Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 106: My Favorite Challenged/Banned Books

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @

For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.

This Week's Question

In regards to Banned Books Week,
what are your favorite books
that have been banned or

(Submitted  by Kristin @ 

My Answer

I would like to make something perfectly clear before I get to this question's answer. There's a difference between banning books for adults, and banning them for children. I am not at all in favor of the former, but very much in favor of the latter. WHAT?! She's in favor of CENSORSHIP?! Well, see, that's the thing. People tend to think in generalities, and to go to one extreme or the other. I am making the case for a middle-of-the road stance. 

Before beginning this post, I did some Googling, and discovered that most books are banned by school libraries, and that the people who want certain books banned are parents.  It must surely be obvious to anyone that children and very young teens simply do NOT have the intellectual and, most important, emotional/psychological maturity to handle certain topics to be found in certain books. Censoring for adults, though, is not necessary, nor is it healthy. Adults can handle these types of topics, and should have the freedom to do so. If an adult wants to fill his/her mind with total GARBAGE, then s/he should be free to do so. Children and very young teens, however, should not have this freedom, in my honest opinion. I certainly wouldn't want my 14-year-old daughter (if I had one) to be reading Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, for example. Nor would I want her reading the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy!! So, if I did indeed have a 14-year-old daughter, I'd be one of those parents actively involved in getting these novels, and similar ones, banned from my local middle school library, for SURE!!

When you click on this link, and scroll down the page, you will see two graphs -- one detailing reasons for these book challenges, and the other, detailing who the initiators of these challenges are. It will be very clear that the initiators, are, nearly in their totality, parents.

Having stated all of the above, let me once more reiterate that there should be NO censorship for ADULTS in a free, democratic society. This is totally UNACCEPTABLE. Besides, who's going to ban books for adult readers? Certainly no government should attempt to do so. But, even in the case of children and younger teens, the U.S. government has NEVER stepped in and attempted to do this. It's always been private citizens -- parents -- who have wanted certain books banned by their children's school libraries.

Another interesting point here is that this challenging of books has to do with libraries. Challenged and banned books are still freely available in bookstores, as well as online, although I've never seen pornography in regular bookstores, like Barnes & Noble. Of course, such books are indeed available online, as well as in adult bookstores.

Now on to this question's answer.

These are my favorite challenged/banned books. They are all YA novels. I don't think that kids should read these books until they're at least around 17 or 18. There are events in these books that might be a bit too scary or disturbing for children and younger teens.  


I do  think you need to have a certain level of psychological maturity to read the books that comprise The Twilight Saga. In my honest opinion, they are not appropriate for kids younger than at least 17. They are beautiful and romantic books, but they also contain concepts that might be too jarring and confusing for younger kids, such as the whole idea of good vampires. How can vampires possibly be "good"? Older teens can see how the Cullen family is committed to not harming humans, how Carlisle Cullen, the doctor who brought them all together, vowed to not give in to the vampire nature, when he himself was accidentally turned into a vampire, centuries ago. 

Edward Cullen, one of Carlisle's adopted children, follows his adoptive father's philosophy, striving not to harm the girl he loves -- Bella Swan. This idea of a man struggling to protect a woman from his baser impulses (because, as I have read in an online article, this is clearly a metaphor), is something that only older teens would be able to comprehend and appreciate.

I was way beyond adolescence when I first read Twilight, the first book in the series, in 2006. I fell head over heels in love with it, and promptly bought the second book, New Moon. Later on, I completed the set with Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. I ADORE these books, and have read them 3 times already! I have read the first 4 times -- 3 times in English, and once in Spanish.

Aside from the vampire metaphor, these books do contain some very laudable values, such as the sanctity of human life, the courage to withstand temptation, the value of family unity, and many others. Adult women of all ages (these books appeal mostly to females) love these books, too, as they are indeed wonderful, exciting reading! 

All four books made the list of "Top Ten Most Challenged Books" in 2009, and the first book made the list in 2010.

The Harry Potter series has also been challenged by parents, and I do think that, again, older teens can read them, but not younger ones, nor children. The thing is, and this has been pointed out by critics of the books, that each novel gets darker and darker as the series progresses. Although I love these books myself, I must confess that I came across some disturbing things while reading them. I was also an adult when I started reading the books, around 2000 or 2001, and I STILL found these things disturbing. One of them was a very macabre birthday party for one of the Hogwarts ghosts, whose name is "Nearly Headless Nick". Nick's head was used in a ghostly polo game.... Thankfully, this scene never made it into the film version! Another thing, and this one DID make it into the movie version, was the grisly ingredient of a severed hand included in a potion meant to bring Voldemort, the villain of the series, come fully back to life.I don't think young children should either read such things, or see them on film, either. 

The Harry Potter series is definitely full of wonderful, magical things, and I don't agree with those parents who say these books are full of occultism. The "witchcraft" in the books is of the sort to be frequently found in fantasy novels. Besides, the spells and enchantments detailed in the books obviously do not work in real life. Lol. 

These books, like those of The Twilight Saga, contain many worthwhile concepts, such as courage, the fortitude to follow one's values even when it's easier not to, loyalty to one's friends, and even family values. This can be seen in the Weasley family, for example.

So these are my favorite challenged, or banned books. Again, I do support the freedom to read, but only if a person has reached a certain level of psychological and intellectual maturity. Of course, there's the case of gifted kids, who are beyond their age group in certain skills. Most likely reading will be one of them. However, these kids may not have the level of emotional maturity to handle certain topics, so I believe they, too, should not be exposed to them.

Reading is meant to be a rewarding, joyful experience. When the wrong books fall into the wrong hands, however, it can then become a terrifying, traumatic experience, or, at best, a very disturbing one.

What are your thoughts on
this topic?
If you're participating in this hop,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!!  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tour Book Review: To Wager Her Heart, by Tamera Alexander

To Wager Her Heart
(Belle Meade Plantation, Book 3)
Tamera Alexander 
Trade Paperback, 384 pages
August 8, 2017
Christian Fiction, Diverse Reads,
Historical Fiction

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society's expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided that the truth doesn't tear them apart first.

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge, but mostly to clear his father's name. One man holds the key to Sy's success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks. Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville's society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he's found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison's
fiancé — and what has broken her heart.

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen's university in the United States. But her family — and Nashville society — do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both. Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for, this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy's roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn't count on is having to wager her heart to do it.

Set against the real history of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

I received an ARC from TLC Book Tours in 
exchange for an honest review. And I was 
honestly very happy with this novel!

This novel goes beyond the category of "historical romance", as it delves into deeper issues relevant not only to the time period featured, but also to our present time. I would thus prefer to categorize it as "historical fiction" with romance included.

The backdrop of To Wager Her Heart is Nashville, Tennessee, in the early 1870s. The country is still recovering from the Civil War, and this is very evident in several passages in the novel.

I was delighted to find that Fisk University is a real institution of higher learning. This was where the main female protagonist, Alexandra Jamison, decided to teach. This university was founded in 1866 as a school for newly freed slaves. It was later expanded into a university. There was also a real singing group named the Fisk University Jubilee Singers, which was comprised of very talented singers from the Fisk student body. They are mentioned in the book, too. These details were obviously meticulously researched by the author, and give this novel a ring of authenticity.

The characters in this novel are vividly drawn, and one actually feels their emotions, confronting their own personal challenges right along with them. 

Alexandra Jamison is a truly remarkable character. She's not only a very kind, loving person, but a very determined one, as well. Her passion for teaching is wonderful, as is her compassion and understanding toward the freedmen and freedwomen. She stands for them with every fiber of her being. 

In order to be able to work as a teacher at Fisk University, she has had to defy her father's attempts to marry her off to a man twice her age. Alexandra has a dream, and she will not be deterred from it. This dream was planted by her idealistic fiancé, David Thompson, who tragically died in the train accident that also took the lives of many freed people, along with that of Sylas Rutledge's father.

This brings me to Sylas, the main male character, and Alexandra's love interest. I don't think I've met such a sweet, kind man in romantic fiction before! His empathy and kindness toward Alexandra were a total delight to read about! He showed no trace of controlling behavior, and always had nothing but respect for Alexandra. Far from attempting to deter her from pursuing her dreams -- which included obtaining a university degree -- he wholeheartedly supported them, encouraging her to work toward her goals, interested only in her happiness. Sy is a truly nice guy. He and Alexandra are absolutely PERFECT for each other!

The main plot hinges on the train accident. Sy is convinced that his father, an expert engineer, could not have caused it, precisely because of his years of experience and expertise. So he begins to investigate, doing his utmost to uncover evidence that will clear his father's name. Naturally, Alexandra is antagonistic toward him when she first learns who he is, although later, as she slowly gets to know him, she realizes that he is actually a profoundly good man. 

Seamlessly woven into the main plot is the story of Fisk University and its students. The school is based on Christian principles, and this is very evident in the deep faith of its students and faculty. Alexandra is hired by George L. White, the university's treasurer, a very kind, empathetic man who actually bends the school's rules in order to give her a job as a teacher. This character was a real historical figure. He was in fact in charge of the Jubilee Singers as they toured the U.S. and Europe, raising money for the university. 

In real life, as well as in the novel, White worked tirelessly on behalf of the university, even sometimes risking his life on behalf of the Jubilee Singers in order to make sure they had proper accommodations as they toured through several states. Although he was a secondary character in this novel, his benevolent influence on the events and other characters is one of the story elements that makes this novel rise above the typical historical romance.

Another "secondary" character that makes this novel special, and is no less important than White, is Ella Sheppard. She, too, was a real historical figure. She was actually a member of the original Jubilee Singers, and her story is particularly poignant. In the novel, she and Alexandra share a room at the university, and become good friends. In the novel as well as in real life, Sheppard was a teacher at Fisk, although the novel does not mention the subject she taught, which was music. According to the African-American Registry, "Sheppard became the music teacher at Fisk University; the only Black staff member at the school before 1875." You can access this article HERE.

While researching Fisk University and the Jubilee Singers, I came across a very interesting detail. Alexandra's last name is "Jamison", and, in real life, one of Fisk's notable alumni is Judith Ann Jamison. Born in 1943, she is a renowned African-American dancer and choreographer, as well as the Artistic Director of the Alvin Alley American Dance Theater. I wonder whether the author of this novel was aware of this, and purposely chose the last name "Jamison" for her main female character. If so, then KUDOS to her!

Another great secondary character was the (unfortunately) fictional Vinson, who works for Sy. What a WONDERFUL, big, and big-hearted guy! I greatly enjoyed reading about how he first met Sy, as a young boy. They immediately became friends, and, even though Sy is Vinson's boss, they relate to each other as equals. 

There are quite a few other memorable secondary characters in this novel, such as Uncle Bob, who works for General Harding, Melba, a servant at Alexandra's home, and Philip Paul Bliss, a missionary who wrote beautiful hymns, as well. Bliss was also a real-life figure. He was a composer, conductor, and a Gospel singer, as well as a writer of hymns. Some of his better-known ones are "Almost Persuaded", "Hallelujah! What A Savior", and "It Is Well With My Soul'". 

And how could I fail to mention Duke, Sy's faithful foxhound? He and his master have been inseparable since Sy rescued him, when he was just a puppy.

This novel is full of true Christian love. The only judgmental characters are those who show their prejudice against the Jubilee Singers as they go from city to city, giving concerts. White, Ella Sheppard, and Alexandra, to mention just a few of the characters, live out their faith through a staunch trust in God, in the goodness of His ways. Even Sy, who would not be expected to be the spiritual sort, has a firm belief in the Almighty. This was such a beautiful thing to read about! Even non-Christian readers, I'm sure, will appreciate the way these people exemplified the values they believed in.

Although I greatly enjoyed this story, I must say that race relations in this novel initially struck me as a bit unrealistic. True, there were some whites, like George White himself, who were sympathetic to the plight of African-Americans at the time. I wondered, however, whether there were any real friendships between whites and African-Americans during this time period, such as the one between Ella and Alexandra.

With this in mind, I Googled race relations at the time in Tennessee, and discovered that there had been a race riot in Memphis in 1866. This riot later came to be known as The Memphis Massacre. Paradoxically, Tennessee had extended voting rights to African-American men in 1867, and the city was a haven for freed people during the Civil War. Memphis also had a very diverse population during and after the Civil War years. Still, it was a fact that "....politicians prioritized peace with ex-Confederates over justice for African-Americans". (Source: Civil Rights Laws Don't Always Stop Racism, an online article from The Atlantic)

As the story swept me along, though, I came to just accept that there WERE, indeed, beautiful friendships between whites and African-Americans, although these were entirely fictional, and took place within the setting of the novel. I would hope that there were also such friendships in real life at the time. 

The romance between Sy and Alexandra is such a beautiful, gentle tale, and is so nicely woven into the inspiring story of Fisk University, I could not help but end up loving this novel, in spite of my initial misgivings. Both Sy and Alexandra have major losses to deal with, yet, they are also willing to open themselves to love again. And they are both idealistic, admirable characters. Their story is tinged with sadness, but at the same time, lined with joy. And the backdrop of the beautiful Belle Meade Plantation, contrasted with the hardships of the freedmen, provides some vividly poignant contrasts.

Tamera Alexander just keeps the reader turning pages, leading from one event to the other, and before you know it, you've fallen in love with the characters, with the inspiring story of their successes and failures, their love for each other, and the way they held fast to their faith in the face of all obstacles. 

I would highly recommend To Wager Her Heart to all who enjoy not only Christian Fiction, but also to all lovers of historical and romance fiction. This is a story that will long stay with you, and definitely one that you will most likely want to read again!


Purchase Links

These are the two previous novels 
in this GREAT series!!

Tamera Alexander is the USA Today bestselling author of numerous books, including A Lasting Impression, A Note Yet Unsung, To Whisper Her Name, and To Wager Her Heart
Her richly-drawn characters and thought-provoking plots have earned her devoted readers worldwide, as well as multiple industry awards.

These awards include the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Bookseller’s Best Award, and being listed among Publishers Weekly and Library Journal’s Top Inspirational Fiction, among others.
Tamera's books have been translated into numerous languages. She's toured Germany and The Netherlands meeting readers, and cherishes those connections.

She and her husband live in Nashville, Tennessee, not far from the Southern mansions that serve as the backdrop for six of her award-winning novels.


To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday No. 33: My New Crush Gave To Me, by Shani Petroff

Welcome to "Can't Wait Wednesday"!
This is a weekly event hosted by
Tressa @ Wishful Endings, and inspired by "Waiting On Wednesday", which used to be hosted by
 Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

For more information, please click HERE.

As in the previous meme, this one showcases future releases  we book  bloggers 
are eagerly anticipating!!
There's also a Linky widget, so participating blogs can link up!

Here's my choice for this week!

 My New Crush Gave To Me
Shani Petroff
Trade Paperback,  288 pages
Swoon Reads
October 31, 2017    
Christmas Romance, 
Contemporary Romance , 
Young Adult Fiction

Charlotte “Charlie” Donovan knows what she wants for Christmas: Teo Ortiz. He’s a star athlete, in the National Honor Society, invited to every party, and contributes to the school paper (where Charlie is co-editor). Basically, he's exactly the type of guy Charlie’s looking for. The only problem—he barely knows she exists.

But Charlie has a plan: Rig the paper’s Secret Santa and win his heart with five perfect gifts. Enter J.D. Ortiz—Teo’s cousin, and possibly the most annoying person on the planet. He’s easygoing, laid-back, unorganized, and spontaneous—the exact opposite of Charlie (and Teo). But he knows what Teo wants, so she’s stuck with him.

Yet the more time Charlie spends with J.D. the more she starts to wonder: Does she really know what, or rather who, she wants for Christmas?

Why I can't wait for this one!

This novel not only looks SUPER CUTE and full of humor and romance, but it's a Christmas-themed book, too! And the Christmas season is my FAVORITE time of year!! In fact, I start reading ONLY these types of books just as soon as Thanksgiving is over, and sometimes even BEFORE then! Lol. Besides, that cover is PERFECT for such a book! How ironic that this novel is being released on Halloween. Well, I will DEFINITELY be ordering it RIGHT AWAY!!

Shani Petroff is the author of the YA novels Romeo and What's Her Name (Macmillan/Feb. 2017) and My New Crush Gave to Me (Macmillan/Oct. 2017) and the tween series, Bedeviled (Penguin). She is also the co-author of Ash, as well as a TV writer and blogger.

What do you think of my choice?
Leave your link below, so I can
come check out your pick(s)! 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hurricane Irma

This is a notice to all of my regular readers, as well as visitors. Due to the situation here in Miami, Florida, I am a bundle of nerves, and am totally unable to concentrate on blogging. I know I need to reply to comments left on my "Can't Wait Wednesday" post. I also need to comment back on those blogs. However, in my current frame of mind, I am unable to do so. I may try to reply later on today, from my cell phone, as much as I can.

We are now under a Hurricane Watch. According to reports, Miami will take a direct hit. Those of you who are believers, please pray for us here in Miami, and all of South Florida.

Thanks to all of you who visit, read and comment regularly! God bless you all! 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday No. 32: The Delphi Resistance, by Rysa Walker

Welcome to "Can't Wait Wednesday"!
This is a weekly event hosted by
Tressa @ Wishful Endings, and inspired by "Waiting On Wednesday", which used to be hosted by
 Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

For more information, please click HERE.

As in the previous meme, this one showcases future releases  we book  bloggers 
are eagerly anticipating!!
There's also a Linky widget, so participating blogs can link up!

Here's my choice for this week!

 The Delphi Resistance
(The Delphi Trilogy, Book 2)
Rysa Walker
Trade Paperback,  460 pages
October 24, 2017    
Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

What if your mind became your worst enemy?

Struggling with evolving psychic abilities, seventeen-year-old Anna Morgan and her equally exceptional friends are on the run from the ruthless Graham Cregg, leader of a covert operation known as the Delphi Project. Cregg has already killed repeatedly to test Anna’s ability. Now, he and his father, a presidential contender, will stop at nothing to recapture the Delphi adepts, whom they see as weapons to be controlled—or destroyed.

Navigating an increasingly hostile landscape, Anna and her friends form a resistance to rescue those still in the Creggs’ fatal grip. As more gifted kids vanish and public awareness of the Delphi Project grows, so does the opinion that getting rid of the adepts may be a necessary evil.

Yet even as they face off against cold-blooded killers, government operatives, and a public intensely afraid of their psychic powers, the greatest threat to Anna and the resistance may come from within themselves—and their own mysterious abilities could spell their ultimate downfall.

Why I can't wait for this one!

Oh, this truly sounds like a fast-paced,VERY intriguing novel!  And there's a SERIES involved, too!! LOVE it!!
The combination of plot elements here is indeed
WONDERFUL!!  There's certainly plenty of suspense here, as well as a gorgeous prose style. PLUS, there are  paranormal elements, too!! WOWZA!!!!! 

Be sure to check out the AWESOME first book!!

Rysa Walker is the author of the bestselling Chronos Files series. Timebound, the first book in the series, was the Young Adult and Grand Prize winner in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.

Rysa grew up on a cattle ranch in the South, where she read every chance she got. On the rare occasion that she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stop light.

She currently lives in North Carolina, where she is working on her next series, The Delphi Project. If you see her on social media, please tell her to get back into the writing cave.

What do you think of my choice?
Leave your link below, so I can
come check out your pick(s)!