Calliope Writing


Book Haul Time: I’m Obsessed with Online Shopping

By the title, you know what’s coming: a list of books I recently bought in one of my I-don’t-need-this-book-but-I-NEED-this-book moments.

Enjoy the spoils of my latest book haul, via Amazon.

Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman

amazon-book-haul-anansi-boys-cover

I fell in love with Neil Gaiman after reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It totally blew my mind and convinced me that this man is a genius.

Since then, I’ve been devouring his books, and Anansi Boys is next. I mean, look at the back cover:

amazon-book-haul-anansi-boys-back

Who wouldn’t be intrigued?

PushSapphire

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Yeah, yeah, I know: I’m super behind because I have yet to see the film Precious. I decided reading the book first was in order.

HangsamanShirley Jackson

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Shirley Jackson. What a master of horror and the bizarre. I’m pretty damned excited to read this novel. Check out the back cover blurb to get an idea of why:

Seventeen-year-old Natalie Waite longs to escape home for college. Her father is a domineering and egotistical writer who keeps a tight rein on Natalie and her long-suffering mother. When Natalie finally does get away, however, college life doesn’t bring the happiness she expected. Little by little, Natalie is no longer certain of anything—even where reality ends and her dark imaginings begin. Chilling and suspenseful, Hangsaman is loosely based on the real-life disappearance of a Bennington College sophomore in 1946.

What’s that you say about Natalie’s father…?

amazon-book-haul-hangsaman-detail

Parable of the TalentsOctavia E. Butler

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I first read Octavia Butler when I was fourteen years old, and I immediately loved her. For some reason I don’t understand, though, it’s only now–almost two decades later–that I picked up another book by the sci-fi queen.

I can’t wait to dig in.

Oh, and by the way, Butler predicted Donald Trump’s campaign slogan over twenty years ago in The Parable of the Talents. <Cue creepy music>

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllLaird Barron

amazon-book-haul-laird-barron

I recently joined an online book club run by Dirge Magazine (if you don’t know what Dirge is, I encourage you to check it out), and The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All was one of August’s books.

I’m about halfway through it (late, as usual), and so far, it’s…meh. Follow me on Goodreads to find out my final opinion of the short story collection.

The Witches, Stacy Schiff

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Another August Dirge Book Club book, The Witches focuses on the Salem witch trials of 1692. Check out the illustrations…

amazon-book-haul-the-witches-illustrations

…and the inside cover:

amazon-book-haul-the-witches-inside-cover

I’m typically a fiction-only reader, but I have always been interested in the Salem witch trials (I blame my childhood field trip to Salem, Massachusetts)…so I’m fairly certain this is one nonfiction tome I’m going to love.

That’s it for this book haul! What books have you purchased or borrowed recently?

And a Little Something Extra…

  • Writers, take note: Michael Cristiano‘s list of fiction clichés should be read…and then those clichés should be avoided like the plague (like what I did there?). Read the post over at A Writer’s Path.
  • Ari Sytner did something that few of us (likely) would even think about: He donated a kidney to a complete stranger in need. During his experience, he realized that kidney donation is quite the taboo topic. For that reason, he wrote The Kidney Donor’s Journey: 100 Questions I Asked Before Donating My Kidney. It’s the first Q&A book on the subject and includes a wealth of information. To support Sytner in the publication of this book, check out his Kickstarter campaign.

*Want to buy any of the books mentioned here? Click on the links to purchase from Amazon; since I’m an affiliate, your purchase will help me keep this blog going (i.e., I’ll earn money to buy books that I will then write about).*



Friday Fun Is Here: 6 Quizzes to Test Your Bookworm-ness
April 8, 2016, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Books, Literature, Writing Tips | Tags: , , , , , ,

Based on my previous post focused on quizzes, you know: I enjoy taking them. Especially when they relate to vocabulary, grammar, writing, or reading.

So let’s take some book-related quizzes, shall we?

Be prepared to quiz away an hour of your life.

Are You More Paperback or Hardcover?

I got paperback – as it should be. (If you’ve ever tried reading a hardcover book while lying in bed, you know why I say this. Or if you’ve ever gone on a trip with a huge, 600-page hardcover book. Or if you typically travel with more than one book…like some of us do.)

Who Is Your Romance Novel Boyfriend?

romance

Ah, romance. This one wasn’t as much fun for me as the others because I got someone from a book series I haven’t read: James Fraser from Outlander. I know some Outlander lovers, so I’ll have to ask if this is a good thing.

The Guess the First Sentence Quiz

Got only 15 out of 22 right on this one – I dare you to see how well you can do.

The Reading Personality Quiz

My result?

You are a Book Junkie.

You are addicted to books. Air, food and water apart, you need an uninterrupted dose of books in order to survive. You don’t just read books, you devour them. You can read just about anything. You can never have enough of books.

Duh.

book junkie

Only Real Book Lovers Remember These Small Details from These Iconic Books

Oh, I didn’t do well on this one. Not at all.

Can You Identify These Books by Their Covers?

Not too shabby:

You got 16 out of 20 right!
Not bad at all. Excellent, even! You have a great eye for design, while still staying focused on the most important stuff: the writing itself.

Can We Guess Your Age Based on Your Taste in Books?

Based on my result, which is below, the answer to this ever-important question is an emphatic “NO.”

You got: 16

You’re in the most exciting time of your life as a reader — you’ve got a whole world of books ahead of you! Take this time to explore, and read everything you can get your hands on.

not a child

And a Little Something(s) Extra Once You’re All Quizzed-Out:

  • Morten Just created a free text editor that limits the writer to using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language. The responses were varied…and hilarious.
  • Julie Proudfoot has some invaluable advice that I find myself, as an editor, reminding writers of frequently: Read that ish out loud.
  • Joel Orr spills the beans on verbs – and how to enhance them in your writing. Short and sweet and oh-so-true.


I May Deserve Coal…But I’m Asking Santa for This
December 1, 2015, 8:06 pm
Filed under: Books, Grammar, Literature | Tags: , , , ,

ABC Family has begun its 25 Days of Christmas hoopla, so that means one thing: It’s time to write Santa a letter. After all, the jolly guy only has so much time to gather together all of the crap everyone wants for the holidays. By putting my wish list out on the interwebs, I’m just making Santa’s job easier.

dear santa

I hope you’re feeling well and aren’t experiencing panic attacks while trying to determine how the hell you’ll be able to deliver all those presents in one night.

I’ve been a semi-good girl this year. (We could debate all night long, Mr. Claus, but time is money.) So here’s what I hope to find under my tree* on Christmas morning.

Library Due Date Card© Panties and Tank Top

library tank and undies

I’m a sucker for undies (panties is my least favorite word) with fun things on them. And what’s more fun than a library-related print?

Hamilton Bookcase

Hamilton bookcase

Since I was a child, I’ve fantasized about swinging around a library à la the candy man in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This bookcase would give me a fraction of that dream.

Poorly Drawn Lines: Good Ideas and Amazing Stories

poorly drawn lines

It’s always good to have a laugh.

T.S. Eliot Reads “The Waste Land” on Vinyl

vinyl

I fell in love with T.S. Eliot in high school; he has remained my all-time favorite poet. And I’ve been a vinyl-lover since I was twelve or thirteen. So this one’s a double whammy.

Grammar Police Necklace

grammarm police necklace

I’m a little crazy about grammar. We know this.

The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag Life

the great spring

Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones changed me as a writer. She’s incredible, and I can’t wait until this comes out.

The Rules of F*cking Grammar Poster

fucking rules of grammar poster

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know exactly why I want this. Strike that – why I need this.

Thanks, Santa. You’re the best.

Spill: What do you want for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other holiday you have coming up? Don’t be shy.

*We totally don’t have a tree. I mean, it would be one thing if we had kids, but man! Taking all those ornaments out, putting them up, and then having to reverse the process a month later…it all sounds like a lot of work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.


Get Your Tissues Ready: It’s Time for Book Porn!
October 13, 2015, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Books, Literature, Reading | Tags: , , , , ,

You’re obsessed with books? You don’t even know what obsession means.

Of course, maybe you do. How could I know? You could have some awful stalker-like tendencies and be obsessed with the blonde who lives in 4-A.*

My obsession is a little…safer. Because I’m obsessed with some emmereffing books.

It Started When I Was a Child…

This may seem impossible, but I was a really, really shy kid. Like many shy kids, I escaped from the anxiety-inducing real world into those found within books.

While my classmates didn’t notice me (or so I thought), my teachers sure as hell did, as is evident by this sweet postcard given to me by my eighth-grade English teacher:

BookPornpostcardfront

BookPornpostcardback

Ms. Vacca, wherever you are, I rocked Honors English, I’m still writing, and I wonder if you’re clairvoyant because I now have a peacock tattoo….

My Books Are Taking Over My House

I began hoarding books early in my life. Not sure exactly when it happened, but while still prepubescent, I realized that I loved how books smelled, how the paper felt in my hands, and the mysteries and adventures contained within. So I read. A lot. And fell in love with so many books that my little heart couldn’t bear to donate them or give them away.

And that quality has followed me into adulthood.

Exhibit A: My Office/Library

My pride and glory.

My pride and glory.

But it doesn’t stop there. Because my desk has shelves…thus, my desk houses books.

BookPorngrumpycat

Yes, Grumpy Cat is judging you.

BookPorndeskshelf

BookPornowlshelf

An editor's tools should always be close at hand.

An editor’s tools should always be close at hand.

Exhibit B: Other Rooms in the House

BookPornfrontroom

BookPorndenThe above pair of bookends was given to me by awesome people. My love of books and my adoration of all things horror, combined: Perfect.

So. You can see why I’m convinced that books will eventually take over my house. They will break free of their shelves and start piling on the floors, in drawers, under beds.

I’m okay with that.

Book Sales

If I hear of a book sale, you can bet your tushie I’ll do my damnedest to be there and get my fill.

This past weekend, I enjoyed one such book sale and found what may soon become my new favorite book.

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I want to read it, but I’m afraid to…what if it’s not as amazing as the cover leads me to believe?

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Well, if William Safire says it’s awesome…

The Husband Got Me a Present

BookPorngrammarofgodI’m kind of excited. (Remember? I asked for this book last time.)

And I got another surprise–this sweet little inscription in my copy of my very talented buddy’s newest book, which was accompanied by a sweet-as-hell letter.

BookPornmoremoretime

Dave, you da bomb.

Do you have an addiction to books? Yes? GOOD.

*If you are obsessed with the blonde in 4-A, my advice is to not be a creepazoid and spy on her. Instead, make small talk. Let me know how it goes.


Obsessed with and Fascinated by Outer Space
October 6, 2015, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Books, Literature, News, Science Fiction | Tags: , , , , , ,

Warning: Slightly sentimental talk ahead.

When I was in high school, I would sit on the back patio to stare at the moon. (Okay, staring at the moon was a secondary reason…the main reason was to sneak cigarettes.)

moon in dark blue sky

And at some point, I realized something very serious about myself…

if i were all alone

(…except that’s just not the way NASA does things…)

In college, I fell in love with Elton John (his music and his sparkles). And guess what one of my favorite songs was and is?

And, of course, there are the movies–all the wonderful movies about space! Ah. I won’t get into it. Let’s skip to…

Outer Space in Literature

I haven’t read a ton of books involving space, other planets, and the like, outside of Ray Bradbury and astronomy textbooks. And then I read Andy Weir’s The MartianWhat a freaking completely amazing novel. I might be slightly obsessed.

If you liked physics in high school or college, you love sci-fi, and you haven’t read this book, what the hell are you waiting for? It’s seriously awesome. In the actual meaning of the word – it inspires awe.

And now there’s a movie:

I don’t have high hopes (okay, maybe I do), but I am looking forward to seeing it.

Space is neat.

Space is neat.

And now, with all the talk about water on Mars, outer space is at the forefront of my mind once again. I’m always looking to watch a sci-fi movie, and this quiz about Mars in literature made me realize I have a lot of reading to do.

How do you feel about science fiction? Building colonies on Mars? Total Recall (the original – always the original)? Share in the comments section below.

Extra Stuff for Shits and Giggles

Whatever you take away from this post, remember this:

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh, no, no, no
I’m a rocket man



Censored Books That Will Light Your Fire – Part 2

Welcome to the second and final part of The Best Banned Books, According to Me.

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already.

Banned Books2 Books are Bad

Oh, Mr. Mackey, you’re just dumb wrong. Books are awesome.

5. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

This brilliantly violent novel ran into obstacle after obstacle during its quest to reach readers. Here are just a few things that occurred:

  • Simon & Schuster, who was originally going to publish the novel, dropped the project mere months before it was set for release.
  • Both the author and the publisher who later came on-board received death threats. (“Hey, let’s fight violence with death! Yay!”)
  • Highlights of what this novel has been called: a book of “questionable taste,” “sadistic,” “repulsive,” “the most loathsome offering of the season,” and so on.
  • Just last month, Australian police were removing copies from bookstores because they didn’t have them shrink-wrapped, which is a requirement of material that’s deemed to have “restricted classification.”

Well, I’ve made my opinion of American Psycho and its author quite clear in the past, so you know where I stand. And Ellis makes me love him even more with his response to the last bullet point above:

I told my publisher I want all my books restricted and put in little bags. It’s like a little sandwich!

4. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Everyone has their opinions about Brave New World. Some think it’s boring. Dull. Others thing it’s totally badass. I am a member of the latter group.

Among the reasons individuals want this classic piece of literature censored are: blatant sexuality, themes including drugs and suicide, “being anti-family and anti-religion,” not enough multiculturalism, excessive focus on negativity, and a bunch of other reasons over the years.

The author of this article said it best:

Any time you try to censor [Brave New World], excited English teachers print out the article and post it on the Irony board.

Confused about what irony means? Don’t worry. I’m sure I’ll write about it at some point.

3. Of Mice and MenJohn Steinbeck

The first John Steinbeck book I ever read – Of Mice and Men – has a long history with regards to book banishment, as attempts have been made to ban it since the ’50s.

But let’s look at a more recent attempt…because it makes me laugh in a so-sad-it’s-funny way.

In May, parents in Idaho did their best to remove the book from schools because of curse words. Let that sink in for a second.

The best quote I found was:

For parent Mary Jo Finney, the use of words such as “bastard” and “God damn” makes it unsuitable for 14- or 15-year-old students. After counting more than 100 “profanities”, she expressed her shock to the Spokesman-Review that “teachers actually had the audacity to have students read these profanities out loud in class”.

With all due respect, Mary Jo, by the time I was a teenager, I could have filled an entire composition notebook with curse words. “Bastard” and “God damn” were small potatoes.

Now I’m thinking maybe Steinbeck wasn’t that far off when he wrote the below passage.

Banned Books2 Of Mice and Men

2. The Color Purple, Alice Walker

If you haven’t read The Color Purple, chances are you saw the award-winning film with Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah. (No, I didn’t include Oprah’s last name. Because she doesn’t need it.) If you have done neither of these things, I command you to read the book right now. If you’re in a rush, at least watch the damned movie.

Like the other novels on my list of favorite banned books, The Color Purple touches on some incredibly controversial topics, so of course someone wants to censor it.

Some of the many, many reasons cited for banning this Pulitzer-Prize-winning masterpiece are:

  • “sexual and social explicitness, and troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality” (1984)
  • “rough language,” “explicit sex scenes” (1985)
  • “smut” (sometime in the ’90s)
  • “negative image of black men” (1995)
  • “vulgar and X-rated” (1999)

The folks who made these complaints sound like a barrel of fun. I will certainly invite them to my next Curse-All-Day BDSM party.Banned Books2 The Color Purple

1. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

Ah. Every time I read the title, I can’t help but smile and sigh. The Catcher in the Rye is my all-time favorite book. I’ve read it I’m-not-sure-how-many times and get something new out of it each and every read.

So, of course, people have been trying to ban it for years. World.edu informs, “Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States.”

Among the reasons that my absolute favorite novel should be banned? Profanity, sexual explicitness, violence – and in my home state, it was regarded as a “filthy, filthy book.” Way to make us proud, South Carolina.

Also from World.edu is the following report, which I think is brilliant:

Often, the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself. Shelley Keller-Gage, a high school teacher who faced objections after assigning the novel in her class, noted that the challengers “are being just like Holden…They are trying to be catchers in the rye.”

Banned Books2 Catcher in the Rye


A Couple of Extra Nuggets

  • Apparently, a bookstore in Traverse City, Michigan, is allowing customers to return their copies of Go Set a Watchman for a full refund. Their reason? That Go Set a Watchman is “not a sequel or a prequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. Neither is it a new book.” So that means it’s worthy of a refund? Hmm. As someone who hasn’t read the novel but plans to, in spite of the scathing reviews, I have to ask…is it that bad?
  • Shakespeare was a stoner. That is definitely one sentence I never thought I’d say or type. But according to new evidence, it seems the poet had some wacky tobacky mixed in with his tobacco. Just some food for your munchies – I mean, food for thought.

Did I miss any of your favorite banned books? Let me know in the comments below! (I’m a poet and didn’t know it…kind of like Shakespeare the Stoner).



Banned or “Challenged” Books That Will Change Your Life – Part 1

I’ve never understood the so-called reasons for banning or burning books. Maybe it’s because books are holy to me. They provide me with a sacred space – a way to participate in a true exploration of the mind.

Stupid book-banners and -burners. (If you’re a book-banner, I apologize for offending you. You should probably leave this blog and find another one that’s more appreciative of your kind.)

banned books

Following are five of the top ten books that I do and will always love, and that have a history of being banned and/or burned. Let’s begin, counting down from ten:

10. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

Yes. A children’s book has been viewed as controversial. And it’s one of my favorites. I’ll always have a soft spot in my book-loving soul for Max and the Wild Things…even if some view them as “dark.” (What? Kids don’t have “dark” sides? I’m not even a parent, and I can tell you they absolutely do.)

PEN American Center states:

Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim…wrote in Ladies’ Home Journal, “What [Sendak] failed to understand is the incredible fear it evokes in the child to be sent to bed without supper, and this by the first and foremost giver of food and security—his mother.”  Luckily for history, there were a lot more reasoned opinions, like this early review from a Cleveland newspaper : “Boys and girls may have to shield their parents from this book. Parents are very easily scared.”

Sounds to me like Bettelheim needs to grow a pair.

9. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

I wasn’t required to read this one in school, like many of my peers. In fact, I only read The Jungle about five years ago. It’s definitely not the novel you’d want to read if you’re going through a depressive episode…but it’s shocking and real.

Sinclair’s novel focuses on the meatpacking industry, and its true-to-life descriptions and revelations made more than a few people put down their ground beef in disgust. In fact, it led to the creation of the Food & Drug Administration (thanks, Sinclair!).

The bannings and burnings took place mainly overseas, and mainly because of Sinclair’s political beliefs. Silly Nazis.

8. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

This was the first Hemingway novel I ever read. And I loved it. I fell in love with Jake and wanted to be Brett. But not everyone loved it – or can see its literary merit.

Sure, there’s cursing. Yeah, there’s sex and libations. And lounging around, with the protagonist an expatriate with nothing but adventure on the brain. Oh, and I can’t neglect to mention Jake’s implied “condition.”

banned books hemingway

The novel was banned in many countries and (like The Jungle) was one of many books the Nazis deemed fit to be become ash. Even Hemingway’s mom wasn’t a fan: she’s reported to have said it was “one of the filthiest books of the year.” (I have an image of her eating crumpets and sipping tea while saying this.) There’s even a very propaganda-looking website devoted to the many reasons The Sun Also Rises should be banned (visit if you’d like a laugh).

But all of these book-banners forget the impact this novel had on the literary world – and what Hemingway contributed to 20th-century literature as a whole.

7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

I won’t lie: I read this book because of the film. While watching the film, even as a pre-teen (do they call them “tweens” now – who the hell knows), I had a strong, almost physical response to Nurse Ratched. And when I read the novel as a twentysomething, I found that my hatred for her could and did run deeper. This novel invoked a number of other emotions in me because the characters are three-dimensional and Kesey doesn’t sugarcoat a damned thing, which may be part of the reason this book has been challenged so frequently.

Banned Books Awareness elaborates:

In 1974, five residents of Strongsville, Ohio, sued the board of education to get the novel removed from classrooms. Labeling it “pornographic,” they charged the novel “glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles, and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination.”…

…The 21st century saw it challenged at the Placentia-Yorba Linda, California Unified School District in 2000 after complaints by parents stated that teachers “can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again.”

If this piece of art is garbage, then I am a garbage hoarder.

6. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

You know what would be hilarious? If this list of banned books – books that were censored – contained one that included censorship as a theme. Or, more appropriately, anti-censorship.

Laugh your hiney off, because this is the case. Fahrenheit 451, the first thing I ever read by the genius Ray Bradbury, is a story largely focused on the evils of censorship. Yet folks keep wanting to censor the hell out of it – even in the 21st century!

banned books ray bradbury

Purchase College Library’s blog Beyond the Stacks explains:

“I don’t think he saw the irony at all,” Librarian Lois Buckman said of the Texas man who tried to ban the novel from his daughter’s high school.  The father claimed it was a “filthy book” that “insulted our firemen.”  Buckman added: “I don’t believe he read the book at all, and if he did read it, I don’t think he understood it.”

Father – 0, Lois Buckman – 1

That’s one good-looking list of banned books I have going on. What’s your favorite banned book? And what banned book(s) do you hope are listed in Part 2? Sound off below.




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