Banned Books #1 – The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library

Published July 28, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they’re here. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day…or wondering who did the heart breaking and wondering why.”

Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way 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. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. 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.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

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Welcome to a new feature on my blog! It’s Banned Books that I’m collaborating with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library on.

Every month for the rest of 2014 ChrissiReads, Luna’s Little Library and myself will be reading one Banned/Challenged Book a month. We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book.

If you’d like to join in our discussion (and please feel free!) below is a list of what we’ll be reading:

August

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

Chosen by: Luna

September

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

Chosen by: Beth

October

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (as “Anonymous”)

Chosen by: Chrissi

November

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Chosen by: Luna

December

Lush by Natasha Friend

Chosen by: Beth

But back to this month….

JULY

 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

First published: 1st February 1999

Still in the Top Ten of Frequently Challenged Books in 2013 (Source: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10)

Chosen by: Chrissi

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking/homosexuality/sexually explicit/unsuited to age group

So, what did WE think?:

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: The book was published in 1999 and it’s fair to say that by that time we were a much more open society about things like drugs and sexuality, especially things that were shown in the media at that time for example the increased sexual content in music videos etc. However, I can also see why at that time it was challenged as the book does tend to stray into risky territory with a lot of potentially taboo issues. I think if at that time I had been studying it for English GCSE, I would have been fairly shocked – not by the content, but that the school was “brave” enough to be allowing us to study it!
CHRISSI: I completely understand why it would be challenged when it was originally published. The way I see it is that it deals with some very intense issues. If you’re using it at a school… even from 14+ , it’s a very touchy subject to actually teach. I completely understand that teenagers need to know about these issues, but in a way, I think a book like The Perks Of Being A Wallflower isn’t the best educational tool.
LUNA: Ahm… actually no. When the book was first published I was 14, nearly 15 – so the audience for this novel. While The Perks of Being a Wallflower does have a lot of “issues” none of them, in my opinion, are explored in any great detail. They just get a surface mention. Yes there is some swearing and yes I accept that drugs, abuse (physical and/or sexual) are though subjects but the book doesn’t really go into them. It’s certainly not anywhere near as graphic as I expected given that Perks is still in the top 10 of challenged books in 2013. Thinking of my teenage self and what I knew from my peers, TV and also what I was reading I would not have been shocked.
How about now?
 
BETH: I’m really not sure! I think it would take a strong person to challenge the current curriculum and bring in books that may deal with darker issues like Perks. I honesty can’t imagine any teacher standing in front of a class and talking about Charlie’s discovery of masturbation or the scene in which he watches a couple participate in some (ahem!) sexual acts. Saying that, it would be terrific if the curriculum included some books that were a bit risky, even just to test the water. I think also that schools have to be careful to respect parents wishes, and some children may be brought up with certain beliefs, religious issues that may be easily offended by books such as this. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why a safe middle ground is chosen?
CHRISSI: I don’t think my views have changed that much. From working in education, I can see why teacher’s would find this difficult to use as a teaching tool. However, I do think it’s important that children learn about the issues that Perks covers in a sensitive manner. I’m just not sure that Perks is the right piece of literature for it. I also imagine the parents would kick up all sorts of fuss about it. With the movie being fairly new out, perhaps it will become more acceptable in time.
LUNA: Still no. Ignoring what I’ve previously there are two main reasons why challenging/banning The Perks of Being a Wallflower makes no sense to me.
1) The reasons “drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group” are already represented the books being thought, both in the UK and the US. I spend quite a bit of time researching the reading list for GCSE (UK) and High School (US) and while they didn’t always match some authors kept reappearing: William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, William Golding just to name a few.
Classic Literature is full of unhealthy relationships, sex, violence and drug abuse. Sherlock Holmes probably the most famous drug user that comes to mind.
Shakespeare’s plays cover pretty much everything ‘reason’ The Perks of Being a Wallflower was challenged. Romeo and Juliet has teenage sex, plenty of violence and suicide. For unhealthy relationship (you could probably argue that Romeo and Juliet belong in there) there is an abundance of choice. How about Othello? Jealous husbands strangles his wife. For cross-dressing and gay themes: Twelfth Night. (Btw I don’t agree that “homosexuality” should ever be a reason for challenging/banning a book. That’s a whole different rant…)
My point is that the difference between those books and The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the language. They are classics and taught throughout schools yet because Perks is modern it’s challenged? Shakespeare is pretty graphic so why is that ok but a modern book dealing with similar themes worse?
2) I think that grown-ups have a tendency to underestimate teenagers. They are young adults, not children. There is still growing to do but pushing stuff aside won’t make it not be there. Books are a great door to discussion. While I’m sure that there will be giggles during Charlie’s ‘I’ve discovered masturbation letter’ that will be the minority. I believe much more of the time will be spent talking about the important issues in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and books like this.
 
What did you think of the book?
BETH: I went into this book with no expectations as when it was first published I mis-judged it without knowing what the story was about. After reading it and reflecting on it, I thought I was going to enjoy it more when I first started, but thought it was a really interesting read about the perils we all face when becoming an adult. I loved Charlie’s voice in the novel and enjoyed that it was written in the form of letters as it was nice to read something a bit different.
CHRISSI: I didn’t like it as much as when I read it the first time. I mean, it’s an easy enough read, but I don’t exactly ‘get’ why it has the hype it does. In a way, reading it as a few years later… I feel it’s trying to shock the reader with all of the issues.
LUNA: Despite my impassioned argument for why I don’t agree with the reasons Perks being banned/challenged I actually didn’t enjoy reading the book. It took me nearly two weeks of stop and start to get through it, which is unheard of.
I think I had much too high expectations going in and because none of the issues were really explored in detail I felt rather let down. Shockingly I preferred the film.
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: Yes, I think I would. I think because of the issues it deals with it will remain a book that people will still be talking about in twenty years time.
CHRISSI: Yes. I do think it’s a book that everyone should at least try at one point in their lives. Even if it’s just to say they’ve read it.
LUNA: Not sure. I think there are many books that deal with the subjects so much better.
BETH’s personal Star Rating (out of 5):
3-5-stars
So, some different opinions from us, which is good! I really enjoyed the views from both Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library and thought they both brought some valid and interesting points to the discussion. But what do you think? Have you read it? Should it still be challenged/banned in schools?
Join us the last Monday of August where we will be discussing Luna’s choice: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler.
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The Madness – Alison Rattle

Published July 26, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Sixteen-year-old Marnie lives in the idyllic coastal village of Clevedon. Despite being crippled by a childhood exposure to polio, she seems set to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and become a ‘dipper’, escorting fragile female bathers into the sea. Her life is simple and safe. But then she meets Noah. Charming, handsome, son-of-the-local-Lord, Noah. She quickly develops a passion for him – a passion which consumes her.

As Marnie’s infatuation turns to fixation she starts to lose her grip on reality, and a harrowing and dangerous obsession develops that seems certain to end in tragedy. Set in the early Victorian era when propriety, modesty and repression were the rule, this is a taut psychological drama in which the breakdown of a young woman’s emotional state will have a devastating impact on all those around her.

What did I think?:

Alison Rattle’s debut novel was The Quietness which I absolutely loved so I was excited to read this, her second novel which I chose as my seventh book from June 2014 – Chrissi Cupboard Month. As well as the stunning cover art which took my breath away, the story inside is both beautiful and poignant. Set in early Victorian times, it follows the life of our main character, a sixteen year old girl called Marnie who was crippled from an early age by infection with the polio virus. Marnie is determined for her disability not to ruin her life, and works long and hard hours both in and outside of her house to make herself as strong as possible. Her mother is renowned in their small village by the sea as being a “dipper,” in other words, helping other women (mostly the rich and frail) to bathe in the sea in order to absorb the healing properties that it was believed to offer. Marnie herself was “dipped” in the water by her mother on a regular basis in the hope that it would cure her affliction and as a result she develops an intense bond with the sea which appears at times to be her only comfort.

One day the wealthy Lady de Clevedon arrives in the town specifically to attempt sea bathing as she is constantly unwell and very weak. In tow is her son Noah, whom when he meets Marnie is fascinated by her free and daring personality and the two soon become good friends. Noah’s father meanwhile, lays out his plans for the building of a pier in Clevedon which he assures the town will bring entertainment and prosperity. It’s not such good news for Marnie’s mother though, as the dippers are unable to work while the pier is being built. She channels her energies instead into providing a laundrette service, with poor Marnie doing most of the laundering, Marnie is not discouraged however, as she begins to meet Noah late at night by the sea, encouraging him to bathe and learn to swim, step by step. Unfortunately for Marnie, she is beginning to develop stronger feelings for Noah that go beyond the realms of friendship, and is often puzzled by the mixed messages Noah gives her in return. A few times, Noah would sneak her up to the Manor, where they would have hot drinks and play like children, but Noah is afraid of them making too much noise, and is very reluctant to introduce her to his family.

The story really starts to pick up pace when Noah has to return to London with his mother. Even though he shared an intimate moment with Marnie just before he left, he is excited to return to society and see one girl in particular – of his own class of course. I found myself squirming with unhappiness for Marnie as her feelings for Noah increase in intensity becoming a sort of obsession. While he is gone she concocts elaborate fantasies in her head where they are together living at the Manor, never having to launder anything again. Of course, you might be able to see where it’s going, but I really don’t want to spoil anything as I feel the beauty of the story and the writing comes across when you read it for yourself. At times, I almost felt like an eavesdropper on a private moment, as the emotions Marnie goes through are played out across the pages with no holds barred. I also found Marnie’s relationship with her mother very interesting as it didn’t seem to be anywhere near a conventional mother/daughter bond – in fact, it was more employer/servant in my opinion! By the end of the novel, Marnie takes some quite drastic actions which make the novel utterly un-putdownable but because the reader has gone through so much with Marnie, we can almost understand her choices while not condoning them. This story is truly beautiful and haunting, with a bit of darkness added that makes for an utterly compelling read. Beware – don’t read this book if you have any other tasks to complete, because you won’t get them done!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The First (but hopefully not the last) Young Adult Literary Convention (YALC) 2014

Published July 25, 2014 by bibliobeth

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YALC is the brain-child of current Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, who was awarded an OBE for her services to children’s literature in 2008 and from the moment appointed, has been incredibly passionate about getting young people to read. Alarming statistics show that only 3 out of 10 young people read daily out of school, and a fifth say they would be embarrassed if a friend saw them reading.

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Malorie Blackman (photo from http://www.theguardian.com)

Malorie says…

“We are incredibly lucky to have such a wealth of fantastic children’s authors and illustrators in this country who create incredible stories for young adults to enjoy.  It’s so important to encourage, sustain and where necessary instil a love of reading in our teenagers.  Reading opens doors and creates life opportunities. That’s why I want to do my utmost to promote YA books for all our young (and older!) readers.”

All hail Queen Malorie! YALC promised a fantastic line-up of events, including panel talks with authors, intimate workshops, a publishers stand with goodies galore and an opportunity to purchase a wide range of YA fiction from sponsor Waterstones. Having bought our Early Bird Tickets for both days (Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th July) my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads were very excited to experience all the delights YALC had to offer. So, how did it go?

DAY 1 – Saturday 12th July

Our introduction to YALC

London Comic Con – the craziness!

Photo from nintendo-insider.com

I have never experienced the pure craziness that is the London Comic Con, and couldn’t believe the immense crowds both outside Earls Court and inside where moving around became a bit of a mammoth task. After finally locating the YALC section at the back of the huge hall, Chrissi Reads and I let out a huge sigh, gritted our teeth and began to move through the crowds. (What things we do for our love of books!). We also weren’t prepared for the amount of people in strange and wonderful costumes – we recognised Spider-Man, Batman, The Power Rangers, Darth Vader and some Stormtroopers and…er… Half-Naked Lady? It was quite an experience! What was funny though was how quickly we got used to seeing costumed superheroes wandering around, checking texts and posing for photos and it became entirely natural to see Iron Man for instance, desperately seeking the toilets.

After locating the YALC Book Zone, our first task was to get some tickets for the first panel talk – The End of The World As We Know It with James Smythe as chair and also featuring Sarah Crossan, Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman to talk about the dystopian genre, why they think it’s so “hot” right now, and what they see as the future of the genre. Malorie Blackman officially opened the proceedings in a fabulous costume and speaking in Klingon, and Patrick and Sarah provided some witty and interesting insights into the world of dystopia. Does it represent the fears teenagers have for their future? And is there also some hope and positivity in these worlds that young people can cling on to for comfort?

Day One YALC

James Smythe, Sarah Crossan, Patrick Ness and Malorie (Klingon) Blackman

Photo from http://www.theguardian.com

The talk was very entertaining and I was especially excited to see Patrick Ness (my new favourite author) who did not let me down and had me in fits of giggles. Next, it was time to see what else YALC had to offer. We visited publishers stands where I managed to bag some bookmarks, a cute YALC badge and even some advance copies of books I’m quite excited about. This included There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake and Solitaire by Alice Oseman. And where Waterstones are selling books, it’s compulsory to buy some! I picked up Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman and the illustrated edition of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Then we visited a couple of stands where other YA authors were promoting their work and I picked up The Narrows by James Brogden and Dystopia by Anthony Ergo, both authors were absolutely lovely and took time to talk to us. At the Hot Keys Book stand, they had a fabulous idea going where you could bring in a book and swap it with another which is where I acquired a copy of Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd.

After all that book buying and walking around it was time to go home, shoulders feeling the extra strain but incredibly happy bloggers! Bring on Day 2.

DAY 2 – Sunday 13th July

Talks, talks, oh and a Book Wall!

The next morning, Chrissi Reads and I were up bright and early but we were still not prepared for the enormous queue that awaited us when we arrived at Earls Court. Looping right round the building it ended up in the underground parking space and then looped a bit more. We needn’t have worried however, as soon as the doors opened at 09:00, the queue moved very fast and it was a little easier to navigate our way to the Book Zone to make sure we had all the tickets for the talks we wanted to see. The first talk didn’t start for a while, so it was the perfect opportunity to curl up on a bean bag and read under a Wall of Books.

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The Book Wall at YALC

Photo from http://www.theguardian.com

Sooner than we knew it, it was time for the first talk which was set to be interesting with the title: I’m Too Sexy For This Book, featuring the newly-crowned Queen of Teen, James Dawson at the helm and also featuring Cat Clarke, Non Pratt and Beth Reekles. The talk was absolutely hilarious and dragged down into the gutter at times but always in a fun way, with innuendos galore and lots of “sexy fun time.” Where do you draw the line with sex in young adult novels? Shock announcement – yes, some teenagers do actually have sex! All panellists agreed that if the sex is portrayed in a positive and educational way, it cannot be a bad thing. Personally, I remember Judy Blume’s Forever feeling quite graphic to me as a teenager, but I think I also learned a few things that I may have got the wrong information about otherwise.

The next talk was Crossover: Not Just For Kids, the panel consisting of David Maybury as chair and authors Nick Lake, Anthony McGowan, Meg Rosoff and Matt Haig. They explored how novels such as The Hunger Games and The Fault In Our Stars are being read by adults as well as teenagers and the possible reasons for this. They certainly made me feel more comfortable about being an adult YA fan, and Nick Lake made the very good point that a lot of books we consider classics now would actually fit into the YA genre quite well, for example The Catcher In The Rye and Oliver Twist.

Our final talk was Sisters Doing It For Themselves with chair Sarra Manning and female authors Tanya Byrne, Julie Mayhew, Isobel Harrop and Holly Smale. This again was a great bunch of authors with fantastic insights into the role of our modern day heroine in YA fiction and heroines that inspired them personally in literature. We had a range of answers here from Tanya Byrne who took inspiration from people around her, Sarra Manning who had a soft spot for “mad girls” such as Sylvia Plath and one of my own personal favourites, Anne of Green Gables who was Holly Smale’s heroine.

YALC – THE END?

So it was time to drag our weary bodies back home, we had an absolutely fantastic weekend and it was worth every minute queueing and being bumped by crowds. Thank you to Malorie Blackman for putting on a great programme, all the authors who came and gave talks and thoroughly entertained us, and all the publishers and people behind the scenes that made the event possible.

YALC – this time next year? (please?!)

Short Stories Challenge – The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Published July 24, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Colour Out of Space all about?:

This Halcyon Classics ebook contains sixty-seven of celebrated horror and occult writer H.P. Lovecraft’s best works central to his ‘Cthulhu mythos.’ Although Lovecraft’s (1890-1937) readership was limited during his life, his reputation has grown over the decades, and he is now regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century.

The Colour Out of Space is the story of the strange and deadly effects of a meteorite from outer space crashing into a small town, leaving everything that lives there in grave peril.

What did I think?:

The third story in this huge collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, The Colour Out of Space is probably my favourite so far, which surprised me as I don’t generally read much science fiction. Somehow, Lovecraft makes everything that happens believable, which probably makes it more terrifying to read. The story begins when our unnamed narrator is visiting a deserted town that has a bit of a reputation, mainly whispers and gossips between the local folk about strange occurrences that have happened and continue to happen which is largely thought to be “just talk,” or stuff of legend. Our narrator wants to delve a bit deeper into what happened to the town so he visits the only inhabitant who remains near, Ammi Pierce who lives at a safe enough distance away that he dares to talk about the town’s past.

It all began when a meteorite struck the town, leaving behind an area known as “the blasted heath.” Scientists who rushed to analyse the object from space were dumbfounded as they could not conceive of what it was made from and noted that it did not react or respond to any manipulation from extensive chemical testing. Furthermore, the object showed a spectrum of colours that have never been seen before and cannot be explained, and seemed to shrink from day to day until it left merely a hole. After that, life seemed to go on as normal for the inhabitants of the town until they realised their crops and foodstuffs were growing bad, their animals were getting sick and dying, and strange footprints of mutant creatures were whispered about across the land. The area worst affected was the land of farmer Nahum Gardner, whose family quickly became endangered as they continued to drink water from the well on their property, despite the strange taste and the curious colours that the well now produced. The trees on his property seem to move even when there is no wind, and the animals that become sick are reduced to such a state that they die horribly “grey and brittle.”

Things become even worse for the family when they all start to succumb to a kind of madness, starting with Nahum’s wife, who rants and raves about strange colours and has to be shut in an attic room for her own safety. People start to leave the town in droves, frightened by what is happening on the small farm, and soon no-one is left to see what happens in the end, apart from Nahum who sees things so terrible that even he cannot speak of them. A reservoir is due to be built on the land, and Nahum is hopeful that this will mean an end to the strange goings-on yet unfortunately we feel that there is something always there lurking and waiting, biding its time.

This was a fantastic piece of writing which made me understand why Lovecraft is appreciated and enjoyed so much. As with the previous two stories that I have read, the vocabulary he uses is extraordinary – take this paragraph for example:

“but everywhere were those hectic and prismatic variants of some diseased, underlying primary tone without a place among the known tints of earth. The “Dutchman’s breeches” became a thing of sinister menace, and the bloodroots grew insolent in their chromatic perversion.”

When you first read it, it seems slightly heavy but I found myself really getting into the style and reading sections like this (of which there are many) again and again makes you really admire the way the author uses words and descriptions to set the scene and build up the tension in a story. Even though I’m not usually a fan of science fiction, I really enjoyed the other-wordly feel this tale had and even though it is quite obviously fantastical, Lovecraft had me believing every word while I was reading it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Blood Pearl by Barry Maitland from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Volume 7

 

Talking About Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge with Chrissi

Published July 22, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Two hostages. One bullet. One lives. One dies.

They were going to spend the rest of their lives together. Soul mates. But when a young couple wakes up alone together, disorientated and trapped, they are yet to grasp the true horror of their situation. They have no food, no water. Instead there is a gun loaded with a single bullet and a mobile phone with enough power only to deliver a short message: ‘when one of you kills the other, the survivor will walk free’. For their captor it’s simple: set the scene, watch, wait and leave the victims to do the killing. Tortured by fear, desperation, starvation and thirst, there’s only one way to end their ordeal: one of them must die.

DI Helen Grace and her team know they are hunting a complex predator whose broken survivors must endure their role as living calling cards. And killers. The victims – work colleagues, a mother and daughter, a pair of dancers – appear to be chosen at random and yet the planning is meticulous. There must be something driving the choice of victims, but until DI Grace can establish a connection, the killer is unreachable. A breakthrough is elusive and then, terrifyingly, the investigation begins to turn full circle…

In this startling highwire drama M.J. Arlidge throws us headlong into a chilling race to stop evil in its tracks. Dark, ingenious and bullet-paced, Eeny Meeny introduces a major new thriller writing talent.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK for an advanced reading copy of this novel.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI:  Discuss whether having a female character at the heart of a crime novel gives it a different feel.

BETH: This novel was a bit more unique than your usual crime/thriller as the perp of this novel is a woman. I haven’t read much fiction before that has a female character as the murderer so instantly it became a bit more interesting. I think this is probably because the statistics show that women in general don’t tend to kill random strangers as much as a man. What makes the story even creepier in my opinion is that our perp is choosing two individuals, placing them in a situation where they can’t escape and have no access to food or water. The only thing they have access to is a gun, and instructions saying that one must kill the other if they want to be set free. The idea of this terrifying plot combined with the fact that it is designed and carried out by a woman, make this novel stand out amongst its other rivals in the genre.

BETH: The story is set in Southampton. As we’ve lived there for quite a while, how did you enjoy reading about it in this novel?

CHRISSI: I have to admit it was very odd to read about places that we knew about. It’s not often books are set in Southampton so it was an enjoyable reading experience. I could easily picture the places they mentioned. It gave a very creepy feel to the story!

CHRISSI: When we were reading Eeny Meeny we were unsure whether the author was male or female. Do you think it matters? Does it affect the reader’s opinion of a book depending on what gender the author is?

BETH: The author of this book is M.J. Arlidge with no clue as to the gender. We aren’t given much more information about the author and I know a few authors decide to have just their initials and the surname on the book cover without revealing their sex. I’m not entirely sure why this happens, except that some might think it removes the prejudice that certain readers may feel about reading a book say, by a woman. For me personally I don’t really care whether the author is female or male, the only thing that matters surely is the quality of the writing and the story? However, I know we did have fun speculating on whether the author was male or female, and I have to say I was slightly surprised when I found out as I had expected the opposite. Perhaps I did make some assumptions without realising it?

BETH: Did you like the main character, DI Helen Grace? How well was she written in your opinion?

CHRISSI: I don’t think that Helen is a character that you immediately like. I think readers will either love her or hate her. I think she was a good character, but I didn’t immediately connect with her. She is incredibly well written though. She’s a strong character that comes across as incredibly steely, determined and driven. Her career is immensely important to her and she has to be tough in order to deal with the job and the challenges that come her way every day. She does come across as a very good leader. I sympathised with Helen towards the end and I’ll be interested to see how her story continues…

CHRISSI: The novel asks difficult questions about moral choices. Discuss the choices that the characters make.

BETH: Our perp is a very sneaky character and it seems the whole point of her agenda when it comes to these murders is questioning the morality of different characters when placed in the same situation. Some of the individuals have closer relationships than others, the first being boyfriend and girlfriend and some others are work colleagues. The victims have no way of getting out of their situation and are being denied food and water. Only one of the two can survive, but to do this they must kill the other. It’s hard to think if you were placed in the same situation with a loved one, a friend or even a colleague what you would do in that situation. I don’t think I would be able to kill anyone at all but when faced with this choice, it is surprising what some of the characters choose to do, in some cases they may think of killing the other as a mercy. It is only afterwards, when the surviving victim has to live with what they have done, that we see the internal struggles they go through because of their decision.

BETHHow do you think Eeny Meeny compares with other novels in the genre?

CHRISSI: I think it fits in nicely with other books in the genre. It definitely has a place. I think it’s great when female characters are at the heart of the novel, because more often than not the characters in thrillers/crime reads are male.

CHRISSI: How did you find the pacing of the story?

BETH: I found that the pacing of the novel changed which I enjoyed. In some parts it is slightly slower when we learn about our main character Detective Inspector Helen Grace, with a few tidbits about her life and how she is managing to solve the crime. Other parts are action-packed, fast and exciting and these parts were written in a way that I never felt bored.

BETH: Discuss Helen’s past and how what she has been through has affected her character.

CHRISSI:  Helen has had a traumatic past. I don’t want to mention all that had happened to her, as it would affect the story for those that haven’t read it yet. I think it does affect Helen’s present behaviour. It’s bound to. I found her to be quite an emotionally damaged character because of her past. She’s also such a flawed character, with some desperate sexual desires. As she learns more about the murders, Helen realises she’s being punished for something that happened to her that she’s tried hard to move on from.

CHRISSI: Eeny Meeny has some very dark sex scenes. Did you ever find it too much or do you think it made sense in context with the story?

BETH: Great question! I’m thinking of one sex scene in particular that was incredibly graphic. I’m no prude but it did make my eyes pop slightly! I’m not very sure if it fit in with the story exactly except for emphasising the relationship between the characters. Did I find it too much? Perhaps, but it did add a naughty little edge to the novel in points.

BETH: The next novel in this series is going to be Pop Goes The Weasel. Would you read it?

CHRISSI: I think I would read more of this series, but it’s not particularly a book that I’ll rush to read. It was enjoyable, but it felt fairly long at points!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

Hollow Pike – James Dawson

Published July 21, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

She thought she’d be safe in the country, but you can’t escape your own nightmares, and Lis London dreams repeatedly that someone is trying to kill her. Lis thinks she’s being paranoid – after all who would want to murder her? She doesn’t believe in the local legends of witchcraft. She doesn’t believe that anything bad will really happen to her. You never do, do you? Not until you’re alone in the woods, after dark – and a twig snaps… Hollow Pike – where witchcraft never sleeps.

What did I think?:

This is the sixth book from Chrissi Cupboard month which I completed in June of this year. After reading James Dawson’s other excellent young adult novels, Cruel Summer and Say Her Name, I was eager to read Hollow Pike, which was his debut. I found it to be a stunning read, physically and literally speaking with beautiful cover art and images inside that fit with the theme of this novel perfectly. Our main character is a teenager called Lis London who has suffered from bullying in her previous school and when it opens, is travelling to a town called Hollow Pike, to stay with her sister for a while and attend a new school where she is desperately hoping she can fit in and escape the problems of her past. Despite escaping from her tormentors, Lis is having terrifying nightmares, where she is alone in a forest and someone is trying to hurt her. On arriving in Hollow Pike, it becomes more eerie when she recognises the forest of her nightmares in the small town. Lis also finds out that the town has a history for practising witchcraft in the past, and as she eases into her new school and is integrated into the “popular” crowd, learns of a small group that are ostracised for being a bit “freaky,” and are accused of being witches.

Our heroine hasn’t really got the character to be part of the Mean Girls Brigade however, and finds herself warming to the group on the outside, three friends called Jack, Delilah and Kitty, who accept Lis into their fold when Queen Mean Girl Laura turns on Lis for attracting the attention of Danny, who she is determined to snare for herself. In a pivotal moment in the story, tragedy strikes when some teenage pranks go badly wrong and Lis and her new friends find themselves ensnared in a murder mystery that proves very dangerous for all the teenagers concerned. Lis’s nightmares meanwhile are becoming more vivid and intensely disturbing – could they be a premonition for what is to come? And can Lis find out what exactly is going on in Hollow Pike before those nightmares become a reality?

James Dawson certainly knows how to get into the adolescent mind, and writes a terrific ghost story for young adults that is full of thrills and chills and completely unputdownable. As a debut novel, it is an accomplished piece of writing that I’m certain will be loved by teenagers the world over. It deals with a lot of difficult issues, like sexuality, the damaging effects of bullying on an individual, and the importance of friendship and support. In essence, it is a book that urges you to feel comfortable in your own skin, encouraging individuality, the power we all have to just say “no,” and assurance that we don’t have to follow the crowd like a sheep but can be our own person with our own rights and opinions. I also loved that the author explored the issue of sexuality which I feel is often looked on as a taboo subject in other young adult novels or just not recognised/mentioned. I’m very excited to see what this author does in the future as I’m sure that his talent will capture the hearts and minds of all younger readers.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

WWW Wednesday #49

Published July 16, 2014 by bibliobeth

WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Click on the image to get to her blog!

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday, and thanks as ever to MizB for hosting.

To join in you need to answer 3 questions..

•What are you currently reading?

•What did you recently finish reading?

•What do you think you’ll read next?

Click on the book covers to take you to a link to find out more!

What are you currently reading?:

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This is the second book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series and I’ve been meaning to get to this book for so long. I know some of you have really enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

What did you recently finish reading?:

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I’m not really sure what I expected from this book but it certainly wasn’t what I expected. I’m reviewing this book with my blogger friend Luna’s Little Library so look out for our review coming your way on Friday.

What do you think you’ll read next?:

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Jojo Moyes is one of my favourite authors and I’m slowly making my way through her back catalogue. This is one of her older books, first published in 2005 and I’m really looking forward to it.

What are you reading this Wednesday? Please leave your link and I’ll come pay you a visit! Happy Reading Everyone!

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