Banned Books 2017 – APRIL READ – Habibi by Craig Thompson

Published April 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

From the internationally acclaimed author of Blankets (“A triumph for the genre.”Library Journal), a highly anticipated new graphic novel.
 
Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.

At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.

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Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the fourth banned book of 2017! 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. If you would like to read along with us, here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

MAY – Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan – Jeanette Winter

JUNE – Saga, Volume Two (Chapters 7-12) – Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

JULY – The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

AUGUST – Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

SEPTEMBER – Scary Stories – Alvin Schwartz

OCTOBER – ttyl – Lauren Myracle

NOVEMBER – The Color Of Earth – Kim Dong Hwa

DECEMBER – The Agony Of Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

But back to this month….

Habibi by Craig Thompson

First published: 2011

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)

Reasons: nudity, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group

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

BETH:  As a fairly recent release (2011), there aren’t going to be many differences in my opinions as I don’t really believe attitudes have changed that much in the past six years or so. I’m finding expressing my opinions about this graphic novel quite difficult and apologies if my words aren’t coherent! I have such mixed views on this book, you see. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. Can I see why it was challenged/banned? Well, er….yes I kind of can. This is NOT to say that I agree with banning books, not in the slightest! I can however see why this book may have been controversial. There are a LOT of adult themes in the books that may not be suitable for younger readers mainly involving rape and graphic sexuality. Of course the book should be available to read but perhaps not in settings where much younger children have access to it.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I don’t agree with banning books as I don’t think people should be ‘told’ what they can and cannot read. However, this book is one of those books that it’s easy to see why it’s challenged. It’s certainly controversial and it deals with many contentious issues. There’s some quite graphic sexuality, nudity and rape which isn’t suitable for younger readers in my opinion. I’m not sure if this book is intended to be for adults, but that’s certainly what it came across to me. A work of adult literature!

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! So the reasons for banning/challenging this graphic novel are nudity which there is an abundance of. Seriously, every other page seems to have a naked character on it (probably 95% of them are female, I have to say which I’m not going to even get into but which made me slightly uncomfortable for my own feminist sensibilities). Then there’s the fact it’s sexually explicit and that is certainly the case. Naked bodies are not a bad thing don’t get me wrong but some of the sexual scenes which mainly involve sex that is non-consensual are incredibly graphic. Finally, it states that it’s unsuited for the age group. Here’s where I have a bit of confusion. I don’t know what age group it’s actually meant to be aimed at? Yes, it’s a graphic novel which may make you automatically think of younger readers, however the themes are so adult that it cannot be anything but an adult read. 

CHRISSI: I can see why it’s challenged. I read a wide range of literature, but this one made me feel particularly uncomfortable and that’s quite something!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: First of all, this book is absolutely beautiful. It’s a beast at about 700 pages long but don’t be intimidated by it’s size, I read it quite easily in two sittings in the space of a couple of hours. The illustrations are fantastic and some parts of the story I really enjoyed but other parts….I could just see why it may be offensive, especially to some cultures and religions. I didn’t really enjoy the stories within stories that talked about the similarities between Christianity and Islam as religions either which is strange as I normally like that sort of thing. In this novel however, it just made the narrative feel quite bumpy – if that’s the right word!

CHRISSI: Despite my uncomfortable feeling whilst reading this book, it didn’t take me long to read at all. I found it interesting in parts and offensive in others. It was a mixed bag for me, like Beth, but I’m leaning more towards not enjoying the reading experience.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: I’m going to say maybe as I think some people will love it, other people will not so much. It’s a Marmite kind of book!
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- Others might enjoy it,  but it was too much for me.

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Join us again on the last Monday of May when we will be talking about Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter.

Close To Me – Amanda Reynolds

Published April 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Close To Me is a gripping debut psychological drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling The Husband’s Secret, Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, and Linda Green’s While My Eyes Were Closed.

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she’s lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can’t remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

What did I think?:

I got the opportunity to meet the lovely Amanda Reynolds in person at a Headline bloggers evening I went to recently where I also picked up a copy of her debut novel, Close To Me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to Wildfire Publishers (an imprint of Headline) for a copy and to Amanda for the wonderful chat we had that evening. Now, if you like your psychological thrillers, Close To Me is a novel you definitely shouldn’t miss out on reading, it’s a fantastic and tense tale that had me gripped right until the end and I became terribly attached to the characters and their lives – the sign of a wonderful author.

The premise initially reminded me of the brilliant Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson i.e. a woman has an accident which results in her suffering amnesia and questioning whole periods of her life that she has missed. It wasn’t long before I realised that although there were slight similarities at the outset of the novel, Close To Me stands by itself quite independently and should not be compared or any potential twists anticipated. Our protagonist, Jo Harding has lost one year of her life after falling down the stairs at home but snatches of events keep coming back to her as she is recovering from her head injury. She begins to realise that certain things are being kept from her by her husband and her two grown up children, but why? What has happened in the past year that has been so terrible that her family are keeping secrets from her in this way? Also, if Jo manages to uncover what has happened in the past year, will that be a good thing or will she wish she had never remembered?

I loved the way this novel was structured. We only hear things from the perspective of Jo but she is such a fascinating character (and somewhat unreliable narrator due to her head injury) that I immediately warmed to her and was rooting for her to get to the bottom of what precipitated her fall down the stairs in the first place. The reader is transported between two time periods, Jo’s present situation and her fight to recover her memories and back to a year ago where one of her last memories is dropping her son off at university. As we, the reader find out things as Jo is finding them out herself it felt very intimate and exciting as a reading experience and I thoroughly enjoyed all the revealing moments, especially close to the end where I quite literally could not put the book down until I had found out EVERYTHING. This is a strong, very memorable psychological thriller and a brilliant debut for the genre. I wish Amanda Reynolds every success for the future and I’ll certainly be reading whatever she writes next.

Interested? Buy Close To Me from Amazon now as an e-book for the absolute bargain price of 99p!:

Paperback release is 27th July, 2017.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Mini Pin-It Reviews #8 – Four YA Books

Published April 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four YA books for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) A Kiss In The Dark – Cat Clarke

What’s it all about?:

When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant.

Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy – everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend.

Alex can’t help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive…

But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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2.) The Retribution Of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #3) – Michelle Hodkin

What’s it all about?:

Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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3.) Double Cross (Noughts & Crosses #4) – Malorie Blackman

What’s it all about?:

Callie Rose knows too much – too much about violence and family feuds, and too much about Nnoughts and Crosses. And knowing so much about the past makes her afraid for her future. People always seem to want revenge.

Tobey wants a better life – for him and for Callie Rose. He wants nothing to do with the violent gangs that rule the world he lives in. But when he’s offered the chance to earn some extra money, just this once, would it hurt to say ‘yes’?

One small decision can change everything . . .

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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4.) Perfect Ruin (The Internment Chronicles #1) – Lauren DeStefano

What’s it all about?:

On the floating city of Internment,you can be anything you dream – a novelist or a singer, a florist or a factory worker… Your life is yours to embrace or to squander. There’s only one rule: you don’t approach THE EDGE. If you do, it’s already over.

Morgan Stockhour knows getting too close to the edge of Internment, the floating city and her home, can lead to madness. Even though her older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. There’s too much for her on Internment: her parents, best friend Pen, and her betrothed, Basil. Her life is ordinary and safe, even if she sometimes does wonder about the ground and why it’s forbidden.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially once she meets Judas. Betrothed to the victim, Judas is being blamed for the murder, but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find—or whom she will lose.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four books I received from Book Bridgr.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Reader by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Published April 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Reader all about?:

The Reader tells of an ageing author on the publicity circuit promoting his new book and revealing how life has changed for him.

What did I think?:

The penultimate story in this collection was a bit disappointing for me I have to say but I’m not sure if I was missing the whole point of the narrative. Nathan Englander is an obviously talented author and I have enjoyed a few stories in this collection so far, namely the title story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and Camp Sundown which was also written beautifully. Then we come to The Reader (*sigh*).  Initially, I was quietly hopeful for a brilliant tale, I love reading books about books and it started out quite promising and indeed, very intriguing but didn’t really seem to go anywhere which was a shame as I could see it had potential to be something quite special.

It’s about an author who is going on a book tour around the country to several bookshops where he is giving a reading. He is hugely disappointed to discover that his star seems to have dimmed somewhat since he was last on the circuit as not a single person seems to have turned up to hear him read or get their book signed. All apart from one, that is. His only person that emerges from the shadows of the first bookshop is an elderly gentleman who demands that the Author should read as of course that is what he has come to hear. The Author is touched and proceeds to fulfil his request then carries on to another city, another bookshop. Lo and behold, the same old man follows him to every bookshop and insists that he reads in every one, while he remains a captive audience of one.

That’s pretty much it really. There’s no huge revealing moment where the old man pulls his mask off like an episode of Scooby Doo and is in fact, someone else entirely. Not that I’m saying this story needed this. However, I feel like it did need something – a sort of direction, an ending that would make me appreciate the story as a whole. I ended up finishing it, not hating it exactly but not having any feelings towards it in the slightest, to be perfectly honest. I did like how the old man refers to the author not by name but purely as “Author!” or “Writer!” when he was addressing him, maybe there was something to be found in this? I’m not sure and if there was I didn’t really get it which was a shame as I think a lot more could have been done with this short story.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Birds by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories.

 

Katherine Of Aragon, The True Queen (Six Tudor Queens #1) – Alison Weir

Published April 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The lives of Henry VIII’s queens make for dramatic stories and Alison Weir will write a series of novels that offer insights into the real lives of the six wives based on extensive research and new theories.

In all the romancing, has anyone regarded the evidence that Anne Boleyn did not love Henry VIII? Or that Prince Arthur, Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, who is said to have loved her in fact cared so little for her that he willed his personal effects to his sister? Or that Henry VIII, an over-protected child and teenager, was prudish when it came to sex? That Jane Seymour, usually portrayed as Henry’s one true love, had the makings of a matriarch? There is much to reveal …

Alison will write about the wives in the context of their own age and of the court intrigues that surrounded these women and – without exception – wrecked their lives. She will transport readers into a lost and vivid world of splendour and brutality: a world in which love, or the game of it, dominates all.

What did I think?:

When I was at school I didn’t pay much attention to history lessons and felt it didn’t really interest me that much. Then as an adult, I found how much I was missing out on and I credit authors like Alison Weir for introducing me to important individuals from our past in both her fiction and non-fiction in such a wonderful way that without reading her I would have remained woefully ignorant. I first came across Alison Weir’s work in her non-fiction, namely the excellent book Henry VIII, The King And His Court which I highly recommend. This led to me being fascinated with the Tudor period of British history and devouring any book by the author that was relevant. When Alison starting writing historical fiction, I was delighted and her meticulous research and passion for her subject clearly comes across in her novels.

The Six Tudor Queens is a new series of historical fiction novels, each one focusing on a wife of Henry VIII:

“that provide insight into the real lives of these women, based on extensive research and new theories, novels that will put the six wives into the context of their own age”.

Thank you so much to Headline publishers via Book Bridgr who sent me an absolutely gorgeous hardback edition of the first novel, Katherine Of Aragon: The True Queen in exchange for an honest review. Well, I have to admit I’m already slightly biased as I’m a huge fan of Alison Weir but believe me, I’m not going to gush about this book insincerely. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of work and gave much deeper insights into Katherine of Aragon as a person than I ever could have dreamed of.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Katherine’s story, I’ll give a very quick synopsis. She was the first wife of Henry VIII and originally came over as a princess of Spain to be the wife of his brother, Arthur who was the heir to the throne of England. However, Arthur dies quite suddenly and Katherine is left in limbo for the longest time while Henry’s father, Henry VII, decides what is to be done with her. She finally gets her happy ending when she marries Henry and becomes Queen but their marriage whilst initially a happy one is fraught with difficulties and tragedies over the years. Throughout all her personal losses, disappointments and outright betrayals however, Katherine remains dignified and regal, certainly making her mark on history as a true Queen of England.

I don’t want to say too much about Katherine’s struggles, particularly in her relationships with her husband, Henry but it’s an utterly compelling and gripping tale that reveals just how much effort and love Alison Weir has put into this novel to make Katherine’s story come alive. Out of all of Henry’s wives, she remains firmly in my top two, even more so now after the beauty of Alison’s writing. The next book in the series, Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession is due to be published on the 18th of May and I was ecstatic to be approved for it on NetGalley (thank you again Headline!). Expect a review for that around about the publication date but if it’s anything as powerful as this first novel, I’m going to be one happy Tudor fan girl.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Two

Published April 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

I’ve read some terrific stories in Part One of my Short Stories Challenge for 2017 so far! However stand out stories have to be The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew and The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Two!

The Reader by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

The Birds by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories

The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe

Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

The Drowned Village by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Alice Through The Plastic Sheet by Robert Shearman from the collection A Book Of Horrors

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Fruits by Steve Mosby from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Stations Of The Cross by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) – Lauren DeStefano

Published April 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Time is running out for Rhine in this conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden Trilogy.

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.

What did I think?:

I was recommended the Chemical Gardens trilogy by my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads and I believe it’s one of her favourite YA dystopian series. After finishing the final book in the trilogy, Sever, I can definitely see why. If you’re a regular visitor to my blog you know how I dread reviewing second and third books in a series as I’m very wary of giving away spoilers but I’ll do my best to be as vague as possible. I love the world Lauren DeStefano has created in these novels and her characterisation was really on point with fantastic fictional people that you could really see growing and developing over the course of the series.

The Chemical Gardens trilogy is based in a future, dystopian society where a virus with no known cure wipes out the population – women at twenty years old and men and twenty-five. As a result, many girls are forced into marriage at a very young age and encouraged to reproduce as quickly as possible to ensure a future generation while scientists (and the obvious rogue elements that pop up) desperately work to try and find a cure. In Sever, our main character Rhine has escaped the clutches of her villainous father in law Vaughn and is living with Vaughn’s brother, the noble Reed while she tries to hunt for her brother, Rowan and the man she originally escaped with, Gabriel who she developed strong and conflicting feelings for. In this final novel, Rhine finds out a lot more about herself, her family history and about her adversary, Vaughn than she ever could have imagined. However, it is crucial that she treads carefully while seeking her wayward, rebellious brother as Vaughn is determined to imprison her once more for what he believes is the greater good.

The first book in this trilogy, Wither was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The second, Fever was a great addition to the series but I found myself slightly less captivated by it although it was still a good, solid read that I would highly recommend. I approached Sever with slight trepidation wondering if I would get answers to the many questions I had and curious as to how the author was going to wrap it all up. I needn’t have worried as once again the brilliance of Lauren DeStefano’s writing and fascinating plot shone through. I love that this book isn’t all about the romance – a young adult book heavy on romance gives me a bit of the ick factor so it was refreshing that Rhine could stand on her own as a strong young woman who didn’t really need a love interest to tell a compelling story. There isn’t as much action in this series as your average dystopian adventure story but to be perfectly honest, it really didn’t need it. The characters and world they live in are exciting enough without having battles and bloody violence thrown into the mix. If you’re a fan of dystopia and love reading about characters that go on real, emotional journeys this is definitely the series for you. I  actually cannot wait to read more from this wonderful and gifted YA author.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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