The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury

All Hallow's Read!
Give a book for Halloween

Ray Bradbury. The Halloween Tree. Book Review: When 8-trick-or-treaters arrive at the scariest house on the street, they encounter a man who brings them on a journey through the past, where they encounter mummies, ghosts, witches and skeletons, and must find and rescue the spirit of a friend. [Image: 8 costumed boys look up at a tree covered in jack-o-lanterns] A great book from a master storyteller that introduces children (and adults) to the history of Halloween.
All Hallows Read Book Review: Spookiness: 3.5/5 ghosts.

Spooky elements: Halloween history (lots of cultures' death rituals), spooky costumes, a mysterious companion, death itself.

Good for: This is a Halloween classic! It's great, not only for children, but for anyone who wants a spooky introduction to the history of the holiday. I was a little disappointed in it—from my childhood, I remembered there being a girl in the film version (just released on DVD!), but no such character exists in the book, which, being a girl myself, made me feel a bit left out.


The Wolves in the Walls, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean

All Hallow's Read!
Give a book for Halloween

The Wolves in the Walls. Neil Gaiman. Dave McKean. Book Review: Lucy can hear wolves in the walls. The rest of her family doesn't believe her, but everyone knows: when the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over. [Image: people and wolves, listening to each other through a wall] A delightfully eerie tale, with wonderful, creepy pictures by Dave McKean.

Spookiness: 4/5 ghosts

Spooky elements: Wolves! In the walls! (and the images by Dave McKean are extremely spooky.)

Good for: Kids, and Neil Gaiman and/or Dave McKean fans of all ages. I was planning on reviewing The Dangerous Alphabet this year, as it's newer, but I like this older gem so much!


Halloween and All Hallow’s Read

Are you excited about Halloween this year? I definitely am—shortly after Banned Books Week, I start my All Hallow's Read reviews, running from October 15 through Halloween. There's nothing better in the Fall than curling up under the covers and reading a scary book (or several!).

Consider giving someone a scary book this year for All Hallow's Read: pass them out to trick-or-treaters (but don't forget the candy), give one to a friend or a family member, or donate to your local library. It's a great (and spooky) way to celebrate Halloween. For your reading/gifting pleasure, here's a list of all the scary books I've already reviewed. And here's a link to previous years' Halloween header images.


The Woman Who Died A Lot, by Jasper Fforde

The Woman Who Died A Lot. Jasper Fforde. Book Review: Thursday is stuck in the real world, recuperating from some very painful injuries. But if anyone expected Thursday Next to take a vacation, they'll be sorely disappointed. With a new job, new allies, old enemies on the loose, and Goliath at her heels with an army of cheap clones, Thursday has her hands as full as ever. [Image: A woman, hands on hips. The back of her shirt reads 'Don't give me any of your shit— I'm a librarian.'] While I feel the book really suffers (humor-wise) in the lack of the Book World, and the various plotlines are a bit less engaging than usual, I appreciate Fforde's efforts to keep trying new things.

Good for: This book in the ongoing Thursday Next series is not as strong as the others, in my opinion, but fans will want to pick it up.


What in God’s Name, by Simon Rich

What in God’s Name. Simon Rich. Book Review: Heaven, Inc. is a grossly mismanaged corporation, with a CEO ('God') who'd rather help sports teams than end world hunger. When God decides to retire to start an Asian fusion restaurant, he also decides to destroy the Earth—unless some overworked angels in the Department of Miracles can get two awkward humans to fall in love. [Image: Office scene - water cooler, motivational poster, etc. Motivational poster reads 'Your mother doesn't work here (but God does and he wants you to keep it neat)'. Mug reads 'You don't have to be holy to work here, but it helps!'] It starts out kind of slow, but is a pretty amusing, and oddly cute story.

Good for: Fans of Dave Barry, Terry Pratchett, etc.


End of Banned Books Week

Today is the official end of Banned Books Week! I hope you enjoyed this week's themed reviews, and were inspired to read something new—challenged or otherwise. This week's reviews have been added to the Banned Books page.

I'm running out of books from the top ten as it doesn't change much from year to year—I may need help picking out challenged books to review next year! Any suggestions?


Gossip Girl, by Cecily Von Ziegesar

Banned Books Week!
Support the Freedom to Read

Gossip Girl. Cecily Von Ziegesar. Book Review: The upper class, Upper East Side world of Blair Waldorf is thrown into a tailspin when 'it-girl' Serena van der Woodsen, Blair's former best friend, returns from boarding school. Blair has gotten used to the top rung of the social ladder, and the friends (and boyfriend) that come with it—and she doesn't want to share. [Image: Envelope holding card with 'Kiss on the Lips Party' and lipstick mark] Readers are meant to enjoy the tabloidy tone, describing the escapades of wealthy teens, but I personally could not get past the annoying quirks of the narration and the fact that not much really happens.

Challenged for: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
Oh no, our teens could find out some teens are irresponsible!

Good for: Obviously this is good for someone; it sold a bazillion copies and had a ton of sequels and a television show (still on the air). But I couldn't tell you who it's good for. I found most of the characters uninteresting and the narration unbearable. I can't imagine reading this book, and then deciding to read a sequel.


The Color of Earth Series, by Kim Dong Hwa

Banned Books Week!
Support the Freedom to Read

The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, and The Color of Heaven

The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, and The Color of Heaven. Kim Dong Hwa. Book Review: Since the death of her father, Ehwa and her mother live alone, running their village's tavern. As Ehwa grows from a girl to a young woman, she and her mother both search for love. [Image: mother and daughter] The Color of Earth series is a trilogy of manwha (Korean graphic novels) depicting life for two women in historic rural Korea. This series has its moments, particularly in the relationship between mother and daughter, but ultimately I found it an awkward and unsuccessful melding of historical fiction and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Challenged for: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
That's right: a book can be challenged for being too educational.

Good for: I was frequently unsettled by the strange combination of biological facts about coming of age, what seemed like very incorrect information about the same topic, and the veneration of, to me, outdated cultural values very specific to a particular time and place. It seemed an odd choice to combine historical fiction with information and advice about the biological changes of growing up—but it's a choice that may work for other readers (just not me).


Banned Books Week

Today is the official start of a special Banned Books Week: it's the 30th anniversary of the annual celebration of the freedom to read, highlighting the importance of the first amendment. This year I'll be reviewing one three-book series, and the first book in a different series from the list of the 10 most challenged books and series of 2011.

You can find out more about banned books week at And here's a handy list of all the challenged books I've reviewed. Do you have any favorite frequently challenged or otherwise controversial books?


The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars. John Green. Book Review: [Image: A boy and a girl sitting on the grass, legs interlocked, and laughing. The boy holds a book titled 'An Imperial Affliction'

I had a whirlwind romance with this book: it made me laugh, made me cry, and made me rush to the ending though I didn't really want to put it down. It's a story of first love, but with the knowledge that it could easily be last love as well. It's hilarious, heart-breaking, and wonderful down to the developed secondary characters and (sadly) fictional book that is the impetus for much of the plot movement. Augustus and Hazel are probably a bit too precocious, and there are a couple of scences that are embarrassing (I don't know that comparing terminal cancer to the Holocaust is, like, okay?), but it's so good anyway.

Good for: You can probably tell from the review whether this book is for you or not. It's aimed at young adults.

I read this book in May. I have had a lot of time to process it. And I am still well and truly pissed that An Imperial Affliction is not a real book.