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Archive for the ‘Holidays and Special Dates’ Category

Gargoyles and Grotesques – Halloween Musings

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Pat gargoyle 2

Happy Hallowen by Cheryl G. (Poncer)

I have always been fascinated by Gargoyles and Grotesques, those stoic stone monuments guarding buildings and cemeteries day and night, night and day. My fondness has resulted in friends taking photos of the creatures they discover and send me the photos. Like the one above by fellow member Pat L. (PitterPat), took on a photo tour of Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.

It was previously thought that gargoyles came into being in the 13th century, when Gothic Architecture was just beginning. But there is evidence that ancient civilizations, such as the Greeks and Egyptians used Gargoyles on buildings, too.  Originally, Gargoyles were mere water spouts, a way to divert rain water away from buildings and their foundations. So the true definition of a gargoyle is a decorative water spout. Grotesques are purely decoration, with no practical purpose but to scare away evil spirits.

It is believed the Catholic Church used gargoyles and grotesques as a way to spread their theology to the mostly illiterate pagan population. After all, a picture paints a 1000 words.

Whether a gargoyle or a grotesque, sometimes called chimera, this art form is fascinating to me.

And a quick search through books currently posted and available for swapping gave me a plethora of choices. Below are some books relating to Gargoyles.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide–for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life–and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne’s care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete–and her time on earth will be finished.
3.9 stars, based on 78 ratings of PaperBackSwap members

 

 

In the Shadow of the Gargoyle
Nancy Kilpatrick (Editor), Thomas S. Roche (Editor)

For centuries, they have watched over us. Leering from the arches and peaks of ancient cathedrals. Spreading their wings across hallowed doorways. Even decorating our homes in stony, silent elegance. Are they angels or demons? Sacred or profane? In the Shadow of the Gargoyle features fifteen original stories and two classic tales of the legendary gargoyle. The contributors range from bestselling masters to the hottest newcomers — award-winners, artists, musicians, and, yes, gargoyle collectors. Each of them experts at drawing blood from a stone… Contributors include:* Harlan Ellison * Neil Gaiman * Katherine Kurtz * Brian Lumley * Jane Yolen * Charles L. Grant * John Mason Skipp * Nancy Holder * Alan Rodgers * Lucy Taylor * Jo Clayton * Don D’Ammassa * Christa Faust * Robert J. Harris * Brian Hodge * Caitlin R. Kiernan * Marc Levinthal * Melanie Tem * Wendy Webb
3.8 stars, based on 3 PBS Member’s ratings  (this one is currently on the way to me!)

 


Song of the Gargoyle by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
A strange sound awakens thirteen-year-old Tymmon  in the dead of night. In a blink of an eye his  father, the court jester of Austerneve, is  mysteriously kidnapped and the terrified boy must slip away  secretly to avoid capture  himself. — Hiding in the dreaded forest nearby, Tymmon is adopted by a huge, furry, dog-like creature–a  gargoyle–who has the loyalty of a dog and the fearsome  powers of an enchanted  being.
Together, hungry, the two make their way to town, where Tymmon earns a living by playing his flute and learns to be happy. At least as happy as he can be  without his father. Will he ever find a way to  rescue him and be with him again?
3.7 stars, based on 3 ratings

 


St Patrick’s Gargoyle by Katherine Kurtz
From his perch high above the bustling Dublin streets, a gargoule named Padraig keeps watch over his beloved city. It was once beautifully elegant, brilliantly sacred. But now something has changed. He can feel it… — On a bitterly cold December night, vandals break into St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Paddy melts into the darkness in search of revenge-but nothing could have prepared him for the evil that descends when he finds it…
3.6 stars, based on 27 ratings

 

 

 

Geis of the Gargoyle by Piers Anthony
Since Xanth began, the gargoyles of that magical place have been under a magical compulsion to protect the purity of the Swan Knee River which flows in to Xanth from dreary Mundania. But recently the pollution from the outside world has grown ever greater, and young Gary Gar, latest in a long line of gargoyle guardians, is finding it ever more difficult to fulfill his responsibilities.

So Gary does what any sensible Xanth resident with a dire dilemma would do. He goes to see the Good Magician Humfrey, who sends him on a peculiar quest–to transform himself into human shape, tutor a precocious child with more than her share of wild magical talents, and find a philter which can restore the river to its previous pristine state.
4.1 stars, based on 110 ratings

 

And then there is this adorable children’s series by Philippa Dowding, but alas, none are currently posted. The Wish Lists aren’t very long though.

 

 

So here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy Halloween, and remember to look up. You never know when a gargoyle or grotesque may be looking down at you.

 

Banned Book Week 2015

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Each year the American Library Association compiles a list of books targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools across the county. The ALA says, “Banned Book Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read”.

Below is the list of the most challenged book of 2014. How many have you read?

The Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2014:

 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

(Reasons for challenges: Anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying.”)

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

(Reasons: Gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions.”)

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

This tender tale of two male penguins raising a baby penguin together is based on actual occurrences at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Of all the penguins around, Roy and Silo choose each other and spend all their time together: swimming, walking, and singing. They even make a nest with stones for eggs, and carefully tend to it, though nothing ever hatches. A watchful zookeeper places an abandoned egg in their nest, and the two joyfully hatch and raise Tango, their very own chick.
Illustrated with delicate watercolors, this touching story focuses on the wonderful diversity that can make up a family.

(Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homo-sexual agenda.)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, is the first novel written by Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove — a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others — who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.

(Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues.”)

It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris

Ages 10 and up. — When young people have questions about sex, real answers can be hard to find. Providing accurate, unbiased answers to nearly every conceivable question, from conception and puberty to birth control and AIDS, It’s Perfectly Normal offers young people the real information they need now more than ever to make responsible decisions and to stay healthy.
Frankly written with nicely done cartoon-like illustrations. Plus there is a bird and a bee who have side dialogue that is delightful.

(Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it [to be] child pornography.”)

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Written by Eisner Award-winning “Best Writer” Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, The Private Eye) and drawn by Harvey Award-winning “Best Artist” Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40) Saga is the story of Hazel, a child born to star-crossed parents from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war. Now, Hazel’s fugitive family must risk everything to find a peaceful future in a harsh universe that values destruction over creation.

(Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This powerful first novel tells a story of fierce cruelty and fierce yet redeeming love. Both transform the life of Amir, the privileged young narrator, who comes of age during the last peaceful days of the monarchy, just before his country’s revolution and its invasion by Russian forces. But political events, even as dramatic as the ones that are presented in The Kite Runner, are only a part of this story. Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence, forces that continue to threaten them even today.

(Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence.)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Standing on the fringes of life…offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

(Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation.”)

A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard

In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen. — For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse. — For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.
On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.
A Stolen Life is my story — in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.

(Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.)

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she’s a terrible singer. Instead she’s the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier! Following the success of SMILE, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama!
(Reasons: Sexually explicit.)

Memorial Day 2015

Monday, May 25th, 2015

American_Flags_8285648189_o blog

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

 – John F. Kennedy

The Joy of Books, A Word from our Founder

Monday, November 17th, 2014

By Richard Pickering, PBS FounderThe Joy of Books

I knew that the 2014 PaperBackSwap Cruise would be a great time to meet club members, participate in book-themed events, and share in our love of reading. It was going to be fun (and it was)! But I never expected that our itinerary held an event that would affect me deeply.

As the cruise ship pulled into Belize, I was informed that there was a surprise event scheduled, in which I would be needed to participate.  “Dress appropriately, as a representative of PaperBackSwap,” Cheryl G. (Poncer) said. That was all I was told.

About a dozen of us —PBS members and some staff — got off the boat and made our way to the taxi stand, where we boarded a van that whisked us away. As the roads became bumpier and turned from asphalt to hard-pack dirt and stone, my curiosity mounted. “Where are we going?” I asked. The rest of the group smiled knowingly, and Cheryl G assured me that this would be an adventure that I would never forget for the rest of my life.

We headed into the heart of the country, passing small farms and an occasional building that boasted some small trade or service for the local population. Finally the van slowed, and the driver leaned out the window to ask directions. We were in the middle of a very rural area – I could see thatched roofs around us, and I learned later there was no running water and almost no electricity. We were in the proverbial “middle of nowhere.” Liberty Children's Village in Ladyville, Belize

The van turned down one last dirt road. There was a gate at the end, and beyond that, the building that was apparently our destination. Finally, I was let in on the secret: this was a small orphanage, home to 42 children whose parents had died of AIDS.

The staff greeted us with open arms and thanked us for coming.  Many of the older children were in school, but the younger ones were there, and anxious to meet us.  We went into the day care center, which was very clean and nicely appointed. The high ceilings and fans kept the room cool, and the walls were covered with drawings that the children had made and gold stars for good behavior or outstanding scholarship.

Another surprise! The group (led by Gail P.(TinkerPirate and Cheryl G. Poncer) had brought along over 100 books for the kids, carrying them in their luggage onto the cruise. That was enough so that each child would get a couple of books, with plenty more to share with each other. I read a story aloud to the kids, about a farmer with a problem – cows that could type! The cows had a lot of demands for the farmer. It was a fun story, and the kids were very attentive. After the story, our team distributed the books and also gifts that the group had brought, and then we spent some time playing games with the kids.  After goodbyes and hugs, it was time to leave.

Click Clack Moo, Cows That TypeCheryl had been right — I would never forget the day, the kids, the orphanage staff who took such loving care of them, the appreciation for the books and our visit. It was so moving to consider the life that the kids had led, the circumstances that brought them to this place, and the life ahead of them.  I was proud of our group for coming up with the idea to visit the orphanage. On top of planning all the fun events of the PaperBackSwap Cruise, they had gone deeper and found a way to give back. How typical of PaperBackSwap members! It’s been 10 years since the club’s launch, and the generosity and kindness of our membership continues to amaze me.

It’s the kind of giving that makes our Books for Schools campaign such a success every year. So many members have asked us when the next Books for Schools will go live. We’re happy to say that BFS 2014 will be launching very soon! We are planning to begin right after Thanksgiving.


You can read about Books for Schools,  see a list and details of previous participating schools, suggest schools for future inclusion, and if you want to get a head start on donating before the BFS 2014 launch, you can use the Give Credits button on this page.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with those children in Belize. May God bless each and every one of them, and guide them in their lives going forward. And may God bless each and every one of our club members. We love your giving spirit!

cari

Thanks to all those who made the Orphanage visit happen: Gail P (tinkerpirate), Cheryl G (Poncer),  Ajay I., Barbara S (barbelaine1), Cari (ladycari), Kareena I., Len S (lens), Marie N (pottergal), Rick (RickMatt) , Sonal S (ComeGo), our driver Stanley, the staff at the orphanage including Director Agatha Valentine, and of course the kids!!!

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Veterans Day 2014

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Nonfiction Review – Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

 

Review By Mirah W. (mwelday)

Every year Americans remember the devotion and sacrifice of our military personnel on Veterans Day. Every day I am proud and honored to be a military spouse and, at the same time, it is incredibly humbling to be a part of a group of such strong and amazing men and women.  I recently read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and was, once again, reminded of the overwhelming pain and suffering some of our service members experience.

Unbroken is the story of Louis ‘Louie’ Zamperini. Louie was a prankster teenager with a penchant for petty theft and he was quickly spiraling out of control.  His brother Pete convinced Louie to direct his energy into running and Louie found his stride and focus.  Louie’s skill as a runner surpassed what he or Pete ever imagined. Louie set high school track records in California and made it to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

In 1941, Louie joined to the US Army Air Forces and became a bombardier on a B-24.  In 1943, during a search for a lost aircraft and crew, Louie’s B-24 crashed into the ocean and Louie was one of the three survivors.  Louie spent over 40 days in a raft lost at sea before reaching the Marshall Islands and being captured by the Japanese.  Louie then was forced to endure torture, humiliation, starvation, and other horrible acts of brutality in Japanese POW camps.

The entire book was so meticulously researched and delivered; it was both amazing and difficult to read.  While reading I kept thinking, ‘what else could he possibly have to endure?’ and then something else would happen; it was gut-wrenching to get through some portions of the book but, in the end, it left me feeling hopeful.  I simply cannot fathom the mentality of the individuals who were responsible for the atrocities Louie experienced.  In addition to Louie’s struggles, his family lived with the grief and doubt of whether he was alive or dead. During Louie’s service, his mother wore a set of aviator’s wings pinned to her clothing every day and at night she moved the pin to her nightgown.  The depth of her love and devotion was touching and memorable.

Unbroken is about resiliency, courage, heartbreak, and strength.  While I believe Louie’s experience is one-of-a kind (I simply cannot imagine others going through this same series of events), there are men and women of our armed forces who endure extreme hardships, injuries and tragedies every day and we hear little about it.  Unbroken serves as a very stark and saddening reminder of what some of our service members go through while protecting our freedoms.

Every year we lose more of our World War II veterans, who many Americans consider to be our greatest generation of military heroes.  I remember visiting Pearl Harbor, hearing World War II veterans sharing their stories with visitors and being riveted by the magnitude of all they lived through. Their stories need to be heard and remembered so we can understand our past and hopefully learn from those events. I believe Hillenbrand has created a masterful tribute to Louie Zamperini and all of our military personnel.  I give 5 stars to this incredibly moving, detailed account of the life of a great American hero.

 

 

News From The Cruise – PBS 10th Anniversary Celebration

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014
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Hard to believe it is already Sunday, again! Times flies when on a cruise ship in the Caribbean with some of our wonderful PaperBackSwap Members!

Last Sunday was just a few moments ago, when we scallywags climbed aboard the Norwegian Sun cruise ship, and off we sailed from Tampa.

After stops in Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel we are now steaming north, full speed ahead, back to Tampa. Back to our real lives.

The weather has been, well, weather. We have experienced rain, humidity, warm breezes, sunshine, hot temperatures, more rain, hot temperatures, even more rain, hair-frizzing humidity, sunshine and really hot temperatures. Then really, really high humidity with really, really hot temperatures and sunshine galore. And it all has been glorious!

The sunrises have been stunning, the sunsets even more so. We have eaten great grub, drank much grog, secured much booty, danced quite a few jigs, and discovered treasured friendships that will last us lifetimes.

We have had a blast!

We wish you were here and hope you consider joining us on the next cruise for PaperBackSwap Members!

May your seas be calm and your distant shores filled with treasured moments.

Richard “PegLeg” Pickering and his band of merry mates.

 

cozumel

September 11th

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

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