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Mini Pin-It Reviews #11 – Four Author Requests

Published July 29, 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 author requests for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

Huge thank you to all the authors for providing me with copies of their books – I really appreciate it.

1.) To Sea – Michael LoCurto

What’s it all about?:

The sea is dead—fishless—and Long Island fisherman Jon Brand is to blame. With his greed of overfishing for years—he is surely the cause of the current famine. According to Jon Brand, that is. Elea, Jon’s wife, sees things differently. An oceans-worth of famine cannot be pinned down on one man alone. And she wishes Jon would man-up and find work inland if the sea can no longer provide for the family. But Jon has faith in the sea. His sea. And he cannot simply turn his back on Her. To Sea explores numerous beaches spanning across the Island where Jon seeks the answers of his fate—of his dry ocean—of his God. But the sea is silent. Time after time. Visit after visit. And with each trip to a differing shoreline passing, Jon finds himself closer and closer to a life changing revelation: To land, or, to sea.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) The Little Black Dress – Linda Palund

What’s it all about?:

The brutal murder of a beautiful girl in a little black dress sparks our teenage heroine’s quest to find the killers. But what was the secret of the little black dress? Why did the gorgeous Carmen wear that dress to school every single day?
Her best friend Lucy is determined to solve the riddle of “the little black dress” as well as solve Carmen’s murder. She risks her life and the lives of her friends in her search to find the savage killers.
The setting is West LA, an area of privilege, where wealth rules under sunny skies.
This is a short novel, but it has everything in it, sex, drugs, gruesome murders and even a ghost.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) The Girl With The Blue Umbrella – Heather Awad

What’s it all about?:

This is the author’s first collection of poetry. In her poems, she incites the mind with crisp and prose-like descriptions. She has a craft for peering into the human spirit and capturing it in moving depictions. Along with touching the heart, she will make you smile with just the right amount of whimsy to keep it moving and light. This is a poetry collection for anyone who has been intimidated by poetry. Its uncomplicated, crystal-clear imagery will change your mind about poetry forever. It’s poetry for the poet in us all.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

4.) Necropolis – Guy Portman

What’s it all about?:

Dyson Devereux works in the Burials and Cemeteries department in his local council. Dyson is intelligent, incisive and informed. He is also a sociopath. Dyson’s contempt for the bureaucracy and banality of his workplace provides ample refuge for his mordant wit. But the prevalence of Essex Cherubs adorning the headstones of Newton New Cemetery is starting to get on his nerves.

When an opportunity presents itself will Dyson seize his chance and find freedom, or is his destiny to be a life of toil in Burials and Cemeteries?

Brutal, bleak and darkly comical, Necropolis is a savage indictment of the politically correct, health and safety obsessed world in which we live.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Random Books.

Banned Books 2016 – JULY READ – A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

Published July 25, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva all get mixed up with a senior boy-a cool, slick, sexy boy who can talk them into doing almost anything he wants. In a blur of high school hormones and personal doubt, each girl struggles with how much to give up and what ultimately to keep for herself. How do girls handle themselves? How much can a boy get away with? And in the end, who comes out on top? A bad boy may always be a bad boy. But this bad boy is about to meet three girls who won’t back down.

bannedbooks

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our seventh banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

AUGUST – Bless Me Ultima- Rudolfo Anaya

SEPTEMBER – Bone- Jeff Smith

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

First published: 2006

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit

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

BETH: Like many of the other novels in our series of frequently challenged/banned books this year, this is a fairly recent release and I don’t believe too much has changed in our attitudes to books (either for the worse or the better) in the past ten years. This is one of those books where I can see why people may have had problems with it, mainly due to the sexual content. In that way, I can’t really see it being taught in schools (I can imagine a few red faces, including the teachers!) but I see no reason why it can’t be stocked in a school library for teenagers to read on their own time as I do feel it has some important messages.

CHRISSI: I was surprised at how recent this book was. I don’t know why, but I thought it had an ‘older’ feel to it. As I was reading the book, I realised that it wouldn’t be a great classroom read. It is indeed, sexually explicit. That’s not to say that I don’t think it should be available to teens. I do. As Beth says, it would be great to be stocked in the library. Sadly, I don’t see that likely to happen in many school libraries due to its content.

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! I probably don’t agree with ALL of the reasons for challenging this book to be honest and as I mentioned, I do believe it’s important for teenagers to have access to it but I can’t remember any instances of offensive language or references to drugs. Everything mentioned in this novel I feel is part of a normal, curious adolescence and will be things that teenagers are likely to come across during this period in their lives. Wrapping them up in cotton wool and shielding them from the cold, hard facts of life I feel will do more damage than good in the long run.

CHRISSI:  As I said, I can see why this book wouldn’t be used in the classroom. However, I think it’s an accurate representation of adolescence and certainly think it should be available for teenagers. I think all too often teenagers are shielded from this kind of read and there’s no reason for that!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: There were lots of things to like about this book. Firstly, it’s a very quick read, partially because the entirety of the novel is written in prose which makes it both interesting and easy to whizz through – I think I finished it in about an hour? We get to hear three teenage girls points of view when they meet, date and in some cases sleep with the notorious “bad boy” of the school and how this affects them emotionally as a result when he gets the only thing he really wants from their relationships – sex. I think it’s really important for teenage girls struggling with new, very adult emotions and who may be feeling particularly vulnerable to reassure them that they are not alone and that they don’t have to do anything that they may not feel ready for.

CHRISSI: I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t expect to whizz through it as much as I did. It helps that the book is in prose as it really picks up the pace of the book. It’s one of those where I kept thinking ‘just one more snippet’ and before I knew it I was finished. I don’t think it’s an overly memorable read, but I think it’ll be relatable to so many teens!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!
CHRISSI: Yes!

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

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Join us again on the last Monday of August when we will be discussing Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya.

 

 

Banned Books #11 What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones with Chrissi Reads‏

Published May 25, 2015 by bibliobeth

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170529

What’s it all about?:

My name is Sophie.
This book is about me.
It tells
the heart-stoppingly riveting story
of my first love.
And also of my second.
And, okay, my third love, too.

It’s not that I’m boy crazy.
It’s just that even though
I’m almost fifteen
it’s like
my mind
and my body
and my heart
just don’t seem to be able to agree
on anything.

bannedbooks

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our fifth book of 2015 and the eleventh book in our series of Banned/Challenged Books. 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. This is what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2015 – the post will go out on the last Monday of each month so if you’d like to read along with us, you are more than welcome.

JUNE

Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Chosen by : Beth

JULY

Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds

Chosen by : Chrissi

AUGUST

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Chosen by : Beth

SEPTEMBER

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Chosen by: Chrissi

OCTOBER

Forever by Judy Blume

Chosen by : Beth

NOVEMBER

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Chosen by : Chrissi

DECEMBER

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Chosen by: Beth

But back to this month….

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Somes

First published: 2001
 
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2011
Chosen by: Chrissi
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

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

BETH: Okay so we are on to our eleventh of the Banned Books in our series and this is one of the books where I really cannot understand why on earth it was challenged/banned. To me, it was very inoffensive and captured the teenage girl struggling with her raging emotions perfectly. Looking at the reasons for why it was banned I still don’t have a clue. I can’t recall any instance of nudity (perhaps there was but it was so mild I glossed over it) and don’t feel it was sexually explicit in the slightest.

CHRISSI: Not one tiny bit. It is ridiculous that this book has been challenged/banned. I was expecting to find something really offensive, but I certainly don’t think there was anything. There was a little bit of cheeky teenage behaviour but it was so mild that it barely even registered! So no!

How about now?

BETH: This book was published fairly recently (2001) and I don’t think things have changed drastically since then so again, no I don’t see any reasons for it being challenged. Sophie is a typical teenager whose feelings are all over the place now she has discovered the wonder of boys. Trying to understand and work through those feelings I think is very important for teenagers today and I think this book speaks to them on a level they understand and can work with. Perhaps it is aimed more towards the female of the species and goes into quite a lot of detail about kissing but it’s a beautiful and unique take on first love.

CHRISSI: Not at all. It should be definitely promoted to teens in my eyes, because I think it’s a beautiful look at love from a teenager’s point of view. It was so easy to read and I think even those that aren’t keen on reading would get something from this book, and that’s totally what it should be promoting!

What did you think of this book?

BETH: I was surprised about how much I enjoyed this book actually. It’s presented in verse, which we also saw in Banned Book #9 Crank by Ellen Hopkins. I’m not sure exactly why, but I preferred this books style of writing compared to Crank which felt a bit disjointed at times. It sent me right back to being a teenager and how it felt when I thought I was in love. The author has captured the teenage voice amazingly and I think it will speak to many kids today.

CHRISSI: When Beth told me that this book was in verse, I have to admit, I was a little worried. I didn’t enjoy Crank which was in verse too, as much as I wanted to. However, this book had a totally different vibe to it and I very much enjoyed reading it. I flew through it in one sitting. I agree with Beth that the teenage voice has been captured wonderfully. This book is a perfect read for teenagers in love!

Would you recommend it?

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

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

four-stars_0

Please join us again on the last Monday of June where we will be discussing my choice of banned book Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

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Banned Books #9 Crank by Ellen Hopkins with Chrissi Reads

Published March 30, 2015 by bibliobeth

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270730

What’s it all about?:

In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the “monster,” the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or “crank.” Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne’er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: “there is no perfect daughter, / no gifted high school junior, / no Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree.” Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won’t, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank.

bannedbooks

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our third book of 2015 and the ninth book in our series of Banned/Challenged Books. 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. This is what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2015 – the post will go out on the last Monday of each month so if you’d like to read along with us, you are more than welcome.

APRIL

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Chosen by : Beth

MAY

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

Chosen by : Chrissi

JUNE

Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Chosen by : Beth

JULY

Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds

Chosen by : Chrissi

AUGUST

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Chosen by : Beth

SEPTEMBER

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Chosen by: Chrissi

OCTOBER

Forever by Judy Blume

Chosen by : Beth

NOVEMBER

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Chosen by : Chrissi

DECEMBER

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Chosen by: Beth

But back to this month….

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

First published: 2001
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2010 (source)
Chosen by: Chrissi
Reason: drugs, offensive language and sexually explicit

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

BETH: This book was unlike anything I’ve ever read before and to be honest, I could understand the reasons for it being challenged when published in 2001. I admit that I am vehemently anti-drugs and although I agree whole-heartedly that there should be more education about what is out there, at points it felt like the more pleasurable parts of taking drugs was focused on. However, I thought the way it was written was incredibly unique and teaching it in a classroom could be interesting and quite challenging!

CHRISSI: Yes. I understand why this book was challenged when it was published. I’m also anti-drugs like Beth, and at some points in the book I felt incredibly uncomfortable with how it was being represented. It is SO important that there is a good level of education about the consequences of drugs, but I don’t feel like it was represented in the best way, despite it being such a unique read. I think it would take a very brave teacher to use this book in the classroom, but good on them if they do!

How about now?

BETH: Even though the book was published only fourteen years ago, I think teenagers nowadays are a lot more clued up then we give them credit for and may know a lot of facts in the novel already. Saying that, I think we do need a lot more education about the real dangers of drugs to counteract any false information or hearsay that kids have picked up from their peers. The book is written in verse and some parts were very beautiful but also very dark. I can’t imagine it being taught in classrooms but it might be a good book for teenagers to pick up outside of school hours and learn for themselves.

CHRISSI: This is a very dark book, and I do think, as Beth says, there is a lot more knowledge about drugs in the present day. Perhaps teenagers would love to explore this book. It would certainly be a challenge but could very well be worthwhile if tackled in such a way that teenagers really consider the dangers of drug use. So, to answer the question…if it is going to be used well then yes, I’d say it’s worth exploring. It just needs to be considered if the teenagers in question are mature enough to handle it.

What did you think of this book?

BETH: As I mentioned before, it’s a unique read and one I won’t forget for a while. I learned a lot that I wasn’t aware of previously (I didn’t realise I was so naive when it came to drugs, obviously I’m glad I am!). What really makes it unforgettable is that it’s based on a true story which really made it come alive for me.

CHRISSI: It was okay. It’s not something that I’d usually read and I found it quite heavy going in parts. It was unique and took a while for me to get used to, but I’m so glad I read it.

Would you recommend it?

BETH: Probably – to get a message out there!

CHRISSI: If used wisely..yes!

 

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
 3 Star Rating Clip Art
Please join us on the last Monday of April when we will be discussing my Banned Book choice, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.
bannedbooks

The Comedy of Errors – William Shakespeare

Published September 15, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Comedy of Errors tells the story of two sets of identical twins that were accidentally separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, arrive in Ephesus, which just so happens to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. On encountering the friends and families of their twins, a series of wild mishaps ensues, based on mistaken identities, leading to wrongful beatings, a near-seduction, the arrest of Antipholus of Ephesus, and false accusations of infidelity, theft, madness and even demonic posssession. This play has been popular on the stage during the last three centuries and has proved itself admirable suited to adaptation as pure farce and musical spectacle.

What did I think?:

I have to admit, I was slightly wary before approaching this play. I haven’t studied any Shakespeare for a long while, and I feared not being able to understand most of it! I needn’t have worried though, as it proved to be immensely readable, and I think I just about kept up with the gist of the tale. So, in a nutshell, we have two sets of identical twins, all separated at birth and ignorant of the other’s existences. It is also particularly unlucky that they have the same names i.e. we have two Antipholus’ and two Dromio’s – you can almost anticipate the carnage that occurs when the two sets of twins meet.

This is one of Shakespeare’s earliest and shortest plays, some arguing that it is his very first, and has been performed on the stage to great acclaim. As with all other Shakespeare plays that I have come across, the writing is poetic and lyrical, with a dash of humour and a dollop of word play. And I have to say, I think Shakespearian insults are amongst the finest around:

“Why pratest thou to thyself and answer’st not? Dromio, thou drone, thou snail, thou slug, thou sot!”

There were so many problems of mistaken identity in this play that it was often hard to keep up, but I can imagine it coming across very well on the stage, and it is certainly true that these plays were written for the sole purpose of being acted out, not merely read. In general, I found it a short but pleasant enough read that shows all the promise and talent that Shakespeare had as a writer.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Walking Home – Simon Armitage

Published August 31, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In summer 2010 Simon Armitage decided to walk the Pennine Way. The challenging 256-mile route is usually approached from south to north, from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm, the other side of the Scottish border. He resolved to tackle it the other way round: through beautiful and bleak terrain, across lonely fells and into the howling wind, he would be walking home, towards the Yorkshire village where he was born.

Travelling as a ‘modern troubadour’ without a penny in his pocket, he stopped along the way to give poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms. His audiences varied from the passionate to the indifferent, and his readings were accompanied by the clacking of pool balls, the drumming of rain and the bleating of sheep.

“Walking Home” describes this extraordinary, yet ordinary, journey. It’s a story about Britain’s remote and overlooked interior – the wildness of its landscape and the generosity of the locals who sustained him on his journey. It’s about facing emotional and physical challenges, and sometimes overcoming them. It’s nature writing, but with people at its heart. Contemplative, moving and droll, it is a unique narrative from one of our most beloved writers.

What did I think?:

I’m not familiar with Simon Armitage’s work, but I was drawn to this book when my favourite book shop Waterstones recommended it as a good read, and I was curious about the epic journey he had undertaken, something I would love to do myself, but don’t know if I would have the strength or the determination it requires. It certainly is an awe-inspiring journey, the Pennine Trail is described as being 268 miles along (from the National Trail website) from the Peak District through the Yorkshire Dales and over Hadrian’s Wall to the Cheviots. It is sometimes described as “the backbone of England” and encompasses the most beautiful parts of England’s countryside with changeable and unpredictable weather, as Simon Armitage was to find out. The Ramblers Association describes it as “one of Britain’s best known and toughest” walks.

On the whole, I enjoyed Simon’s tale, and appreciated the descriptive way in which he described some aspects of his journey i.e. his surroundings, local landmarks passed along the way, the evocative language probably helped along by his profession as a poet. There was even an occasional slice of dry humour which made me smile, and interesting tidbits to absorb like the following:

“After the poems, the conversation turns firstly to the dangers posed to walkers by horseflies, or ‘clegs’ as they are sometimes known, which can bite even through heavy fabric and are only dissuaded by Avon Skin So Soft, the repellent of choice not only with foresters and trawlermen but also with British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, apparently.”

Definitely something to remember if you’re caught in the middle of a horsefly invasion I think. I’ve been bit by one of those little blighters before, and it wasn’t particularly pleasant at all!

I loved the fact that the author completed this journey with no funds except what he could make at poetry readings along the way (earnings were taken in an old sock), and his self-depracating and humble mannerisms made me warm to him as a person. It was nice to get a glimpse into his “other life” as a poet with the occasional poem he made up along the way, and certainly sparked my interest about his other works. After some “googling” I have discovered that he was awarded a CBE in 2010 for his services to poetry, and more recently in 2012 he was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Definitely worth a closer look, I think!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Possession – A.S. Byatt

Published July 2, 2013 by bibliobeth

Possession

What’s it all about?:

Winner of the 1990 Man Booker prize, Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.

What did I think?:

When I first started reading this novel, I really wasn’t sure but I was told to stick with it and I’m so glad I did, it really sucked me in. It is the tale of Roland and Maud, who study the poets Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte respectively(both poets are fictionalised by the author). On finding a forgotten and intriguing letter penned by Ash in a library book, Roland cannot contain his excitement that it could shed new light on the poet and change literary history. Roland meets Maud Bailey, who is actually a descendant of LaMotte, and the two uncover a multitude of love letters between the two poets. It turns out that Ash and LaMotte had a passionate love affair (Ash already having a wife, Ellen), and by re-tracing their steps and reading their letters they discover a beautiful story and hidden secrets.

Warning – if you don’t like poetry you’re probably not going to get on well with this book, there are a lot of verses. I think that was probably what impressed me most about this novel, not only that Byatt imagined these two poets, but that she constructed their poems herself, verses which can only be described as accomplished and magnificent. The way that we learn about the love between Ash and LaMotte is through the same way that Roland and Maud discover it – through reading the letters, biographies, journal entries, fairy tales and deciphering the poems, and is in my opinion, a unique way to tell a story. Not only that, but Byatt writes in a multitude of voices and styles, for the numerous characters present in this book and their differing personalitites. This book was definitely a worthy winner of the Man Booker prize, and I’m still stumped at how the hell she did it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0