Fantasy

All posts in the Fantasy category

Wizard And Glass (The Dark Tower #4) – Stephen King

Published April 1, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Jake’s pet bumbler survive Blaine the Mono’s final crash, only to find themselves stranded in an alternate version of Topeka, Kansas, one that has been ravaged by the superflu virus. While following the deserted I-70 toward a distant glass palace, they hear the atonal squalling of a thinny, a place where the fabric of existence has almost entirely worn away. While camping near the edge of the thinny, Roland tells his ka-tet a story about another thinny, one that he encountered when he was little more than a boy. Over the course of one long magical night, Roland transports us to the Mid-World of long-ago and a seaside town called Hambry, where Roland fell in love with a girl named Susan Delgado, and where he and his old tet-mates Alain and Cuthbert battled the forces of John Farson, the harrier who—with a little help from a seeing sphere called Maerlyn’s Grapefruit—ignited Mid-World’s final war.

What did I think?:

I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of the Dark Tower series last year and it’s finally time for my review of the fourth book, Wizard And Glass which just happens to be my favourite book written within this epic world. As a result, I apologise in advance for the nauseating gushing which is bound to occur as I talk about this wonderful, unforgettable addition to the series. See – there I go already!! My first memories of Wizard And Glass are actually connected with a stay in hospital when I was nineteen years old, undergoing investigations for unexplained abdominal pain. My amazing mother bought this book for me, knowing I was an already avid King fan, not realising that it was the fourth book in the series and I hadn’t read the other three yet. To be fair, it can *almost* be read as a stand-alone, despite the fact that it carries on immediately after the dramatic events and a nail-biting cliffhanger of an ending in The Waste Lands. 

Stephen King, author of Wizard And Glass, the fourth book in the Dark Tower series.

I say that it could potentially be read as a stand-alone because Wizard And Glass is actually Roland Deschain’s story from when he was a young man, fell deeply in love for the first time and earned his reputation as a formidable gunslinger. Obviously I would definitely advocate starting this series from the beginning (although if you’ve read my previous reviews, please don’t be too put off by the first book, The Gunslinger! It gets a LOT better i.e. The Drawing Of The Three) but because it goes back to Roland’s tumultuous past, it reads like an entire story all on its own. From the very first page, as Roland starts to tell his story to his ka-tetSusannah, Eddie, Jake and the adorable Oy to the last page, where his story is complete, we learn so much more about our strong male lead and what events have happened in his life to make him the man he is today. The reader sees a much more vulnerable, emotional, tender and human side of Roland and because of this, begins to fully understand why he now hides all his feelings behind such a hard and unyielding exterior.

Susan Delgado, love interest of Roland in Wizard And Glass

Image from: https://darktower.fandom.com/wiki/Susan_Delgado

My heart went out to Roland from the very first moment of this book. I love the way in which he opens up to the people who become his dearest and most loyal friends by sharing with them such an important and life-altering part of his past. His story is moving, devastating, eye-opening and thrilling but more than anything, it’s impossible to put this book down without feeling such a deep sense of longing to pick it right back up again. It’s always a pleasure to sit down with one of King’s books of course for me personally, but there was something about Wizard and Glass that affected me in all the right ways. His strength of characterisation is superb as always but he has a real gift for writing exciting action sequences tempered with softer, more gentle moments between the huge cast of characters that seem to come at just the right time. It allows the reader to recover from the frantic, fast pace of the narrative and appreciate the stories and personalities behind each individual we meet and what their motives, hopes and dreams for the future are.

I truly believe you won’t find characters as personable and delightful – Roland and his buddies Alain and Cuthbert, the sweet innocence and determined bravery of Susan and Sheemie and the villainous, dastardly elements of Rhea the witch and The Coffin Hunters to name a few. However, what I find absolutely incredible is how King manages to give each individual their own qualities and unique personality, despite the enormous cast that he has created across the series in general. This is a novel packed full of adventure, thrills and surprises combined with the author’s classic element of making the reader feel just a little bit uncomfortable but nevertheless, fully invested and enthralled with the world that he has built.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

COMING UP SOON: Wolves Of The Calla (The Dark Tower #5)

Advertisements

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – MARCH READ – The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson And The Olympians #3) – Rick Riordan

Published March 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s not everyday you find yourself in combat with a half-lion, half-human.

But when you’re the son of a Greek god, it happens. And now my friend Annabeth is missing, a goddess is in chains and only five half-blood heroes can join the quest to defeat the doomsday monster.

Oh, and guess what? The Oracle has predicted that not all of us will survive…

What did I think?:

Prior to beginning this series on our Kid-Lit journey a few years back now, Chrissi and I had never read anything by Rick Riordan. We were very aware of his popularity and the connection with Greek mythology so I had always been keen to pick something up but it wasn’t until we started his Percy Jackson series with The Lightning Thief and The Sea Of Monsters that we finally realised why he’s such a beloved author. For myself, I have an unwavering connection with Greek mythology after studying it at school for a short period of time and have never forgotten the stories I was told that completely captured my imagination from the moment I came across them. So for our Kid-Lit challenge this year, it was a pleasure to return to Percy Jackson And The Olympians with the third book in the series.

Rick Riordan, author of The Titan’s Curse, third in the Percy Jackson And The Olympians series.

Without ruining anything for the previous books, Rick Riordan’s stories follow a teenage boy, Percy Jackson who is a half-blood i.e. one of his parents was an Olympian God. During this series, the gods on Mount Olympus have become embroiled in a battle with some darker forces and there is a mysterious prophecy that may affect Percy and all his friends as they continue to grow up and fight the forces of evil. So what can you expect from The Titan’s Curse? If you’ve read anything by Riordan I’m guessing more of the same really – a fantastic adventure story, brave deeds perpetuated by incredibly plucky youngsters and a host of mythical gods, goddesses and monsters birthed directed from the pages of Greek mythology. The difference with this set of books is that all these occurrences happen in a contemporary world so I’m sure you can imagine the havoc it would wreak – particularly on a busy commute or populated area with “normal,” human residents trying to get through their daily life!

Mount Olympus, home to the Greek Gods.

Apart from the mythological aspects, I’m really starting to feel a strong connection with the characters that the author is creating in this series. I love how he develops the female leads with strong personalities, independence of mind and great feats of strength and intelligence. He doesn’t let them fade into the background or under the shadow of his great teenage hero, Percy Jackson which I really appreciated and in general, they all have an air of mystery to them that makes me want to get to know them a little bit better. Percy himself is of course a marvellous protagonist. At fourteen years old in The Titan’s Curse, he still has a lot to learn about life but in retrospect, this only makes him more realistic as a teenage boy and a slightly reluctant hero. Additionally, one of my favourite parts of the series has to be the author’s humour interjected at perfect moments through the narrative. It certainly brings something extra to the story and at times, provides a welcome relief from the more action-packed, hair-raising sequences and situations that our characters find themselves in.

Finally, Riordan always seems to end each book in this series with a resolution of sorts but at the same time, a jaw dropping cliffhanger in order to make sure the reader is immediately excited to read the next book. We know about this dreaded prophecy, we understand bad things are happening under the surface and that Percy and his friends are in a lot of danger however we are left feeling absolutely clueless about what on earth could happen next. I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series and joining Percy on yet another gripping quest.

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

COMING UP IN APRIL ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Demon Dentist by David Walliams.

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry (buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books)

Published March 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Greek myths are the greatest stories ever told, passed down through millennia and inspiring writers and artists as varied as Shakespeare, Michelangelo, James Joyce and Walt Disney.

They are embedded deeply in the traditions, tales and cultural DNA of the West. In Stephen Fry’s hands the stories of the titans and gods become a brilliantly entertaining account of ribaldry and revelry, warfare and worship, debauchery, love affairs and life lessons, slayings and suicides, triumphs and tragedies.

You’ll fall in love with Zeus, marvel at the birth of Athena, wince at Cronus and Gaia’s revenge on Ouranos, weep with King Midas and hunt with the beautiful and ferocious Artemis.

Thoroughly spellbinding, informative and moving, Stephen Fry’s Mythos perfectly captures these stories for the modern age – in all their rich and deeply human relevance.

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). So far we’ve read the first two books in the brilliant Arc Of A Scythe series by Neal ShustermanScythe and Thunderhead and we’ve read a little non-fiction too – Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt. In December we read The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton more recently we dived back into the world of Neal Shusterman in his collaboration with his son Jarrod which resulted in the novel Dry.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review our books – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about Mythos at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Stuart: All finished and ready for Mythos! How about 3 parts this time? P129, p273 and finish?

Beth: Great plan! See you soon 👍🏻

Stuart: Is it just me or are you reading it as if Stephen Fry is saying it as well? 😂

Stuart: He had me at palaeoanthropological!

Stuart: ‘It screws with the head, but there it is’. Classic Fry!

Beth: Just about to start, very excited! I think I might have a different edition to you – p129 for me is halfway through a story. Do you mean up to the part beginning The Punishments? 🤔

Beth: Ooh a map and a family tree!

Beth: Seminal semantic semiology from the semen of the sky?! 😂 I love how his voice comes across!

Stuart: P129 for me is the page after the pictures section. Maybe p131 is better?

Beth: That’s perfect! 👌🏻

Stuart: ‘I will shout in triumph, just to annoy that prick Poseidon’ 😂 another quality Fry translation!

Stuart: I am ready. We always get the most interesting stopping points. Zeus is pissed!

Beth: I know – oooh he does NOT want to piss Zeus off!! How are you finding it so far? Did you know anything about Greek mythology prior to reading this?

Stuart: I knew of quite a few of the Olympians like Hera, Hermes, Poseidon, Hephaestus and such. I also knew the other collectives like the fates and furies. I had no idea how it gelled together though. I couldn’t believe the creations of Aphrodite, Athena and Hermes though. Fry is just class through and through. I want him to narrate everything 😂.

Beth: He absolutely should! What you said at the beginning was so true – it reads almost as if he’s in the room with you, it’s fantastic! I studied Greek mythology for a little while at school

but it was a long time ago and we didn’t cover everything. There’s certainly brand new parts for me that I really enjoyed like how the honeybee got its sting! 🐝 I was a bit worried at the start because it seemed to be name after name and was quite overwhelming but now it’s more about the stories I’m really enjoying it. 😁

Stuart: It is a lot to take in, I completely agree. I am going to have to read this multiple times I think to solidfy it into my memory. I am enjoying the imagery of the myths and lore but its Stephen Fry’s approach to the material that makes this book amazing for me. Its almost a soap opera but with all the Fryisms you could ask for.

Beth: Yes! Just the little one liners and the way the gods have conversations with each other that just shriek of Fry’s classic humour. He’s such a legend. What do you think of the gods themselves. That Zeus is a bit of a one isn’t he? 😂

Stuart: I find the idea of each generation of leader being destined to be destroyed or overpowered by their children an interesting concept. I think all the loop holes and accidents that create natural occurences to be compelling. Like the Honey Bee or the Cyclopes bringing thunder and lightening with them. Having a divine explanation for each and every element of existence instead of just saying, yeah God created it. I am interested in the God side of things bit I am more looking forward to the demi-gods and creatures that will hopefully pop up. Medusa got a fleeting mention but I hope Fry will pick that up again later. What is one thing you want to gain from reading this book?

Beth: Yes I love the story of Medusa, looking forward to that one. I really enjoy all the different monsters, my favourite is probably Theseus and the Minotaur but I think Fry suggested this might be covered in the Heroes book? 🤔 I think I’d like to re-discover my love for Greek mythology and also get a glimpse into how the Greeks have affected contemporary times, like the words we still use today. How about you?

Stuart: I want to learn more about how the Greeks developed language, art and story-telling through the worship of their gods. I find mythology fascinating and I am keen to flesh out my knowledge of how all of the Greek Legends fit together. Fry’s own passion for Greek lore is infectious, I think it is going to be easier and easier to get lost in this book!

Stuart: In a good way 😃

Beth: For sure. I’m really enjoying the pictures/sculptures too. I saw the Aphrodite Botticelli painting recently (in real life) and it was pretty amazing!

Stuart: Art is one thing I would definitely like to get more into. I could read about art and painters all day but I hardly get the opportunity to go out and visit a gallery. Shall we continue our excursion into the world of Greek Legends?

Beth: Yes let’s do it! See you soon. 👋🏻

Stuart: I’ve made it! How are you getting on?

Beth: I’m at the checkpoint too! Oh I’m loving Fry’s dry wit so much. Especially that last section with Death and the “Mwahahaha!” 😂

Stuart: He does add a great aesthetic to the individuals and how they come to interact with each other. The mid section is even more packed than the beginning! Pandora. Demeter. Humankind. Heart and Soul. What do you think so far?

Beth: I’m enjoying it! His flair with story-telling just adds to the myths themselves and makes them feel richer somehow and even a bit contemporary if that makes any sense? I was so pleased to see my favourite story in there – the one with Persephone but had forgotten how they brought the changing of the seasons into it. Have you got a favourite so far?

Stuart: Definitely Phaethon crashing Apollo’s chariot into the earth and creating the Sahara desert. Amazing imagery. With so many stories packed in here, there are so many to choose from. I really liked the healthcare section too and how close humanity got to immortality. It is hard to keep track of it all though. Well for me at least 😅

Beth: No definitely for me too! So many names and who is related to whom, I am finding that tricky. When he starts rolling off name after name I find my eyes start glazing over a bit until we get to another story. 😂 Like you said, I’m loving the parts that relate to our world now like the changing of the seasons and the misery unleashed from opening Pandora’s *jar* not box! 😆

Stuart: So glad it wasn’t just me. It’s great that you pick up on moments like the jar instead of the box because I totally do too. I took that bit of trivia and tucked it away in my brain for later 😂. I have to say that the greeks have some insane explanations for how the world came to be, mainly how humanity was reborn… I wonder what other disturbing events we have in store in the third act…

Beth: I totally did that for the trivia too haha!! 😂 I think we’ve got plenty of interesting things in store for us for the final section (probably more parts of Zeus’ body to bear children from?!) Shall we read till the end? 😁

Stuart: You can’t get better than a thigh baby though, can you? Let’s do it! See you at the end.

Stuart: Consistently inconsistent 😂. The third section was really good! I’m ready to talk!

Beth: Me too! Ah I’m kind of sorry it’s all over. 😓

Stuart: It’s okay, we have Heroes to look forward to in July 😃

Beth: That’s very true! 😁 What are your thoughts overall? For me it was quite nostalgic being reminded of my favourite Greek myths and I loved that I got to learn brand new ones. Yes all the names were a bit too much at times but his voice and sense of humour really made up for that.

Stuart: I was more aware of the actual gods and mortals than how they actually fit into the bigger picture. I got my greek mythology lessons from video games and movies but it was great to go right back the source. Stephen Fry did an impressive job of being both informative and passionate with the subject matter which can sometimes be difficult for writers. I’m just amazed about how much depth there is in this book!

Beth: Yes absolutely the effort he put into researching it was incredible. Did you pick up that he mentioned he studied Ancient Greek in the Afterword? It must be a topic he’s passionate about and that definitely comes across in the writing.

Stuart: Fry is a knowledgeable man and he breathes new life into these legends and adds up to date insights into how the mythology grew, expanded and translated over the centuries which is exactly what I was looking for. I was also looking for laughs from Fry and he delivered that as well. How did you get on with all the themes and tones of the writing. It got quite unabashedly explicit at times which Fry encouraged I think 😂. It is easy to believe that Ancient Greek Legends is where the substance and meaning of stories was born. Do you agree?

Beth: I certainly do! 😆 he brought far more personality and vibrancy to the Greek Gods than I ever could have imagined. I liked that he focused on a few different topics like what happens when the gods fall in love, get jealous etc. I was already familiar with the story of Arachne and what happens to her when she dares to challenge a goddess at weaving but Fry really made it come alive by the way he told it, making it a sadder tale than I remembered! 🕷🕸

Stuart: He really hit his stride in the last chapters of the book and I couldn’t get enough. Sisyphus and the boulder. Marsyas The Musical. Arachne the Weaver. Midus. The swallow and nightingale. Arion and the Dolphin (so good). I didn’t want it to end after hearing all of those tales back to back.

Beth: Aw I loved Arion and the Dolphin 🐬 especially what happened to those sailors in the end! I also thought the story of Echo and Narcissus was very sad. They seemed to have a story for all moods didn’t they?

Stuart: So much imagination and creativity is present in every single story here and it is hard not to be inspired. You’re right, a story for every mood. A lesson or warning for every reader. We owe our language and our ability to tell great stories from this culture and I couldn’t think of a better person than Stephen Fry to convey that in a charming and meaningful way that makes you want to know and understand these figures and stories better.

Beth: Perfectly put! 👍🏻 We’re going to be reading Heroes together right?! 😆

Stuart: Absolutely. Are you happy to wait till June 27th for the paperback release?

Beth: Oh yes. 😁

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

I had Mythos on my radar for a while now, ever since I started hearing the buzz about it and then realised it was written by Stephen Fry whose personality and dry wit I just adore. As I mentioned in the Twitter chat, I studied Greek Mythology for a little while at school but hadn’t read anything for a while so I was excited to remind myself of my old favourite stories and satisfy my curiosity as to how Fry would put his spin on the classic myths. Well, from the very first moment, as we mentioned, it felt as if Fry was almost jumping off the pages towards us. His voice, intelligence and sense of fun came across beautifully and personally, I feel he brought a modern and rather unique flavour to these stories, making them accessible for a potentially brand new audience.

Stephen Fry, author of Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold (Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology #1)

There were parts of this book where it wasn’t all plain sailing but in the grand scheme of things, they’re such minor quibbles that it didn’t affect my enjoyment of Fry’s work in the least. Fry begins telling us the story of the Gods of Mount Olympus from the very beginning i.e. how the Earth came to be, the battles between the titans, the founding of the twelve principle Gods under the helm of head man, Zeus and even how humans were created (and occasionally messed around with!). This was all incredibly interesting and something I don’t believe I studied in much detail at school but I have to admit, there are a lot of names and intricate relationships to get to grips with initially and there were points where I felt quite overwhelmed by the amount of detail we’re given as a reader. However, please don’t let this put you off as once Fry gets into the meat of each individual story, it’s as juicy and riveting as you might expect.

Stand-out stories? I immediately go back to particular favourites that just became even richer on a second reading as an adult – primarily the story of Persephone and the god of the Underworld, Hades and additionally, the tale of Arachne the weaver and the proud goddess whom she manages to infuriate. I was also pleasantly surprised at the extra little mythological details Fry included like the reason behind the changing of the seasons, how the honeybee got its sting, why the spider spins a web, to name a few. The author makes this collection so much more special by including instances like imagined conversations between gods or gods versus humans where his unique and hilarious humour is allowed to shine through and makes the stories instantly more readable, relatable and almost up-to-date in their execution. Stuart and I enjoyed this collection so much that we’ve instantly agreed to read the second book in this series, Heroes together when it comes out in paperback in the summer and I’m eagerly anticipating another brilliant, illuminating book from the genius that is Stephen Fry.

Thank you to Stuart from Always Trust In Books for another amazing buddy read – check out his review on his blog at some point today!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – FEBRUARY READ – The BFG by Roald Dahl

Published February 28, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Captured by a giant! The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater, the Bonecruncher, or any of the other giants-rather than the BFG-she would have soon become breakfast.

When Sophie hears that they are flush-bunking off in England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

What did I think?:

Aren’t your favourite childhood authors the best? Like Judy Blume, Roald Dahl was another leading light for me during my middle grade years and I have such wonderful memories of reading his books over and over again. In fact, I think I read my copy of The BFG so many times that the pages literally starting coming out of the book and I was forced to replace it with a bright, shiny new one. Never a problem for a bookworm, right? Reading Roald Dahl also fills me with warm fuzzy feelings for my sister, Chrissi Reads as when we were younger, I used to read stories like this, Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory as her bedtime stories before she dropped off to sleep. Who better to re-read The BFG as an adult with than Chrissi on our Kid-Lit challenge? Would the story stand the test of time? It was time to find out.

Roald Dahl, author of The BFG.

I entered the world of The BFG and his little friend, Sophie with a bubble of anticipation and joy in my heart combined with a smug, tiny feeling that was impossible to shake. There was no way Roald Dahl would let me down as an adult! I was hugely confident of that fact. However, I wasn’t prepared for how charmed and delighted I would feel re-visiting the world that Dahl has created. The author has a peculiar, unique sort of talent for writing stories that appeal to both children and adults alike and his free, easy way with words, classic humour and unforgettable characters makes for such a rewarding reading experience that it’s always a pleasure to sit down with one of his works, no matter what age it’s geared towards.

The BFG and Sophie, illustrated by Quentin Blake: an image lovingly entwined in my memory as the cover image from my first copy of the novel as a youngster.

Of course, I don’t think I can talk about the magic of Roald Dahl’s writing without mentioning the gorgeousness of the illustrations that accompany these great words by the fantastic, inimitable Quentin Blake. I adore the vivid, beautifully imaginative drawings that bring each character’s personality to life so vibrantly, it becomes impossible to think of a character such as The BFG without also thinking of those glorious, big-eared images too. Finally, who couldn’t fail to become enamoured by Dahl’s characters themselves – a humble, whizzpopping, big friendly giant who gets his words mixed up to hilarious effect but has a heart of pure gold and is devastated by the thought of hundreds of innocent “human beans,” being gobbled up every night! He and Sophie make the perfect team to rid the world of the blood-thirsty evil giants and I could read about their adventures for days on end.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

COMING UP IN MARCH ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson And The Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan.

Banned Books 2019 – FEBRUARY READ – Northern Lights/The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman

Published February 25, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

“Without this child, we shall all die.”

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the second banned book in our series for 2019! 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 the year:

MARCH: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding– Sarah S. Brannen

APRIL: We All Fall Down- Robert Cormier

MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

Northern Lights/The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman

First published: 1995

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)

Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence.

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

BETH:  Of course not. I’m one of those people who never experienced reading the His Dark Materials series as a child so I only came to it with an adult mentality. Either way, I think I would have had the same opinion. There is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned, ESPECIALLY for the reasons mentioned. As always, I tried to guess the reasons why this book, the first in the series, might have been difficult for some people to stomach and once again, I was completely wrong. I assumed that the fantasy/magical aspect might have offended a few people (even though children clearly love a good, imaginative narrative that doesn’t necessary have to be believable!).

CHRISSI:  I have to say no. It’s a load of poppycock. I have no idea why this book was challenged. Like Beth, I thought it might be about the fantasy elements, I know some of the parents of children at my school don’t like fantasy because of religious reasons and I wondered whether that could be it. No. Political viewpoint? Religious viewpoint? This confuses me.

How about now?

BETH: Northern Lights was challenged over ten years after it was published and to be honest, I’m struggling to see why if there were challenges from concerned readers, they didn’t appear prior to 2008? If anyone has any ideas, please do enlighten me! Additionally, it really does irritate me when the reasons for challenging a book point towards a political or religious viewpoint. Now, I’m not a particularly political or religious individual BUT I do like to learn about different attitudes/cultures and viewpoints and I very much enjoy it when there’s a difference of opinion to my own in a novel, unless I feel like I’m being preached to. Saying that however, I really didn’t think there was a strong viewpoint either political or religious in Northern Lights and I’m a bit confused as to where this reasoning has come from?

CHRISSI: I am utterly confused by the reasons for challenging this book. I didn’t think it had a particularly strong political or religious viewpoint. Even if it did, why does it matter? Why should it be banned? Shouldn’t we be allowed to make our own minds up? Shouldn’t we open our minds a little to other’s views?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really love His Dark Materials as a series but particularly this first novel, Northern Lights. Lyra is a wonderfully rich character who never fails to make me laugh, the world-building is imaginative and thought-provoking and I adored the adventure aspect of the entire novel. Plus, I absolutely love the idea of having a daemon companion as a unique part of your personality. I’d love to know what yours would be in the comment below if you’ve read this book? Mine would be a ring-tailed lemur!

CHRISSI: Ooh. This is a toughie. Whilst I appreciate that Philip Pullman is a talented writer and that this story is fabulously creative… there’s something about it that I don’t connect with. I have a disconnect with it and I can’t tell why. I usually like fantasy/magical reads but this one leaves me quite cold. I know I am in the minority with that. I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it! Oh and my daemon would definitely be a lop-eared rabbit.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

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

imagesCAF9JG4S

COMING UP IN MARCH ON BANNED BOOKS: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen.

 

The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo

Published February 20, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

man and walk among us…

In 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a mission: to find his dead master’s severed finger and reunite it with his body. Ren has forty-nine days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth forever.

Ji Lin, an apprentice dressmaker, moonlights as a dancehall girl to pay her mother’s debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir that leads her on a crooked, dark trail.

As time runs out for Ren’s mission, a series of unexplained deaths occur amid rumours of tigers who turn into men. In their journey to keep a promise and discover the truth, Ren and Ji Lin’s paths will cross in ways they will never forget.

Captivating and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores the rich world of servants and masters, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and unexpected love. Woven through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

What did I think?:

This review comes with an enormous thank you to the wonderful team at Quercus Books who hosted a blogger event just before Christmas where they were introducing a few exciting books coming out in 2019. I had an opportunity to snatch up a copy of The Night Tiger and even if the synopsis hadn’t given me goosebumps (which it did!) I would have been intrigued by that beautiful cover alone. I went into The Night Tiger having been familiar with the author’s work before after the beautiful journey that was her debut novel, The Ghost Bride but it had been a while since I experienced her writing style therefore this book came as a fantastic surprise. It instantly transported me into the world of 1930’s Malaya (now Malaysia) and possessed an edge of magical realism that had me entranced  with the plot development, variety of characters and the power of superstition and folklore.

Yangsze Choo, author of The Night Tiger.

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, particularly the kind that is set in a different culture and allows the reader to learn a little something about changing customs/beliefs through history that are perhaps quite unusual from their own. I’ve read a number of novels set in a similar location and time frame to The Night Tiger, just prior to the Second World War and I’m always concerned that I may tire of this particular era. However, I trusted enough in the originality of Yangsze Choo’s writing to bring something fresh and new to this period and without a doubt, that’s exactly what I got from this novel. Not only do we have a cast of stunning, interesting characters that you immediately want to know more about, but you have that fantastical element based on genuine superstitions that the populace had at that time regarding death and the importance of the body remaining whole when buried.

I adored the inclusion of the tiger in the novel who almost becomes a character in his own right. His ghostly presence is constantly used in the background to explain a series of suspicious deaths which are blamed upon a rogue tiger terrorising the community. Myth and superstition are rife and there is also a worry, especially in the minds of one of our young protagonists, that the deaths may be the result of a tortured soul able to return to our world and transform into an animal form until appeased, otherwise known as a “were tiger.”

Malaya in the 1930’s

Image from: https://specialcollections-blog.lib.cam.ac.uk/?p=10341

Everything came together in such a stunning way in The Night Tiger. The magical element of the narrative complimented the story perfectly and never felt over-done or unbelievable, helped by the fact that it was based on the actual superstitions of individuals living at that time, as I’ve mentioned. In addition to this, we have astounding characters like Ren and Ji Lin who both have their own compelling story arc and a captivating personal journey for both young people, which eventually leads to the amalgamation of their narratives and an incredibly satisfying resolution. The growth of our characters combined with what they learn about themselves and the other people they are close to is nothing short of enthralling and I loved the drama, mystery, suspense and creative nature of the entire story.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Book Tag – Books Beginning With W.I.N.T.E.R.

Published February 8, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Winter as part of my seasonal book tag. I was actually meant to do this tag in December but had a major blogging slump and had to postpone it for a little while but as we’ve had a little snow recently here in the UK, it finally seemed like the perfect time.

I came up with this idea after seeing one of my favourite book tubers, Lauren from Lauren And The Books do a video at Christmas. She took each letter of the word CHRISTMAS and presented a title from her bookshelves that began with that letter. I’m going to nab that great idea and today I will be taking each letter of the word SUMMER and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon.

Check out my books beginning with S.P.R.I.N.G. HERE my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R. HERE and my books beginning with A.U.T.U.M.N. HERE

So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

W

What’s it all about?:

Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.

When his master’s eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or “Titch,” is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.

He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Titch abandons everything to save him.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.

From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again–and asks the question, what is true freedom?

I was sent a copy of this book by my lovely blogging bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages when she was sent two copies. That beautiful synopsis really draws me in and I’m also intrigued as it was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize last year (2018).

I

What’s it all about?:

A supernatural superthriller from the author of Let the Right One In

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in.

This book was also a lovely gift from one of my blogger friends, Stuart from Always Trust In Books who I buddy read with on a regular basis. I’m sorry Stu, I still haven’t got to it yet but hopefully at some point this year! 😦

N

What’s it all about?:

DID YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THE NIGHT THE ESMOND FAMILY WERE MURDERED? 

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME and IN THE DARK comes the third pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked. 

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident.

I’ve been an avid fan of Cara Hunter since her first two books in this series, Close To Home and In The Dark. No Way Out is the third book in the series and it comes out later this month. I’m so excited to get to it and a big thank you to Penguin Random House for sending it my way!

T

What’s it all about?:

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

This is the second book in the Winternight trilogy and even though the third one is now out, the second one is STILL sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. Sigh! I must try and get to it this year.

E

What’s it all about?:

An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist 

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their story begins. It will be a love story but also a story about war and a world in crisis, about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow. Before too long, the time will come for Nadia and Saeed to leave their homeland. When the streets are no longer useable and all options are exhausted, this young couple will join the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . .

This is another one of those books that was nominated for the Man Booker prize back in 2017 and has been sitting on my shelves for quite some time! I’ve now heard mixed reviews since it was released and it has made me slightly wary of bumping it up my TBR. 

R

What’s it all about?:

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

Red Clocks will definitely be getting read this year – hooray! Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader and I have chosen it as one of our (many) buddy reads and so this WILL be happening at some point. I can’t wait. 

Here ends my Books Beginning With W.I.N.T.E.R! What I’d love to know from you guys is if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you’d like to do your own books of W.I.N.T.E.R. from your TBR, I’d love to see them so please feel free.

Hope you all have a cosy Winter (what’s left of it anyway)!

Love Beth xx