Contemporary

All posts in the Contemporary category

Just What Kind Of Mother Are You? – Paula Daly

Published February 12, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

A searing and sinister thriller for readers who liked Gone Girl.

What if your best friend’s child disappears? And it was all your fault.

This is exactly what happens to Lisa Kallisto, overwhelmed working mother of three, one freezing December in the English Lake District. She takes her eye off the ball for just a moment and her whole world descends into the stuff of nightmares. Because, not only is thirteen-year-old Lucinda missing, and not only is it all Lisa’s fault, but she’s the second teenage girl to disappear within this small tightknit community over two weeks. The first girl turned up stripped bare, dumped on a busy high street, after suffering from a terrifying ordeal.

Wracked with guilt over her mistake and after being publicly blamed by Lucinda’s family, Lisa sets out to right the wrong. But as she begins peeling away the layers surrounding Lucinda’s disappearance, Lisa learns that the small, posh, quiet town she lives in isn’t what she thought it was, and her friends may not be who they appear, either.

What did I think?:

I was recommended this book by my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads and as usual, she knows exactly what kind of book I like to get my teeth into. Just What Kind Of Mother Are You is a gritty and exciting psychological thriller that I ended up devouring in just a twenty four hour period. It was so difficult in fact to put this book down and it was a shame that life got in the way sometimes as I could have easily finished it in one sitting.

The story focuses on Lisa Kallisto, married mother of three who is struggling to look after her three children, house and finances and manage a company that re-homes unwanted cats and dogs. It isn’t really surprising that from time to time, she becomes entirely human and makes mistakes. On the day in question she has kept her thirteen year old daughter Sally home from school as she is ill but has neglected to remember that Sally’s friend Lucinda is meant to be having a sleepover that night at her house and that she is meant to pick her up from school. Understandable really, she had her unwell daughter on her mind?

However, it is not until the next day before she discovers that Lucinda is missing and now Lucinda’s mother, Kate blames her entirely for what has happened. Worse of all, it is feared that Lucinda has fallen victim of a serial kidnapper and rapist as previously, another girl from the community was taken and subjected to a horrific ordeal. After a third girl goes missing the race is on for lead investigator  DC Joanne Aspinall to find the individual responsible for these chilling crimes before it escalates beyond control. Lisa, feeling terrible about what occurred on “her watch,” also does a bit of investigating of her own and what she finds brings a whole new interpretation to the title of this novel.

This was a fantastic debut novel that kept me gripped throughout, desperately turning the pages to find out what was going to happen. The plot and characters are beautifully conceived and very realistic which added a new chill to the narrative as it was so darn believable. I especially felt for the character of Lisa, caught up in the hectic dramas of everyday life, trying to do it all and be a great mother at the same time. She put a lot of pressure on herself and constantly compared her own life to those of her other friends, especially Kate who seemed to take things in her stride. We had a whole host of strong, independent female characters which I loved but even the male characters were wonderfully drawn and constantly intriguing to me. It was so easy to race through this action-packed novel, it felt like the author had been writing for years and years and there was never a dull moment. The ending just knocked me for six I have to say and I’ll certainly be putting Paula Daly’s next two novels, Keep Your Friends Close and The Mistake I Made on my “must read soon,” list. She definitely has the potential to be one of my favourite authors.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Swimming Lessons – Claire Fuller

Published February 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

What did I think?:

I fell in love with Claire Fuller’s writing after I read her amazing debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days in the summertime of last year. If you haven’t read it, please you absolutely must – it’s a brilliant, shocking read which I highly recommend. I knew Claire was working on her second book, Swimming Lessons but when she kindly contacted me and asked if I’d like to read it, I literally jumped at the chance. I’m so glad I did. It’s slow paced at the beginning but by the time I was a third of the way through I was completely hooked and it was difficult to pry the book away from me!

We see the drama unfold from multiple different perspectives. Firstly from Gil who swears that he sees his wife Ingrid standing outside a bookshop window. The strange thing is, Ingrid disappeared many years previously and is thought to have drowned in a tragic accident. Gil follows the woman he thinks to be Ingrid and ends up falling and ending up in hospital. This is where we meet his two daughters, Nan and the younger sister Flora who are completely different personalities but come together to help their father as they receive some heart-breaking news. We then get some insights into the past of this fascinating family from Flora’s memories of her childhood, her parents and from Ingrid herself.

This was the part that I just adored as Gil begins to find old letters addressed to him from Ingrid hidden in his precious books. They start from the very beginning of their relationship (which was frowned upon from some individuals due to the age difference between them) to their married life, berating him for certain behaviours and admitting other secrets. Basically, telling their whole story, warts and all, from her point of view. It’s the story of a dysfunctional relationship that also holds a lot of love which beggars belief at some points and intrigues you at other times. Do we ever really find out what has happened to Ingrid? Maybe…maybe not, but we certainly understand her and Gil a lot better through the process.

Like Claire’s debut novel, this story took me completely by surprise with how attached I became to the characters and their story. I never really felt like I understood Gil and his reasons for doing what he did but I certainly sympathised with Ingrid and the situation she found herself in and even understood her reasons for being attracted to Gil in the first place. I probably actually preferred Gil in the “present day” situation, being looked after by his daughters and perhaps feeling guilt and remorse for events that occurred in the past. On finishing it, I immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and perhaps pick up on things I may have missed in the narrative, not having the full information I had at the end and it’s definitely a novel I will look forward to re-reading in the future. Claire Fuller can do no wrong in my eyes as an author and with Swimming Lessons, she has certainly cemented herself in my heart as one of my favourites.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Blog Tour – Relativity – Antonia Hayes

Published January 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

‘Relativity is wonderful, a beautifully written, heartbreaking novel that I feel certain will find the huge audience it deserves.’ SJ Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep and Second Life

‘Relativity is a novel of assured and measured empathy, a story of familial love and familial hurt that is fair, honest and remarkably non-judgmental. Hayes is a convincing writer and a true storyteller: her characters are alive.’ Christos Tsiolkas, author of THE SLAP

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

What did I think?:

First of all, many thanks to Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part on this blog tour and sending me a copy of Relativity in exchange for an honest review. On reading the synopsis, I was instantly intrigued. It sounded like a book packed with family drama, hidden secrets and interesting discoveries as well as something that would be touching to read. I got everything I was expecting from Relativity along with some surprises to boot so I can definitely count this as a great reading experience and one I recommend.

The novel tells the story of Claire and her son, Ethan who is highly gifted in physics and astronomy and a little bit different from other children his age, meaning that he goes through quite a tough time at school and struggles to make friends easily. Due to a traumatic incident in his past that also involves his absent father Mark, who left shortly after the incident occurred, Ethan is able to “see,” physics i.e. sound-waves, particles moving around in the air etc. This makes him very valuable to the medical professionals studying him when he undergoes a seizure but also very special to his loving mother, Claire who is just trying to do her best for him as a single parent.

Their life is turned upside down once more when Ethan’s father, Mark returns into his life and attempts to forge a relationship for them both. This is difficult for both Ethan and Claire to deal with for reasons I won’t divulge but moved me deeply as a reader. I think what surprised me most about this book is that how I assumed I knew how it was going to progress and end. Well, let me tell you, I was completely wrong and the part that I was wrong about is hugely shocking when the big reveal occurs.

I really enjoyed this debut novel by Antonia Hayes. It was written beautifully with just enough pace to keep me turning the pages and her strength for characterisation was outstanding. I loved Ethan, Claire and Mark to bits – for different reasons and, especially with the latter of these, my opinions kept changing throughout the story. I’m actually a scientist “by day,” but my field is biochemistry and I was slightly worried that the physics aspect would be quite overwhelming for me. In fact, it was all written so intelligently yet simply that I had no reason to worry and actually learned a lot more about a subject that terrified me in school! Antonia Hayes is already a expert at writing a story with so much heart and dramatic tension that I can’t wait to read anything else she writes.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

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Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, currently lives in London with her husband and son. Relativity is her first novel.

Find her on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8848755.Antonia_Hayes

On Twitter at: @antoniahayes

Her website at: http://www.antoniahayes.com

Once again, thank you so much to Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Why not check out the other stops on the tour today from my fellow bloggers down below? Relativity was released on 17th January 2017 and is available from all good bookshops now!

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Blog Tour – A Boy Made Of Blocks – Keith Stuart

Published January 18, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Discover a unique, funny and moving debut that will make you laugh, cry and smile.

Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex
He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.

Meet eight-year-old Sam
Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.

But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . . .

Can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time?

Inspired by the author’s experiences with his own son, A Boy Made of Blocks is an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism.

What did I think?:

I first heard about this book from my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads who absolutely loved it. When my sister makes a recommendation, I take her up on it as she definitely knows the kind of books that I get excited about. Then when Little, Brown publishers asked me if I’d like to be part of the blog tour, I jumped at the chance. (thank you very much to them!) In my opinion, the more people know about this wonderful debut novel, the better as it’s just THAT GOOD. I haven’t been as moved or felt so emotionally wrung out for a while and I love when a book gets under my skin like that.

So, the story follows thirty-something Alex, married to Jody with a young son called Sam. When we first meet Alex, he isn’t having the best time of it. His relationship with both his wife and son appears to be slowly disintegrating and is incredibly fragile. Sam is autistic and Alex is not dealing with it very well. He seems at a loss with what to do regarding his behaviour, how to handle him in general and even how to communicate with him effectively. This leads to him sleeping at a friend’s house while desperately trying to repair the cracks that have appeared in his life and his marriage.

Luckily for Alex, something comes along, in the form of a computer game called Minecraft that just might change everything. Sam becomes obsessed with the game, and through it, so too does Alex as he learns that sometimes the right kind of communication can be begun by meeting that person on their own level, building slowly from there and simply learning to have fun together. Through Minecraft, Alex and Sam both learn a lot about each other, much more in fact than they ever have done previously. A strong relationship between the two begins to form and they learn to be friends as well as father and son, paving the way for a much happier and content family life in the future.

I don’t know where to start with telling you how beautiful and heart-warming this book actually was. The author was inspired by his own experiences with his son and this really shows in the writing. I think you can tell when an author is drawing from personal circumstances and we get an honest, authentic look into life with a child on the autistic spectrum which for our main character Alex, is both difficult and hugely rewarding. I did want to shake Alex at some points through the novel for decisions he has made but I loved how he developed throughout the story to become a real father, friend and support network for both his son and wife. It’s not often a book brings me to tears – I think I can count about three times in my entire life. Choked up, sad….for sure but actual tears? It’s very rare. Yet A Boy Made Of Blocks had me sobbing in the end, both happiness and sadness combined and it was an utterly magical experience that I won’t forget in a hurry.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

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In 2012 one of KEITH STUART’s two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together – especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.

Find Keith on GoodReads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/441866.Keith_Stuart

On Twitter at: @keefstuart

Visit the website at: http://www.boymadeofblocks.com/

A huge thank you again to Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Why not check out all the other stops on the blog tour today? A Boy Made Of Blocks was released in paperback on 5th January 2017 and is available from all good bookshops and as an e-book now.

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Blog Tour – The Dry by Jane Harper

Published January 9, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

What did I think?:

Welcome to my post on the blog tour for this fantastic piece of crime fiction The Dry, set amongst a small community in Australia. A huge thank you to the publishers Little, Brown for inviting me to be a part of the tour and for sending me a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. This is Jane Harper’s debut novel and after the strength of this thrilling story, I’m hoping for amazing things from her in the future.

Our main character is Aaron Falk, who escaped from his hometown Kiewarra to live in the city after a frightening incident that involved one of his best friends. I don’t want to say too much about that for fear of spoilers but let me tell you there are a lot of secrets in this novel for many different characters not just our protagonist and the way they are gradually uncovered are thrilling. He comes back to Kiewarra to attend his old best friend’s funeral after a shocking occurrence where two members of Luke’s family were brutally shot and then Luke himself appears to have committed suicide, also with the gun.

Aaron promises Luke’s father that he will look into the mystery and try to clear his friend’s name as it was assumed that Luke was the perpetrator of the crime. Furthermore, if it was the case that Luke did kill two of his family – what were his possible motives for doing such a terrible thing? There is much more going on in this little town than previously assumed however so be prepared for several shocks and surprises. Nothing or no-one is what it seems and the connection to events in Falk’s past is paramount and incredibly murky.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I thought this was a fantastic debut novel with lots of twists and turns – just how I like my crime fiction. I liked that it was set in Australia, I loved the variety of characters that we were given and I enjoyed that it wasn’t just about one event. Many things are linked in this story and there are lots of different aspects to be discovered and savoured, the latter of which I certainly did. Jane Harper has a real gift for spinning an exciting narrative and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Visit Jane at her website: http://janeharper.com.au/

or on Twitter: @janeharperautho

A huge thank you again to Little, Brown Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. The Dry was released on 12th January in the UK and is available from all good bookshops NOW. If you’re interested, why not check out the other stops on the blog tour?

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – DECEMBER READ – The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair by Lara Williamson

Published December 31, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

All Becket wants is for his family to be whole again. But standing in his way are two things: 1) his dad, his brother and him seem to have run away from home in the middle of the night and 2) Becket’s mum died before he got the chance to say goodbye to her. Arming himself with an armchair of stories, a snail named Brian and one thousand paper cranes, Becket ploughs on, determined to make his wish come true.

What did I think?:

I’m always a bit sad when a year of Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit comes to an end as we enjoy it so much! For the final book of the year we chose The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair, partially because of the brilliant title and partially because of the great reviews on GoodReads. Apart from that, we really didn’t know much about it. It was only when I read the “about the author” part at the epilogue of the book that I realised that this was the author who also wrote the book A Boy Called Hope which has also has some excellent reviews and I am still to read (but very much looking forward to it now after this book!). But honestly, I cannot praise this book enough and it was a very welcome surprise how much I enjoyed it, ending our Kid-Lit year on an undeniable high.

Just to say, the synopsis above (from GoodReads), does not do justice to how great this story is. Our main character is a young boy called Becket who lives with his little brother Billy and his father and is still trying to cope with his mother’s death after she gave birth to Billy. They had previously been living with a woman lived Pearl, who his father was seeing but for some strange reason their father packed them all up in a hurry and moved them to a dingy little flat at some distance from their old house. They have been forbidden from any form of contact with Pearl, have to start at a new school and are, plain and simple, miserable. They were hoping with Pearl in their lives, they had the chance to have a “second mother,” and finally become a family. The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair shows how Becket deals with this latest upheaval in his life as he struggles with the grief for his mother, tries to forge a relationship with his father and get Pearl back into their lives and makes sure that his little brother and his new friend, Brian the snail are well looked after.

This book makes me want to do a lot of love-heart emoji’s. It is so beautifully written and absolutely hilarious which I completely wasn’t expecting. It’s not often a book makes me laugh out loud, but this one – oh my goodness. The characters are so warm and loveable, especially Becket and Billy, the latter of whom is so painfully honest but in such a funny way, like small children often are. The armchair in the title was the favourite chair of the boys mother and used by them to remember her and when Billy has bad dreams, the two curl up in it and Becket tells him a story of his own that calms him down and allows him to sleep again. The whole book is very fairy-tale esque (another bonus for me!) and filled with the most beautiful, emotional moments that would help anyone struggling with grief themselves. This is a wonderful story that I’m so glad I read and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating:

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BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017 – THE TITLES ARE REVEALED – COMING 2ND JANUARY!

Banned Books 2016 – DECEMBER READ – My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Published December 26, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate — a life and a role that she has never challenged… until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister—and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

A provocative novel that raises some important ethical issues, My Sister’s Keeper is the story of one family’s struggle for survival at all human costs and a stunning parable for all time.

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Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the last 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.

But back to this month….

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

First published: 2004

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2009 (source)

Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

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

BETH: First of all, I can’t believe this book is now over ten years old. This book is a huge favourite of mine, actually one of my all time favourite books and again, it’s one of the more recent releases on our list so I don’t believe opinions have changed much in the past decade or so. No I don’t understand OR agree with ANY of the reasons for this book being challenged/banned when it was first published. Just look at the reasons, for goodness sake! I’ll go into a couple of them here and a couple of them in the next question because I feel like I’ve got a lot to rant about.

Let’s start with homosexuality. My memory must be failing me in this but I can’t actually remember any homosexual activity in this book – are we talking about the same story? Please, if anyone can correct me on this, I’d be happy to be corrected but I don’t recall anything homosexual at all! And, ever if there was, (I think you know what I’m going to say), is that a good reason for challenging a book? We should all be aware of all the different types of people in this world and saying that a person’s sexuality is a reason for challenging a book is just all kinds of wrong.

Religious viewpoint. Again, struggling to remember when religion was forced down my throat in this novel which I finished a few hours ago. Because it wasn’t. I’ve read a couple of “preachy” books in my time and this book definitely does not fall into that category. If anything, it makes you think about your own morality and make your own decisions.

CHRISSI: I’m laughing a little bit at Beth’s passionate response to that question. Not because it’s funny, but because she feels so strongly about it and rightly so. I actually was so confused when we found this book on the banned or challenged list. I guess it does call into question what is morally right, so that might have some impact on religion, but I definitely don’t think religion was shoved down my throat. I am NOT a fan of books like that, so I don’t think I would pick up the book if it was like that at all.

In my eyes, this book isn’t an easy read but should it be challenged? No. It should be praised because it’s making people think. It’s pushing boundaries, it’s raw and should be read in my opinion.

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! So, the other reasons for challenging this book. Sexism. (??) I’m a bit of a feminist myself and nowhere in this book was I offended or thought that the role of women or men was being undermined. Sexually explicit? Where exactly was the explicit sexual scenes? I mean honestly…. are we reading the same book? Finally the last reason I’d like to talk about – violence. There is a very upsetting scene near the end of the novel but it’s not something I would call violence. This book does deal with very controversial topics as a whole (and is the first book I bawled my eyes out to) but I really don’t see this as a reason for challenging/banning it. I think it’s a great idea for teenagers to be exposed to it and who knows, it may encourage interesting debate and start them thinking about their own morals and ethics.

CHRISSI: Definitely not. I think this book does push some boundaries but boundaries that should, in my opinion, be pushed and talked about. It doesn’t hurt to question and think about our own morals and that’s what this book does for me at least!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I think it’s quite obvious from my over-long, rambling answers (sorry!) how passionate I feel about this book. It was the first Jodi Picoult book I read and remains one of my all time favourite novels. I was quite scared about re-reading it again as I hadn’t read it in about ten years and I didn’t want any of that old magic I felt back then to be spoiled. However, I needn’t have worried. I loved it just as much and it affected me just as deeply as it did the first time.

CHRISSI: This is my second time reading this book as well and I found it just as addictive the second time around. I wouldn’t say I felt as passionately about it as Beth does, but I’m inspired by her re-reading a favourite and still enjoying it. It makes me think about whether I should reread my favourite….

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

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

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Join us again in 2017 when we will have a fresh batch of banned books to talk about – we can’t wait to get started! Look out for our Banned Books 2017 Reveal Post coming soon. Happy New Year everyone!