December 2016 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #6

Published December 2, 2016 by bibliobeth

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It’s December. And that means (drumroll please)….. it’s Chrissi Cupboard Month!

Hi everyone! It’s nearly Christmas and what better way to finish off this year than a whole month of reading books loaned to me by my beloved sister, Chrissi Reads? This is what I’ll be reading for the month of December.

One – Sarah Crossan

Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet #2) – Lois Lowry

Rebel Belle – Rachel Hawkins

Evertrue (Everneath #3) – Brodi Ashton

Into The Still Blue (Under The Never Sky #3) – Veronica Rossi

The Daughter Of Smoke And Bone – Laini Taylor

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children Of Ashton Place #1) – Maryrose Wood

The Drowning – Rachel Ward

Follow Me Down – Tanya Byrne

The Art Of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

As usual, I’m really looking forward to all of these books but in particular, continuing with The Giver series and finishing the Everneath and Under The Never Sky series. There are also a couple of books on this list, namely Rebel Belle and The Drowning that come highly recommended from Chrissi. Here’s to an excellent month of reading!

Banned Books 2016 – NOVEMBER READ – Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar

Published December 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Welcome to New York City’s Upper East Side, where my friends and I live, go to school, play, and sleep—sometimes with each other.

S is back from boarding school, and if we aren’t careful, she’s going to win over our teachers, wear that dress we couldn’t fit into, steal our boyfriends’ hearts, and basically ruin our lives in a major way. I’ll be watching closely . . .

You know you love me,

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 Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our eleventh banned book of 2016! As always, 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. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

First published: 2002

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)

Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group

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

BETH: As one of the more recent releases, I don’t believe opinions have changed much in the last ten or so years so I don’t agree with any of the challenges to the book. First of all (getting ready to jump on soap box) the homosexuality. There is no reason on earth why homosexuality should not be portrayed in a book, especially one aimed at teenagers. In fact, if teenagers don’t read about the wide variety of people and sexual orientations we have on our planet aren’t they more likely to grow up to be bigots when they’re older? Just saying. Offensive language – I don’t really remember a lot of bad language in the book it either passed me by completely or didn’t offend me in the slightest. Yes, it does talk about sex but I don’t think it’s particularly explicit and no worse than you’d hear on the television or in other forms of media.

CHRISSI: My opinion on this is exactly the same as Beth’s. I think the TV series is so popular and so many teenagers have seen it. I don’t think the book is as explicit. It may have sexual content but it’s nothing more than what they’d see on TV, read in other books or hear from their friends. I think we need to treat teenagers with some level of maturity and if they’re of the age that can handle sexual content, I don’t see the harm in allowing teens to read this book. Would I teach it? No. I wouldn’t deny teenagers the chance to read it though.

How about now?

BETH: Guess what? Same answer. I think the Gossip Girl books are particularly aimed at teenage girls and I don’t think there’s anything in the books that girls wouldn’t hear from their friends or elsewhere. As a result, I think that saying it’s unsuited to the age group is a bit strange. I’m a big fan of the TV series, that Chrissi got me into and while that is slightly more graphic it’s still not something that I would be worried about a teenager seeing. 

CHRISSI: Definitely not now. Teens talk and they can speak in much more graphic terms than teens would experience from reading this book.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I enjoyed it! As I came to the TV series first, a few things were different and surprised me a bit but on the whole I think the series stayed very true to the book in general. I already felt like I knew the characters so well and obviously had the actors faces in mind as I was reading so it was almost like reading a nice, familiar book that I had read before.

CHRISSI: I did enjoy it but I do have a fond place in my heart for the TV series.❤ I did think of Leighton Meester and Blake Lively particularly when reading about Blair and Serena!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!
CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Join us again on the last Monday of December for our last banned book of the year when we will be discussing My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – NOVEMBER READ – The Bad Beginning (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #1) – Lemony Snicket

Published November 30, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

What did I think?:

I have been meaning to read The Unfortunate Series Of Events books for so long now and with a new series about to be released on Netflix I thought it was the perfect opportunity to begin finding out what exactly everyone has been raving on about! I didn’t realise that this was such a long series (thirteen books) but the first book was so short and easy to read that I don’t think it will take me long to catch up with things. Overall, I was completely charmed by this first offering in the series, in the introduction the author warns the reader that there may be no happy endings or Enid Blyton-esque fairy-tale adventures for his characters, but, to be perfectly honest, that just made me warm to the story even more.

So, in a nutshell, this story focuses on three children (the Baudelaires) who have become orphans when their parents tragically perish in a fire at their house. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are sent to live with a (very) distant relative, Count Olaf who treats them abominably. They have to do multiple chores, mainly to cater to his and his theatre friends every whim and it is also clear that he is no way interested in their well-being or happiness. However, he IS very interested in the fortune left to them by their parents which at the present time will revert to Violet when she comes of age. Unless their wicked guardian can get his hands on it earlier of course, by any means necessary.

This first volume in The Unfortunate Series Of Events was a real delight to read, although I was pretty certain I was going to love it just going on the synopsis alone. I only have a slight niggle to report but positive things first! The characters were wonderful and I instantly fell in love/hated them very early on. We have brave, intelligent Violet who has a great mind for inventions and her quick wits come in very useful in defying our dastardly villain. Then there is sensitive Klaus who loves his books (a boy after my own heart) and little Sunny who is can hardly talk yet but manages to make herself completely understood and is obsessed with teeth – not sure why…but I loved it! Then of course, the nasty Count Olaf who by the ending of the first book I’m guessing we’ll be hearing more from in the future and I’m so glad as I did rather enjoy hating him. The only niggle I have with the excellent narrative is that the author chooses to explain a lot of words to the reader which I felt interrupted the flow slightly and I could have done without it. However, this does not take anything away from a powerful beginning to a series that I can clearly see going from strength to strength. I can’t wait to carry on with it!

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald with Chrissi Reads

Published November 23, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The International Bestseller

Warning: once you let books into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

This is a book about books. All sorts of books, from Little Women and Harry Potter to Jodi Picoult and Jane Austen, from to Stieg Larsson to Joyce Carol Oates to Proust. It’s about the joy and pleasure of books, about learning from and escaping into them, and possibly even hiding behind them. It’s about whether or not books are better than real life.

It’s also a book about a Swedish girl called Sara, her elderly American penfriend Amy and what happens when you land a very different kind of bookshop in the middle of a town so broken it’s almost beyond repair.

Or is it?

The Readers of Broken Wheel has touches of 84 Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Chocolat, but adds an off-beat originality and intelligence all its own.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions? Go on, did you judge it by its cover?
BETH: Oh man, you know me too well! Yes, I did judge it by its cover and I was praying that I was going to like it as the cover was just SO beautiful. I have a special Goldsboro books edition that has lovely blue spayed pages and the image is a girl snuggled in an armchair with a book up to her face. Of course, if you’re a loud and proud bookworm like myself, this picture is pure bliss and definitely made me want to read the story. A book about books- I mean, what could be better?
BETH: Parts of this book are told in the form of letters between Sara and Amy. Did you enjoy this and how do you think it added to the story?
CHRISSI: I did enjoy this! I really like when there are little snippets of different media in a storyline. I don’t know why, but for me as a reader, I think it gives the reader an even deeper reading experience. Especially in this story, where we don’t often read from Amy’s point of view. I think the letters made it special and enhanced the storyline. I felt like I knew Amy.
CHRISSI: What affect does Sara have on the inhabitants of Broken Wheel?
BETH: She has an effect on every singing inhabitant of Broken Wheel that she comes into contact with, either directly or indirectly or even visitors to the town from the larger neighbouring town of Hope. Sara is a quiet, quite reclusive type that loves her books so passionately that it encourages everybody to try reading for themselves, especially when she opens a bookshop of her own and manages to find a book for everyone. I totally believe that there is a perfect book for everyone, if you’re not a reader, maybe you haven’t found that perfect one yet?
BETH: How do you think Sara and Tom’s relationship developed over the course of the novel and did you buy into it?
CHRISSI: Interesting question. Initially, I wasn’t sure about Sara and Tom’s relationship. I mean, I really like them as characters, but I was worried about Tom’s reluctance. I’m not sure I completely bought into the relationship, but it was a sweet enough romance despite some bumps in the road.
CHRISSI: How does Sara change through her experience of coming to Broken Wheel?:
BETH: As I mentioned in the previous question, Sara comes to Broken Wheel as quite a quiet and shy individual who is not used to socialising with many people and doesn’t have many friends, dreams or prospects in her life or back home in her native Sweden. Her life changes for the better when she comes to Broken Wheel. Through her love of books and the letters that she shard with Amy, (former inhabitant of Broken Wheel) she discovers a whole new world. She learns the joys of friendship, socialising with other people, falling in love and realises what her dreams for the future really are.
BETH: Who was your favourite character in this novel and why?
CHRISSI: Hmm, that’s a tough question as there were quite a few characters that I enjoyed reading about. I did like reading Amy’s letters though. I kind of wish there was more from her as I think she was a fascinating character and I thought she was incredibly sweet. I love how Amy and Sara connected as fellow bibliophiles. If I can’t pick Amy, I’d pick Sara as I found some of what she said about books highly relatable!
CHRISSI: I found it hard to classify this book. What would YOU classify it as?
BETH: Gosh, that’s a difficult question! It’s kind of contemporary fiction, kind of romance, humour…basically it has a bit of everything. GoodReads has a special category which classifies it as Books About Books’ which I think is perfect! If you love books that mention other books, you’re sure to love this little treasure!
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?:
CHRISSI: Yes! I think she has a very charming writing style and I was very impressed that this book was her debut!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!
BETH’s star rating (out of 5):
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CHRISSI’s star rating (out of 5):
four-stars_0

The Last Leaves Falling – Fox Benwell

Published November 22, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this . . .

Japanese teenager, Sora, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future.

What did I think?:

I read this book quite a while ago now (due to an incredibly long backlog!) and it’s taken me this long to try and collect my thoughts and feelings about it. Even now, I’m not sure if anything I say will make sense or if I can fully describe how this book played on my emotions or write a review that does justice to the beauty and brilliance of this fantastic debut novel but I’ll try my hardest. The Last Leaves Falling is not an easy book to read (emotionally speaking) by any stretch of this imagination and delves into some very murky places but if you’re strong enough to deal with a bit of sadness and despair, there are also a lot of rewards to be had in terms of the importance of love, friendship and family – all very prominent themes in the narrative.

Our main character is the wonderful Sora, who I instantly fell in love with. Sora is seventeen years old and is desperate for the life of a “normal” teenager but he is cruelly prevented from living his life the way he wants because of a terminal neuro-degenerative illness – ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease that is rapidly progressing through his body. He is now unable to attend school and relies heavily on his wheelchair and his mother to help him perform the menial tasks that we all take for granted, like getting washed and dressed ourselves. This is not only incredibly frustrating for a boy that used to be very active, but excruciatingly embarrassing for a young man of his age.

Sora spends most of his time online, reading the poetry of wounded samurai and emails he receives which describe an increasing number of individuals in Japan that contemplate or end up committing suicide. This is something he considers thoughtfully and intelligently, imagining how much worse life is going to get for him particularly when the muscles responsible for his breathing also fail him. At the same time, Sora just wants to be like everyone else. He meets two other teenagers online and strikes up a beautiful friendship with both, finally able to talk about normal teenage “stuff,” and not be the young man with a terminal illness. It is through the friendship and love of his new friends, Mai and Kaito that provides Sora with a reason for existing, hope and guaranteed assistance for the end of his life which will be devastatingly all too soon.

There are no words to describe how stunning this book is. From the beautifully drawn characters and their relationships with each other to the imaginative plot which is written in such a spectacular fashion, bringing me close to tears and making me appreciate my own life, friends and family even more. I struggle with a chronic illness myself and often have days when I rail at the unfairness of the world…until this book. Now I just count my blessings. As I mentioned before, it deals with some tough subjects like terminal illness, suicide, end of life care and as a result, was quite heart-breaking to read at many points but infinitely worth it. As a big fan of Japanese culture, I also appreciated the setting which was a refreshing change from other works of YA fiction that are set in the Western world and hugely applaud Fox Benwell for the diversity that was demonstrated in this book in general. I really urge everyone to read this book if you like what you’ve read so far, it’s an emotional journey but one you’ll be so glad you took!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Book And A Brew – Book Subscription Box – November 2016

Published November 21, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Hello everyone! Today I’d like to tell you about a fabulous new book subscription service that I’ve recently signed up to and I was so excited to receive my first box over the weekend. The company is called Book And A Brew and each month they send out a lovely hardback book and a box of tea to drink along with it. You pay £12.99/month for this service, boxes are shipped on the 15th of every month and for me, it’s an absolute bargain. The book itself is usually worth more than this without even taking into account the price of the box of tea! You can also buy a single box, perfect for a gift for the price of £14.99. Fantastic if you’re struggling for Christmas presents this time of the year, right?

There’s nothing more exciting than getting your first Book And A Brew box. You have no clue what you’re going to be getting and the anticipation of it all is indescribable. The packaging is lovely, the entire box covered with Book And A Brew stamps and sealed with their special sticker.

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When you open up the box, everything is wrapped nicely in tissue paper, prolonging the anticipation even more but the first thing I saw was the tea, this month from Joe’s Tea Co, The Earl of Grey and described on a leaflet that also tells you about your book (which I didn’t read until I had opened my book so I didn’t spoil myself!):

“Dust down your best china and silver-up the spoons as you refresh your senses with this elegant blend. Black tea, finely fragranced with bergamot orange oil.”

And then time for the book – this month, the fantastic sounding The Glasgow Coma Scale by Neil D.A. Stewart. Here’s a little synopsis:

Lynne once dreamed of being an artist, but whose promotion to supervisor at a call-centre in Glasgow is sucking the soul out of her. When Lynne hands a fiver to a homeless man on the street in town one day, she is shocked to recognise Angus – her former art teacher on whom she once had a crush. What on earth could have reduced him to life on the street? In a gesture of uncharacteristic rashness, she invites him home. 

So begins The Glasgow Coma Scale, this is a taut, ticklish, tender and truly unexpected story of art, of the city, of feelings, and about the redemptive power of an unconventional kind of love.

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Yup, I’m happy! It’s a book I confess I’ve never heard of but sounds like something I would thoroughly enjoy. I can also confirm that the tea is absolutely delicious and I shall be enjoying that for the rest of the month. So, in conclusion, I am over the moon with my first Book And A Brew subscription box and I shall definitely be continuing my subscription for the forseeable future. Actually can’t wait to see what delights the December box will hold!

You can subscribe to Book And A Brew on their website www.bookandabrew.com where you have 22 days from today to order December’s box for yourself or a friend/loved one. Why not also follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? (@bookandabrew) I highly recommend them!

Book & A Brew – Delivering A Monthly Mystery Box Filled With A Perfect Page Turner & Drinkable Delights.

 

 

Short Stories Challenge – The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Published November 20, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Haunter Of The Dark all about?:

The Haunter Of The Dark follows a male protagonist as he becomes obsessed with an old church which he can see from his own lodgings not far away. Of course, in typical Lovecraftian style, there is something evil within the church that leads our main character to a bit of a sticky ending.

What did I think?:

I think it’s fair to say that the Lovecraft stories I have read in this collection have been a bit hit and miss for me. Sometimes I can see the excellence in the writing, sometimes the stories are a bit eerie and give me a few shivers, then… there are other times that I find myself irritated by the over-flowery vocabulary and too many similarities between the stories. With The Haunter Of The Dark, I’m afraid I found myself of the latter opinion and didn’t really enjoy this tale too much.

The Haunter Of The Dark is famous for being the last-written of the author’s known works and is part of the Cthulhu Mythos (which I guess explains the similarities between other stories?). This is a shared fictional universe of Lovecraft’s where other authors have contributed work that can stand alone but may also fit into the development of the plot, characters or general world. I am in no way, shape or form an expert on this world from the few stories I have read that describe the creature Cthulhu or its genesis/development and must confess to feeling slightly confused over the whole thing – if any Lovecraft experts would like to explain, I’d be very grateful for some explanations!

As with many of Lovecraft’s stories, we focus on a male protagonist – Robert Blake, a writer and painter with an interest in the occult. He becomes intrigued and then rather consumed by an ancient church that he can see from his rooms in Providence, Rhode Island. Determined to investigate the old building, despite warnings from the superstitious locals he ends up releasing a primeval being and discovering the sinister history of the church, connected to a cult known as the Church Of Starry Wisdom. The being is kept constrained within the building by the lights of the town and can only work its mischief when there is complete darkness. So, of course the town undergoes a power cut during a thunderstorm, releasing the demon with severe consequences for our male lead.

Okay, so positive things about this story. The thought of an ancient (and evil) being that can only carry out its dastardly deeds under the cover of darkness is very creepy I grant you. It plays on on your old childhood fears of the dark, what might be under your bed or that panicky moment when the lights go out if you’re not expecting it. Apart from this, I have to admit I struggled with The Haunter Of The Dark. The story seemed so formulaic, there was nothing special or different about Robert as a character and, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I didn’t have to write this review. We know it doesn’t end well when the beginning of the story opens with our main character’s death (which was probably the most exciting few sentences of the entire narrative). Hugely disappointing, I’m very much hoping that the next H.P. Lovecraft story I read will be a pleasant surprise!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7