing from Bethany House.

EDITED at 1:30pm, August 8: reworded the footnote about Japan to make it clearer. I've also posted an update here. 


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

84, Charing Cross Road

84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff

This is one of those books that always shows up on 1000 Books to Read Before You Die lists. It's been on my radar in that capacity for a long time, but at the same time, it's a series of letters between a writer and New York and a used bookstore in London. And it's not fiction. Really, 1000 Great Books?

But, I finally picked it up and read it.

Oh my God you guys... GO READ THIS BOOK.

First off, it's short. I mean, it's 112 pages long and the letters are short, so there's lots of white space. I read it in under two hours, and that was with a crazy 4-year-old running around me.

Second off, it's HILARIOUS. I mean, check out of how the letter from November 18, 1949 starts. There is no salutation, just the date and:

WHAT KIND OF A BLACK PROTESTANT BIBLE IS THIS?

Kindly inform the Church of England they have loused up the most beautiful prose ever written, whoever told them to tinker with the Vulgate Latin? They'll bur for it, you mark my workds.

It's nothing to me, I'm Jewish myself....

I enclose $4 to cover the #3.88 due you, buy yourself a cup of coffee with the $.12


Eventually through her book orders and resulting criticism, she becomes friends with everyone in the shop and starts sending regular holiday care packages with eggs and meat and other things that are still scarce due to post-war rationing.

I love the October 15, 1951 letter

WHAT KIND OF A PEPYS' DIARY TO YOU CALL THIS?

this is not pepys' diary, this is some busybody editor's miserable collection of EXCERPTS from pepys' diary may he rot.

...

PS. Fresh eggs or powdered for Xmas?


The letters keep original capitalization and punctuation. It's a great love letter to bookstores and books and a wonderful friendship and story that evolves. It's funny and heart-warming and utterly charming in a non-twee way.

GO READ IT.



Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Library Wars: Love and War



Library Wars: Love & War Kiiro Yumi, original concept Hiro Arikawa, translated from the Japanese by John Werry

This is a mega-review of vol. 1-13 (aka, the ones that are currently available in English)


The Library Freedom Act

Libraries have the freedom to acquire their collections.

Libraries have the freedom to circulate materials in their collections.

Libraries guarantee the privacy of their patrons.

Libraries oppose any type of censorship.

When libraries are imperiled, librarians will join together to secure their freedom.

In the not-too-distant future, Japan passes the "Media Betterment Act" which censors objectionable material. Librarians are against censorship and will fight to keep their collections free and available. Literally fight. Like, they made an army. To fight against the federal censors(and their army).

AND YOU WONDER WHY I LOVE THIS?!

I devoured this series. Like, read all of them in a week, often staying up way past bedtime because I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I love the overall concept. Plus, not only is about people fighting to protect access to materials (with their literal lives!), but it's a shoju manga, so SO MUCH SEXUAL TENSION.

Our main character, Iku Kasahara wants to join the Library Defense Force to be like her "prince"-- a member who saved a book she wanted to buy from censorship. She has passion, but not a lot of skill and is driven hard by her Sargent Dojo (who, um, OBVIOUSLY is her "prince.") She eventually becomes the first woman on a super elite squad that has to both be an army fighter, but also an actual librarian. But, over the run of the series, this is far from the only relationship we see (I won't say my favorite, because it develops pretty late and is a bit of a spoiler.)

I love the politics and maneuvering the library forces do. I like the plotline where Kasahara's parents don't know what she does because she knows they won't approve. I love love love Kasahara's roommate, Asako Shibazaki. She's very beautiful and a bit aloof and a lot of people read her as shallow, but she has a lot going on beneath the surface. She's a librarian with some serious hidden talents. I love the way her character develops. (In fact, she might be my favorite character.)

I like that there are cultural end notes to explain things, and several bonus mangas at the end of most volumes to fill in some quiet moments.

The over-the-top melodrama of some of the relationship stuff gets old, but I'm starting to recognize that it's standard for a lot of shoju manga.

Overall though, I LOVE THIS SERIES and am trying to force all my coworkers to read it. (LIBRARIES BUILT AN ARMY TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF ACCESS FROM GOVERNMENT CENSORS. DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE.)

If I understand Wikipedia correctly, there are 15 total volumes in this series. 13 are out in English now, and the 14th comes out in October. Based on past publication schedules, I'm guessing the 15th will be out next April. My one regret? This is based on a novel series and the source material doesn't seem to be available in English.

Books Provided by... my local library

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Meg Cabot's Royalty



Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess

Wahoo! Princess Mia is back! It's a few years post-college and she's trying to juggle the antics of her grandmother and father, her charity work, and her royal commitments. Sadness though! Mr. Gianni (the math teacher her mom started dating in the first book) died a little bit before this book takes place. :(

The big press speculation is why hasn't Michael proposed yet, but hey! as you can probably guess by the title, he does! And then they have to deal with the headache of letting Grandmere anywhere near the wedding plans.

More complicating factors:

1. Her dad was arrested for driving his new race car (at race car speeds) down the highway
2. Her dad is going to lose the election for Prime Minister
3. Her dad has another child, who's been living out in Jersey that no one knew about.

Plus, Mia's usual insanity.

Honestly, if you like the Cabot, especially The Princess Diaries this is a good one to pick up. I love seeing Mia as an adult--she has really grown and matured while still being Mia and I'm excited that the new middle grade series will let us see where her life goes!

Speaking of the Middle Grade series, even if you don't read the rest of the series, I recommend reading From the Notebooks along with this book. There is MAJOR plot overlap, but it's from two different sides. I love the scenes where Mia is thinking "OMG, I've ruined this girl's life" and Olivia is thinking "OMG! THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!"

Olivia's track is also going to be very different than Mia's (how/why is a major spoiler so just trust me on this one) so I'm excited for the series in general.

Books Provided by... my local library

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Monday, June 08, 2015

What I've Read Lately: Harlequin Presents




This week, I'm super excited to be on The Worst Bestsellers talking about The Greek Tycoon's Blackmailed Mistress by Lynne Graham. (Spoiler Alert: I didn't like it.) In preparation for the episode, I read a lot of Harlequin Presents titles, and a I really did like most of them (heightening my dismay with a certain Greek Tycoon.) I will definitely be reading more and also highly recommend this Pictorial Jezebel article on the history of Harlequin.

Ruthless Billionaire, Forbidden Baby Emma Darcy

This was great. Tamalyn is a midwife and meets Fletcher at a college friend's wedding (he's her brother). They're both in the wedding party and have to walk together. They then meet up again at another wedding and hook up. Fletcher is a young hot tech billionaire and when he's in town, he and Tamalyn get together. And then she gets pregnant. He insists they marry, because if their kid is a child prodigy like him, he wants what he never had--someone around who understands how alienating it can be. She rolls with it and they get along but they aren't in love. Until they are.

I liked this one because the conflict wasn't avoidable--it was more just learning how to mesh personalities and be a team. The marriage of convenience didn't come with any stipulations and Fletcher was an alpha, but not an asshat.

Pretender to the Throne Maisey Yates

Loved this one. (And I realized it was in a series, and bought the rest of the series so I could read it because I wanted mooooooooooooooooooore.) It's time for Xander, the playboy prince, to return home and lead his country. He really doesn't want to for REASONS. (I'm not sure if they're spoilery reasons, of if it was a bit of a mystery because I was coming in at book 3 of a series. Anyway, they're legit reasons.) But he does, and the first thing he does is find Layna, his ex-fiance. He needs her help if he's going to make this work. However, she's been living at a convent, because after he left, she was horribly disfigured in an acid attack and has hidden away ever since, and other REASONS.

So, I loved this one because they treated their engagement and relationship very much like a partnership for the good of the country, with the hopes of maybe turning into something real. They both knew what they were getting into and there weren't illusions. I also really liked them as characters--they both have a lot of heavy stuff in their past that's weighing them down (there are a lot of repercussions to the acid attack, and the event that made Xander leave in the first place had a lot of lasting impact on the kingdom in general). I really like that they both need each other in order to work through they're issues--it's a very equal relationship in that they're both healing each other, which was nice. I also love the fact that Xander's self-aware enough to know when he's being an ass. Sometimes he doesn't care, but he still realizes he's doing it. Really excited to read the others in the series.

Secrets of a Bollywood Marriage Susanna Carr.

Tina and Dev's marriage was a big deal in Bollywood, but Tina's been away for several months and now she's back, asking for divorce. Dev needs to present a stable home life, so if she acts like they're still an item for 2 months (which, because the servants will talk, involves sharing a bed, but nothing has to happen in the bed) he'll give her the divorce and minimize the scandal.

Overall, I loved this one. I loved that it looks at the pain of miscarriage and how it really hurt their relationship. I love how Tina wasn't ashamed of seeking the mental health help she needed. I liked the look at the workings of Bollywood film industry and how Tina wasn't afraid to demand what she wanted and needed. Dev makes a few missteps (including a big lie I'm not keen on, even if the plot hinges on it) but overall, yes, I really liked this one a lot.

A Prize Beyond Jewels Carole Mortimer.

This one I didn't like as much. Rafe is a gallery owner playboy who never has any problems with the ladies, so why is Nina always resisting him? Nina's father is super over-protective so what little she does give Rafe is a major rebellion.

Part of the reason I didn't like this as much is writing quality-- it's really repetitive, so I kept thinking I was reading the same page over and over, even though I wasn't. Rafe often crosses into asshat territory and while Nina had some real meat to her character, Rafe just didn't. Also, so much of Nina's reluctance stems on THE GREAT FAMILY MYSTERY (instead of Rafe's asshattyness) and then it's all revealed in this big rush and eh. It just didn't work for me.



All Books Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

So many books to read...

Alas and alack, my time on the collection development committee is done. So here's the last round-up of books I'm looking forward to. It's this month's and last, so it's HUGE, but makes for a most awesome summer reading list!!!



Dietland by Sarai Walker. Plum wants weight loss surgery, but while waiting, she ends up joining "an underground community of women and agrees to a series of challenges including work with a group that stages anti-misogyny terrorist acts." Pubs May 26

Girl at War by Sara Novic. A college student in Manhattan has to make sense of her childhood, when she lived through the horrors of the Croatian civil war. Pubs on May 16.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. Inspired by Scottish folklore, an exiled shoreside burial coordinator and a floating circus performer deal with an offshore storm. INSPIRED BY SCOTTISH FOLKLORE. Pubs May 19



The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. Imogen must battle her 20-something tech saavy assistant, who's trying to take over Imogen's fashion magazine. It's supposedly wickedly funny. Pubs on May 19

Re Jane by Patricia Park. In this retelling of Jane Eyre (really, do you need to know more than that?) Jane Re is a half-Korean, half-white orphan who travels to Seoul in search of her roots. Can't wait to see how they handle Bertha. Pubs on May 5.

Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham. A love story told in email and other online communication, complete with commentary from friends. I love digital epistolary. Out now.



War of the Encyclopaedists by Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite. Speaking of digital epistolary! Two friends, on deployed in Iraq, keep in touch through wikipedia edits. Pubs May 19

The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader. In 13th century England, a woman decides to become an anchoress, only to find it's not the escape she thought. I'm very intrigued by anchoresses, so yes please. Pubs May 12.

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard. Aron and his friends find ways to smuggle things and out of the Warsaw ghetto to help their friends and families survive. Pubs May 12.



The Perfect Letter by Chris Harrison. Harrison hosts The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Everything I know about this book makes it a beautiful trainwreck that I can't wait for. Pubs May 19.

Queen of Flowers and Pearls by Gabriella Ghermandi. In the 80s, a young girl hears family stories of Italy's occupation of Ethiopia and and Ethiopian resistance. She is then drawn to other people's stories of that time, especially as she moves to Italy and has to come to terms with what it means to be Ethiopian in Ethiopia, and what it means to be a foreigner when abroad. Soooooo much catnip in this one. Out now.

The Figaro Murders by Laura Lebow. A historical fiction mystery about opera?! Say no more. Out now.



The Cherokee Rose by Tiya Miles. A story about a Cherokee plantation and missionaries and how three women today discover that the family past they thought they knew doesn't even begin to tell the full story. Out now.

Barefoot Dogs by Antonio Ruiz-Camacho. A novel told in linked short stories about a large Mexican that scatters when its patriarch is kidnapped. Out now.

Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew. A novella and short stories that take place in a mythical China? Oh yes. Shortlisted for the BSFA. Out now.



Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. Because here's what Kirkus said "A powerful novel of hard men in hard country reminiscent of Jim Harrison's Legends of the Fall." Comparing it to my teen self's favorite movie is a sure way to perk my interest. Plus, it's written by a Native author. Pubs May 12.

The Four Books by Lianke Yan. I loved Yan's Serve the People and will of course be picking up his latest, about life in a Mao re-education camp. Out now.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. A book-seller runs a floating bookshop on the Seine, healing his customers through books, but can he heal himself? Pubs June 23.



My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman. First of all, that's an awesome title. A young girl is left a series of letters by her grandmother that show her the reality behind her grandmother's bedtime stories. Pubs June 16.

The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna. German POWs in WWII are put to work in a Wisconsin farm community. I like books in my home state! Pubs June 2.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. IT'S BY JUDY BLUME! JUDY BLUME! JUDY BLUME! THIS IS NOT A DRILL, ALL HANDS ON DECK, JUDY BLUME!!!! Pubs June 2.



Wars of the Roses: Margaret of Anjou by Conn Iggulden. Historical fiction about the War of the Roses! Second in a series, I'll have to start with Wars of the Roses: Stormbird. Pubs June 16.

The Travels of Daniel Ascher by Deborah Bertherat-Levy. Helene's great-uncle writes a very popular series of YA mysteries, but it's his story, adopted by Helene's family to escape the Holocaust, that holds the real mysteries. Pubs May 26.

The Queen's Caprice: Stories by Jean Echenoz. Mostly because the prose is supposed to be gorgeous and the translation phenomenal. Out now.



The Hanged Man by P. N. Elrod. Paranormal Victorian mystery that explore gender and class issues? GIMME. Pubs May 19.

Backlands by Victoria Shorr. A novel based on the lives of real-life Brazilian folk heroes Lampiao and Maria Bonita. Compared to Bonnie-and-Clyde, with a band of fellow outlaws they try to gain control of the Brazilian outback. Out now.


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