Classics

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Book Tag – Shelfie By Shelfie #12

Published October 10, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image edited from: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame image created by Jannoon028 – Freepik.com</a>

Hi everyone and welcome to a brand new tag – Shelfie by Shelfie that I was inspired to create late one night when I couldn’t sleep. If you want to join in, you share a picture (or “shelfie”) of one of your shelves i.e. favourites, TBR, however you like to organise them, and then answer ten questions that are based around that particular shelf. I have quite a large collection and am going to do every single bookshelf which comprises both my huge TBR and the books I’ve read and kept but please, don’t feel obliged to do every shelf yourself if you fancy doing this tag. I’d love to see anything and just a snapshot of your collection would be terrific and I’m sure, really interesting for other people to see!

Here are the other Shelfies I’ve done: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  7 8 9 10 and 11.

Anyway – on with the tag, it’s time for the first shelf of my second bookshelf and we’re looking at the bottom part of the image i.e. not the top shelf with the monkey bookends (which was covered in Shelfie by Shelfie 11!).

And here are the questions!:

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Like the top shelf, some of these books are mine but most of them are Mr B’s. He’s read through a lot of these titles but is determined to keep them even if there’s no chance he’ll read them again in the future. Well, with my book collection I can’t really complain, can I?! 😀

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

Ahhh, I do have a special book on this shelf. It’s one of the very first books I bought Mr B when our relationship had just started and it’s because he’s a big fan of the Perry Bible Fellowship cartoons by Nicholas Gurewitch. The book is called The Trial Of Colonel Sweeto And Other Stories and is a collection of some of his best comic strips. I actually emailed the author to ask if there was a collection available so I could buy it for Mr B and he sent me the loveliest email back. For this reason I’ll always treasure this book a little bit. I’ll just slot in an example of one of my favourite cartoons – beware, they’re slightly mature so perhaps not appropriate for very young readers!

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

Sadly, that would have to be NW by Zadie Smith. I’ve tried a few of Zadie Smith’s books now and I don’t know what it is but I just don’t get on with her writing style. I can appreciate she’s a good writer of course but something just doesn’t gel with me. Mr B is a bit more of a fan so the only reason this is still on my shelves is that he still has to read it.

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

It would be Lord Of The Flies by William Golding. It’s one of my favourite classics and I need to save it from this shelf anyway as it should be on my favourites shelf – oopsie!

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

Hmmm. *goes off to take a closer look.* Okay, I think that would be Teach Yourself Complete Italian (part of the Teach Yourself range). Mr B bought it for me just before we visited Rome (and Italy) for the very first time. I had all good intentions of starting to teach myself as I’m slightly obsessed with Italy but for some reason, have just never got around to it!

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

I think that would be Waiting For Doggo by Mark Mills. I believe I won this one in a Goodreads giveaway and still haven’t had the chance to get round to reading it yet. I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read it yourself?

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

In The Light Of What We See by Sarah Painter. I keep looking at this book and meaning to put it on my TBR and…you’ve guessed it, it keeps getting pushed further and further back.

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There’s a few objects on this shelf that I’ve removed so you can see the books a bit better but the item I’ll talk to you about is this little creature here:

Mr B and I picked up this strange, grinning skull as a souvenir from a well needed holiday to Mexico in April. We don’t normally buy souvenirs on holiday but there was something about this skull that we both loved and we were both determined to have it!

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

I know you’re probably a bit worried now you’ve seen the skull and the cartoon book…… BUT hopefully it says that I’m a reader of many tastes, even if they venture to the odd and quirky.

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

I won’t tag anyone but if anyone wants to do this tag, I’d be delighted and I’d love to see your shelfie.

For other Shelfie by Shelfies round the blogosphere, please see:

Chrissi @ Chrissi Reads FAVOURITES shelfie HERE and her Shelfie by Shelfie 2 HERE.

Sarah @ The Aroma Of Books Shelfie 1A, 1B, 1C 1D and 1E

Dee @ Dees Rad Reads And Reviews Shelfie HERE

Jacquie @ Rattle The Stars Shelfie HERE

Stuart @ Always Trust In Books Shelfie #1 HERE and #2 HERE.

Jennifer @ Tar Heel Reader Shelfie #1, 2, 3, 4  5, 6, and 7

Paula @ Book Jotter Shelfie #1 HERE.

Gretchen @ Thoughts Become Words Shelfie HERE.

Kathy @ Pages Below The Vaulted Sky Shelfie by Shelfie #1 HERE.

Jenn, Eden and Caitlynn @ Thrice Read Share A Shelfie HERE.

Nicki @ Secret Library Book Blog Shelfie by Shelfie HERE.

CJ @ Random Melon Reads Shelfie by Shelfie HERE.

Thank you so much to Chrissi, Sarah, Dee, Jacquie, Stuart, Jennifer, Paula, Gretchen, Kathy, Jenn, Eden, Caitlynn, Nicki and CJ for participating in Shelfie by Shelfie, it really means the world to me. Hugs!

If you’ve done this tag or you’re one of the people above and I’ve missed out one of your shelfies please let me know and I’d be happy to add you to Shelfie by Shelfies round the blogosphere!

COMING SOON on bibliobeth : Shelfie by Shelfie #13

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Banned Books 2018 – JUNE READ – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published June 25, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Now more than ever: Aldous Huxley’s enduring “masterpiece … one of the most prophetic dystopian works of the 20th century” ( Wall Street Journal ) must be read and understood by anyone concerned with preserving the human spirit in the face of our “brave new world”

Aldous Huxley’s profoundly important classic of world literature, Brave New World is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order–all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls. “A genius [who] who spent his life decrying the onward march of the Machine” (The New Yorker), Huxley was a man of incomparable talents: equally an artist, a spiritual seeker, and one of history’s keenest observers of human nature and civilization. Brave New World, his masterpiece, has enthralled and terrified millions of readers, and retains its urgent relevance to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying work of literature. Written in the shadow of the rise of fascism during the 1930s, Brave New World likewise speaks to a 21st-century world dominated by mass-entertainment, technology, medicine and pharmaceuticals, the arts of persuasion, and the hidden influence of elites.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the sixth banned book in our series for 2018! 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:

JULY: Julie Of The Wolves -Jean Craighead George
AUGUST: I Am Jazz– Jessica Herthel
SEPTEMBER: Taming The Star Runner– S.E. Hinton
OCTOBER: Beloved -Toni Morrison
NOVEMBER: King & King -Linda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My Life– Charise Mericle Harper
For now, back to this month:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

First published: 1932

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2010 (source)

Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit.

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’m so, so surprised that this book was only put on the ALA Banned & Challenged Books List in 2010! Not because I believe it should be banned or challenged, not at all. But Brave New World is counted as quite the classic and is one of the oldest books we’ve read and reviewed, being published in 1932 so I’m wondering if there were so many issues with it, why wasn’t it put on the list earlier? Food for thought. Anyway, I’ve already mentioned that I love trying to figure out the reasons why a book might be problematic (for some) before looking at the reasons and I’m always, ALWAYS surprised by the reasons they end up listing. For example, in Brave New World, they worship Henry Ford (founder of the Ford car company) as their God and in one particular scene at the end, suggest that the people who worshipped Jesus/God in the past were delusional. Aha, I thought! One of the reasons for this book being challenged is that it is anti-religion! Nope. That’s not a reason.

Instead, as with many of the books we’ve looked at so far, the reasons just make me laugh. Even thinking about back in the thirties, I’m struggling to figure out how this story could have been insensitive or offend anyone with the language. Unless they’re considering the whole growing embryos in bottles thing? Or deliberately depriving said embryos of certain vital materials i.e. oxygen to make them a lower class of people? Which of course makes for horrendous reading but at the end of the day, it is just a story and if you’re particularly sensitive to that sort of thing, you just put the book down, right?

CHRISSI: I can’t believe that it wasn’t banned earlier as well. I’ve known about it forever, even though I hadn’t read it earlier.  It was always one that I had known as a controversial read. Some of the reasons do make me roll my eyes. However, I can see that this book would make people uncomfortable. I certainly felt that way with this book.

How about now?

BETH: It’s quite frightening to think that nowadays we live in such a scientifically advanced age that things like this could be possible. Aldous Huxley has chosen a controversial and insightful topic to base his novel around and the culture and world he describes is horrifying of course! Yet when you mention reasons as racism or being sexually explicit as reasons for taking it out of people’s hands, I just don’t get it. The lower classes in Brave New World are treated disgustingly and this made for quite an uncomfortable reading experience at times but I think the author is deliberately trying to push our buttons and realise what living in a world like this could be like. And with the sexual explicitness? I roll my eyes. Our female lead removes her underwear by unzipping it. Saucy! Also, the people living in this world have quite open sexual relationships with a number of partners. Okay. BUT there is no graphic mention of sexual acts at all (which counts as sexually explicit in my opinion). So just by mentioning the word “sex,” it’s too graphic? Please!

CHRISSI: I think there’s much more explicit content out there. I think Aldous Huxley was totally pushing the boundaries, especially the time in which he wrote this book. As I mentioned before, this book made me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps because, as Beth mentioned, things like this could potentially happen now. That scares me.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  Brave New World is a re-read for me and I seem to get something different out of it every time I read it. The part with the embryos and the way they are modified depending on the social class they are in is horrible and I’m always moved when I read it. This time around, I did find some parts a bit slower and hard to digest but generally, this is a fascinating classic that I think everyone should be exposed to at some point in their lives.

CHRISSI: I feel like I recommended this book because it was a book I ‘had’ to read rather than wanted to read. I felt like it was a hard, heavy-going read that didn’t grip me. I just couldn’t get excited by it. I hate not liking a classic like this but it didn’t work for me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

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Coming up in the last Monday of July on Banned Books: we review Julie Of The Wolves by Jean Craighead George.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Published April 29, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’

A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.

What did I think?:

I realised a little while ago that I’ve got so many books on my shelves/current TBR that the books on my favourites shelves are getting a bit neglected as I tend to prioritise new releases over books I’ve read before – I guess as most book bloggers tend to do. As an adult I’m primarily a “one book only” sort of girl which is strange as I remember so clearly being eleven years old, at boarding school in Scotland and staying with my Gran during the half-term. My parents lived in Germany as my dad was in the army so I could only see them at the end of term but I loved staying with my Gran. I registered at the local library where she lives and to my delight, I realised I could take out up to SIX books with my current library card. Of course, me being me I took out the whole six book allowance and because I didn’t think I’d have time to read all six before I went back to school, I used to read a couple of chapters of one and then switch to another one (and so on right through the six books). That way, every book got a chance and I got a new, exciting story every few chapters. THERE IS A POINT TO THIS STORY, I PROMISE.

If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter you may have seen this post of my shelves. I can’t even fit them all in!

Anyway, I realised if I reverted back to my child-like habits and read more than one book at a time, it would be a great way to get through my massive TBR and (here is the point….) re-visit some of those old favourites that I’ve never read more than once. My new plan over the last six months has been to combine my current “main” read with a non-fiction book and then one on my favourites shelf. I’ll be reading three books at a time which isn’t as ambitious as my eleven year old past self was (haha) and I think the combination of non-fiction with an old favourite (where I’m well aware of the plot and characters) will mean I don’t mix up the books too much, which was a concern of mine.

This could actually be me. Yes it could. But it’s not. (YET!)

After all that nonsense and unnecessary drivel I’m here to tell you about one of my favourite books, To Kill A Mockingbird which has now become a classic and is taught now in many schools at GCSE level here in the UK. I guess a big concern of mine was that I’ve changed a lot in the last ten years and my tastes may have too, ergo maybe it wouldn’t be a favourite anymore? No worries on that account. This novel was just as powerful, just as poignant and just as gorgeously written as I remembered. If you haven’t read it yet (where have you BEEN, go read it immediately!), it’s the tale of  Jean Louise “Scout” and Jem Finch, brother and sister in the hot summers of the 1930’s in the Deep South. They have a beautifully close relationship and enjoy playing with each other and the boy next door, Dill. Their new favourite game is to frighten and dare each other in an attempt to make the local mysterious hermit-like Arthur “Boo” Radley to engage with them. As well as this, the children have their first experience of prejudice, racism and terrifying attitudes and behavour when their father, lawyer Atticus Finch is tasked with defending a black man accused of raping a local white girl.

Gregory Peck playing Atticus Finch in the 1962 film directed by Robert Mulligan.

I think that’s all I want to say about the plot as I’m sure you’re all aware of it. This is just such a delightful novel that I’m so glad I had the experience of re-reading. All I could think of as I was reading it was the 1995 song by the Boo Radleys“Wake Up Boo,” which I loved as a teenager and had running through my head as I finished each chapter. To Kill A Mockingbird is illuminating in its intensity and every moment of it felt so nostalgic for me. One of the best things I’ve realised about re-reading a favourite is that you often forget huge portions of the narrative and this was definitely true with this novel. Oh my goodness, the part when Scout and Jem rush to the local jail where Tom Robinson is being held whilst an angry mob threatens Atticus and the part where Scout dresses up as a giant ham for the Halloween pageant and the events that occur after that….no major spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read it of course! I think what makes this novel so special is that it has moments that really warm your heart and then it deals with such difficult issues that at times, my skin crawled with disgust.

The Boo Radleys – to listen to “Wake Up Boo,” visit this link HERE.

And the characters! Please let me take just a moment to show my appreciation for independent, tomboy, dress-hating, determined Scout who captured my attention immediately and who I still continued to think about as a strong female lead, even without reading the book for a number of years! Then there is the beautiful man that is Atticus Finch, the ultimate father figure, who loves his children unconditionally, is brave and not afraid to stand up for what he believes in and is the most wonderful role model, adviser and parent that any child could wish for. I couldn’t have asked for anything better from this re-read, it will be staying on my shelves as a confirmed favourite, in fact it actually surpassed my expectations. When I originally read it, I gave it four stars on Goodreads. I wonder if you can guess what I’m giving it now?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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18 Books I’d Like To Read In 2018

Published February 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and welcome to a bit of a different post on my blog. I’ve already made some Bookish Goals/Resolutions for the year but I also made a little promise to myself that I would do a random post every month that I have been inspired to participate in from seeing it either on booktube or from a fellow blogger. A lot of the booktubers that I follow have been posting videos about 18 books they would like to read in 2018 and I thought I’d join in with the fun. So, without any further ado, here are the 18 books I’d like to get to this year!

1.) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Jane Eyre is tied for one of my all time favourite classics (with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen). My mum got me a beautiful clothbound classic for my birthday a couple of years ago and I’m definitely due a re-read so I’m excited to read it in this beautiful edition.

2.) The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I’ve read a few John Boyne books now and loved every one of them. I’m really trying hard not to buy hardbacks at the moment but when I read Renee’s @ It’s Book Talk review of it HERE, I bought it immediately. I’m actually reading this very soon as it’s part of the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club 2018 and I’m beyond excited.

3.) The Wisdom Of Psychopaths – Kevin Dutton

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a non-fiction book that I think does pretty much what it says on the tin. The reason I want to read it this year is that it’s been on my “to read soon,” shelf for too blinking long now. This needs to happen.

4.) Stasi Wolf – David Young

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I went to see David Young talk about this first novel in this series, Stasi Child at Guildford Library last year and was determined to read the second book in the series. Of course, life and other books got in the way but I’m going to make it one of my priorities this year.

5.) Midwinter – Fiona Melrose

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Midwinter was long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction last year and I always love to read some of the nominees for this fantastic prize, I find such interesting books are picked. This book got a lot higher on my list after I watched a video from one of my favourite book tubers Simon from Savidge Reads who loved this book and sold it to me incredibly well!

6.) The Rest Of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Patrick Ness is one of my favourite authors and I am shamefully behind with his books. That’s a good enough reason for me! I hope to get to his most recent book, Release as well but we’ll see how I get on.

7.) Everything But The Truth – Gillian McAllister

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is another one of those books that I heard rave reviews about last year and just didn’t get round to reading. I will this year!

8.) End Of Watch – Stephen King

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a no brainer for regular visitors to my blog. End Of Watch is the third novel in the Bill Hodges/Mr Mercedes trilogy and I’m really excited to see how the story ends. It left on quite the cliffhanger in the second book, Finders Keepers.

9.) Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King and Owen King

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Oh look another Stephen King book! This is Stephen King’s latest release that he wrote with his son, Owen and this cover does not do justice to how beautiful the book is in real life. My boyfriend bought me a copy to cheer me up after a rough year as I was trying to wait for it to come out in paperback. It’s a chunky beast but I’m so glad and grateful he got it for me, now I can read it even sooner!

10.) Charlotte Bronte – Claire Harman

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a non-fiction account of the life of Charlotte Bronte (as I mentioned before, Jane Eyre is one of my all time favourite classics/books). I have been neglecting my non fiction recently and this is another present from my wonderful boyfriend albeit a couple of years ago – oops. This is why I need to get to it this year!

11.) English Animals – Laura Kaye

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I had been aware of English Animals last year and the cover is obviously stunning but it was only after watching book tubers Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings and Lauren from Lauren And The Books give glowing reviews for this novel that I knew I had to make time for it this year.

12.) Her Husband’s Lover – Julia Crouch

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I met Julia Crouch at a bookish event a little while ago and she kindly signed my copy of this book and was lovely to talk to. I gave this book originally to my sister to read as she’s a big Julia Crouch fan but now I’m determined to read it for myself, especially after seeing Chrissi’s wonderful review.

13.) The House In Smyrna – Tatiana Salem Levy

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Confession time. This is a review copy that the lovely people at Scribe were kind enough to send me that I thought I had lost and have found recently. I remember why I was so excited to read it when it arrived and I’m definitely going to be checking it out soon.

14.) Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is another non-fiction book that I’ve had on my shelf for a long, long time and I keep meaning to read it but keep getting distracted by other books. It promises to change the way you look at eating meat so I’m intrigued. My boyfriend and sister are vegetarians but I still love the taste of meat…even if I feel very guilty about doing so!

15.) The Man Who Died – Antti Tuomainen

Why do I want to read it this year?:

My lovely blogger friend Stuart from Always Trust In Books sent me some wonderful books and I loved the sound of all of them but I’m especially intrigued by this one, just read his review to see why.

16.) We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Yes, it’s been on my shelves for ages. Sigh! It won a host of awards and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. Plus, I think my sister is quite keen to read it so I need to get started so I can pass it on to her!

17.) The Death House – Sarah Pinborough

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I can’t even remember buying this book (hangs head in shame) but re-reading the synopsis right now and hearing great things about this author from other bloggers I know that I need to start reading some Sarah Pinborough. As I already have this book this seems the perfect place to start.

18.) Miss Jane – Brad Watson

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I bought this book on the London Bookshop Crawl in Oxford last year which I went to with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. Of course I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover so it was that I have to admit that initially attracted me. However, the synopsis cemented the deal and I couldn’t resist buying it.

So that’s the 18 books I’d like to read in 2018! I’d love to hear from you guys, have you read any of these books? If you have, what did you think? What books would you recommend I get to sooner rather than later this year? If any other bloggers fancy doing (or have done) their 18 books to read in 2018 please leave your link down below, I’d love to check out what you really want to read this year.

Banned Books #15 – Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Published September 28, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world.

Drifters in search of work, George and his simple minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy becomes a victim of his own strength.

Tackling universal themes and giving a voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved to be one of Steinbeck’s most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.

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Welcome to our ninth book of 2015 and the fifteenth 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.

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….

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Chosen by: Chrissi

First published: 1937

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2004 (source)

Reasons: offensive language, racism, violence.

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

BETH: This is very difficult. The book was published a while ago (1937) which means attitudes were quite different to nowadays. In terms of offensive language, I don’t think there is anything particularly offensive to warrant the book being challenged but agree that there is racism and violence. I don’t think these particular reasons should lead to a book being banned however as long as it is geared towards an age-appropriate audience. Of course any type of racism or violence is abhorrent and uncalled for but in a book such as this it can be explained by the attitudes during that time (while still being wrong!) if that makes sense.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I think it’s really difficult to judge. I can see why it can be a contentious subject as it includes racism, but I think it’s a book to be studied and discussed. Luckily, in the UK it is quite widely read in English Literature with 15-16 year olds. There is so much to be discussed in this book, and that can be achieved with a open dialogue between teachers and students. I hope that more secondary/high school teachers are taking this book on, because it’s incredibly educative.

How about now?

BETH: Especially not now! I did hate that Crooks, the only black man in the group was discriminated against and laughed about but with the right teacher and, as I mentioned, an age-appropriate audience, it could be a very interesting lesson in history about how the world is changing while still remembering there is some work to do. I don’t think children (or anyone) should be shielded or protected from tough issues represented in literature. We need to learn from our mistakes and try to prevent the younger generation from making similar ones.

CHRISSI: It should not be banned right now. As I said before, I know it’s studied in a lot of secondary schools in the UK and I hope it’s being studied more worldwide. It’s educative, important, and as Beth says is a lesson on how we’ve moved on from such racism, but we still have a way to go.

What did you think of this book?

BETH: I loved this book so much! Strangely for me, I’d never read it before and when Chrissi chose it as one of our banned books for the year I was very excited to finally see what all the fuss was about. I really tried hard to steer clear of any spoilers before I started it and was pleasantly surprised and shocked when I finished reading! This is easily one of my favourite classics now and is such a short read it is quite possible to read in a day.

CHRISSI: As I read this book, I remembered hearing it at school. It was definitely a different reading experience this time round. I took a lot more away from it. I didn’t have the most inspiring English teacher and she just read it out to us, not really engaging with the material.

Would you recommend it?

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s personal star rating:

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Join us again on the last Monday of October where we will be discussing my choice of Banned Book – Forever by Judy Blume.

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The Turn Of The Screw – Henry James

Published December 6, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories ’round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don’t know what she’s talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children’s uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers.

What did I think?:

The Turn Of The Screw was originally published in 1898 and can be described as “a gothic ghost story novella.” The author, Henry James, an American-born author was at the forefront of writing “different” novels in this period where he explored interior monologue, unreliable narrators and consciousness. He is probably best known for this novella and for his novel The Portrait Of A Lady, which I am yet to read. This tale opens on a group of friends who are sharing ghost stories one evening and The Turn Of The Screw is one of the stories which is offered up by a gentleman who promises to chill and delight the group. The story is narrated from the point of view of our main character, a young woman who is taking up the post of a governess to look after two children in a secluded country home. She is interviewed by the uncle who takes responsibility (but not TOO much responsibility, he enjoys his life in London too much for that!) for his nephew and niece, Miles and Flora after the death of their parents.

The governess is quite taken with her employer and is excited, albeit a little anxious to take up her new role. On meeting the children however, it seems she has nothing to worry about. Miles and Flora are angelic, adorable and affectionate children who immediately put the governess at ease as she begins to relax into her position. But of course, all is not as it seems, and strange things begin happening within the property. Miles returns home earlier than expected, expelled from his school with a letter from his headmaster stating that fact. Unfortunately, he will not talk about the reason behind his expulsion and the governess who finds herself utterly charmed by the boy, lets the matter lie. Then she begins to see two strange presences who keep appearing and disappearing in different places in the property. The children claim not to see them when questioned, however the governess begins to find it hard to believe them and incidents occur that leave her wondering if they are quite so angelic as they seem. Who are the spirits and what are their purposes? Is there real “evil” in the house or even in the children? Or is everything a complete figment of the governess’ imagination? The author has us wondering right until the end of the story – which is also completely ambiguous, leaving the reader to make up their own mind.

I was very excited going into this story, having heard it hailed as one of the best (and scariest) ghost stories of all time. Apologies to anyone who loves this book, but I was bitterly disappointed. Sure, there were a couple of eerie moments and I think Henry James drew the reader in with some fascinating characterisation of the children, but I’ve read scarier and better (The Woman In Black by Susan Hill, for example). I found the opening of the story, where friends are telling each other thrilling tales very dull and the entire way through it felt like I was just waiting for it to get better. The rating I have given it is based on the strength of the writing and beauty of the vocabulary alone, I’m afraid The Turn In The Screw just wasn’t for me. This may be because I had already over-hyped it in my own mind, or perhaps I didn’t appreciate the subtle nuances of the tale enough. If you agree or disagree with me, let me know! It’s definitely a good book for discussion if nothing else.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit 2014 – NOVEMBER READ – White Fang by Jack London

Published November 30, 2014 by bibliobeth

White Fang

What’s it all about?:

In the desolate, frozen wilds of northwest Canada, White Fang, a part dog, part wolf cub soon finds himself the sole survivor of a litter of five. In his lonely world, he soon learned to follow the harsh law of the North- kill or be killed.
But nothing in his young life prepared him for the cruelty of the bully Beauty Smith, who buys White Fang from his Indian master and turns him into a vicious killer- a pit dog forced to fight for money.
Will White Fang ever know the kindness of a gentle master or will he die a fierce deadly killer?
A classic adventure novel detailing the savagery of life in the northern wilds. Its central character is a ferocious and magnificent creature, through whose experiences we feel the harsh rhythms and patterns of wilderness life among animals and men.

What did I think?:

I was really pleased that Chrissi and I chose White Fang as one of our Kid-Lit reads for this year, I remember loving the book as a young teenager and also enjoying the film that was made. I had a bit of a fear of wolves when I was younger and it’s safe to say that this definitely went some way to easing those frightened feelings. As the novel begins, we are transported to the desolate wild landscape of North West Canada where two friends, Bill and Henry and their sled of dogs are being chased and hunted by a pack of wolves. The author writes the scenes so vividly that you can almost sense the freezing temperatures and the savagery of the land that the two men are travelling through. They attempt to keep the cold (and wolves) at bay by means of a fire when they camp at night, but each morning they wake to find they are another dog down – taken by the pack of wolves that just seem to be getting hungrier. One wolf in particular, a she-wolf, is particularly obtrusive and shows little fear of the humans, leading the men to suspect that she has had dealings with people before. This is in fact, White Fang’s mother.

Only a small portion of White Fang’s early life is spent in the wild, although he learns enough to know what to hunt and who to avoid, for example a prickly porcupine! A group of Indian settlers end up taking the two wolves in, and it is obvious that his mother has spent time with these people before. Sadly, they are separated but White Fang quickly begins to understand the rules of this little world he inhabits. His human masters are “gods,” and have the power to recriminate him with blows if he steps out of line. He must also find his space in the pecking order of dogs which involves a lot of brawls with puppies that torment him with the knowledge that he is not like them. It’s survival of the fittest and asserting your place within the pack and White Fang soon learns that it’s fight or be fought.

Unfortunately, things can only get worse for White Fang. A man called Beauty Smith buys White Fang from his Indian master Grey Beaver, sensing potential and smelling the opportunity to make some money as he observes the wolf’s aggression, stamina and thirst for a fight. Beauty is a despicable human being who uses dogs in blood sports, pitting them against each other while men make bets on which dog will win in a fight. Indeed, he’s stepped on a goldmine with White Fang, who proceeds to win every fight he is entered in, becoming increasingly bloodthirsty, vicious and vengeful. And if he doesn’t perform to Beauty’s standards? Well, he’s clubbed to within an inch of his life, of course, so the wolf begins to associate the white “gods” with punishment and pain.

Something changes in White Fang’s next fight however – he is pitted against a bulldog whom for once, he can’t seem to bring down. A man called Weedon Scott is observing the fight and is disgusted to see how the wolf is treated. Intervening, he forcibly removes White Fang from the fight and his terrible owner and attempts to nurse the wolf back to health, the last fight having left him struggling for life. While the wolf recovers, Scott valiantly tries to win his trust, teaching him that not all white men will cause him pain. This has always been one of my favourite parts of the book, as a confused White Fang receives some much needed love and tenderness into his life and reciprocates love and loyalty in return.

Re-reading this book as an adult, I was delighted to discover that I loved it just as much as I did years ago. My heart still goes out to White Fang as he undergoes so much cruelty then is saved from near death by the hero of the story, Weedon Scott. The transformation in White Fang when he is cared for properly by Scott is amazing and when the wolf steps in to defend his master and all his “possessions,” it still almost brings me to tears. The beautiful writing by Jack London immediately transports you to White Fang’s world and I was sorry when the story ended. This is a timeless classic that I really hope a new generation takes to their heart the way I have taken it to mine.

For Chrissi’s take on White Fang, please see her review HERE

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0