Mental health/illness

All posts tagged Mental health/illness

Talking About The Betrayals by Fiona Neill with Chrissi Reads

Published September 21, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When Rosie Rankin’s best friend has an affair with her husband, the consequences reverberate down through the lives of two families.

Relationships are torn apart. Friendships shattered. And childish innocence destroyed.

Her daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel when a letter arrives that opens up all the old wounds. Rosie’s teenage son Max blames himself for everything which happened that long hot summer. And her brittle ex-husband Nick has his own version of events.

As long-repressed memories bubble to the surface, the past has never seemed more present and the truth more murky.

Sometimes there are four sides to every story.

Who do you believe?

Told through the eyes of four members of the same family, The Betrayals takes an unflinching look at contemporary family life, explores the nature of memory and desire and asks whether some things can ever be forgiven.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Had you heard of the author before reading this book?
BETH: I have to be honest and say no, I hadn’t. Looking at the author’s back-list of books however, the cover of The Good Girl does ring a few bells so perhaps I had seen it around when it was released. I’m really pleased that Richard and Judy picked this book for their book club here in the UK as it’s definitely brought an author to my attention that I wasn’t really aware of before.
BETH: Were you aware while reading that some characters’ narratives were unreliable? If so, at what point did you start to realise this? Why do you think people mis-remember significant events?
CHRISSI: It took me a while to realise this. I think it was about half way through when I started to question every character. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I thought ‘Hmmm…’ but I started to become uncomfortable with some of the characters throughout the novel and as the intensity built. I think it’s interesting that people do mis-remember significant events. Perhaps we build things up in our memory or remember the parts of it that we want to, meaning that sometimes we mis-remember the parts we don’t want to remember fondly! Memory is such a strange thing to me. I can’t explain it!
CHRISSI: This is part thriller, part family drama. Explore the family relationships in the novel.
BETH: I loved the mixture of thriller and drama in this novel. Throughout it all, there’s this element of mystery and unreliable narrators (which I always adore!). The relationships are particularly fraught in this story for a variety of reasons but mainly due to the divorce between Rosie and Nick which affect both their children, Daisy and Max in different ways. Daisy and Max blame their father for what has happened and this affects their relationship with him in the present time and especially with his new fiancee, Lisa. There are so many other relationships to be explored in this novel though. We also have the relationship of Lisa with her children and her ex husband Barney which is very fragile and the relationship between the siblings and step-siblings which is difficult because of Daisy’s OCD and events that have happened between the four children in the past when Rosie and Nick were still a couple.
BETH: The strongest bond in this novel is the bond between Daisy and Max rather than between the children and their parents. Why do you think this is?
CHRISSI: I think Daisy and Max are always there for each other from their childhood. They had such a strong bond. Daisy became reliant on Max when she was completing her OCD rituals. Daisy and Max stick together despite their parent’s relationship falling apart around them. I saw Daisy and Max as a team, despite Max being frustrated by Daisy’s OCD. Max felt guilt for something he had done to Daisy and I think his guilt made him want to be there for her in later years.
CHRISSI: Discuss the portrayal of Daisy’s OCD in the novel.
BETH: It’s great to see any portrayal of mental health in novels and making sufferers feel that they are not alone is so vitally important. I am not a sufferer myself but I thought the OCD was portrayed really well and quite sensitively and it certainly made me feel more sympathetic to those people that have no choice but to live with the condition. It also taught me things I hadn’t been previously aware of like its effect on other people around the sufferer and how it can have knock on effects on health, memory etc.
BETH: Who betrays who in this novel? In your opinion which is the worst betrayal?
CHRISSI: Goodness, it’s more like who doesn’t betray in this novel! I’m actually torn between the worst betrayal. I hate when best friend’s betray, I hate when partner’s betray… basically none of it sits right with me. I actually found Nick’s betrayal to be the most heartbreaking. He lets down his wife and his children. 😦 Bad times!
CHRISSI: I found myself disappointed by the ending. Without spoilers, what did you make of the ending?
BETH: I think I texted you ARRRGH at the time of reading it? Yes, that’s exactly how I felt. I had thoroughly enjoyed the story from the very first page and perhaps my expectations were a bit high but I wasn’t entirely happy with how open ended and unresolved the ending felt to me. I understand that maybe the author wanted us to make up our own minds about what happens next and sometimes I love this in novels but in this story, it felt frustrating and I was desperate to know what happened next.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: I would! Even though I was SUPER frustrated by the ending. It had gripped me from the start and then I was annoyed by the unresolved, open ending. Others I’m sure would love it though!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Yes!
BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
 four-stars_0
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
 3-5-stars
Advertisements

Talking About Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land with Chrissi Reads

Published September 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: I started this book a bit before you and told you how disturbing it was. Did you agree with my initial impression? What were your first impressions?

BETH: It was quite funny in a way. You started reading it and then texted me just two words – “Woah dude.” Then I got to the exact same point in the book that you did and texted you exactly the same thing! I know we usually hate comparisons and like that a book should stand on its own but as you said to me, this was one of the most disturbing things I’ve read since Gone Girl, I think. Obviously I don’t want to go into too many details for fear of spoilers but this novel is a lot darker, a lot twistier and more warped than I could have ever expected. You would think I might be expecting this if you read the synopsis? No, I wasn’t prepared for how “wrong,” it was going to get.

BETH: What did you think of the character of Phoebe? Could you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: It’s an interesting question as Phoebe is such a complex character. I felt sorry for her because her home life was pretty horrific. Her mother didn’t have a great bond with her and she was feeling left out when Milly was getting a lot of attention from Phoebe’s parents. That can’t be nice. Especially when Phoebe’s mum gave Milly a gift that Phoebe thought was a precious thing between Phoebe and her mother. However, I didn’t feel comfortable with the bullying that Phoebe and her friends were inflicting upon Milly. Bullying should never be excused in my eyes!

CHRISSI: Ali Land is a Child and Adolescent Mental Health nurse – how do you think this affects the way she has written this novel?

BETH: I think it’s given her a perfect insight into mental illness in children, to be honest. She’s probably seen and experienced some things in her career and understands how a child may view a certain situation, what they might do and what kinds of emotions they might be experiencing as a result. Because of this, the novel came across as very authentic to me and as I mentioned before, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the directions the author took with the story.

BETH: Milly has to give evidence in a court in front of her mother – how do you think this was handled in the novel?

CHRISSI: I thought this was dealt with really well in the novel. Milly wanted to be there in court and this wasn’t disregarded because it was too tough for her. The adults around Milly seemed to listen to her. I also enjoyed how the court scenes were written. I loved how Milly’s mother’s presence was so strong in the novel. It was almost creepy. She felt like an incredibly evil character (what she did was awful!) and her little movements mentioned in the court scene made my skin crawl. I loved how the author made us feel her presence in court (despite Milly not physically seeing her) and how much Milly was aware of it.

CHRISSI: What does this story tell us about the question of nature vs nurture?

BETH: As a scientist (by day!) I probably could have a very scientific answer for you… 😝 but to be honest, I think the book explores both aspects. Is it the genes within us that programme us to be what we are and how we react to certain situations? Or is it the environment outside i.e. how we are brought up, who we interact with that determines our behaviour and actions. If I’m fair, poor Milly didn’t have much of a choice either way considering she was brought up with a serial killer for a mother. It’s how she responds when taken out of that situation however that gets very interesting.

BETH: How would you describe the relationship between Milly and her mother?

CHRISSI: In two words… incredibly unhealthy! I felt like Milly constantly struggled with the feelings towards her mother. It says it all really in the title ‘Good Me, Bad Me.’ Milly was so aware of what was right and wrong. She knew what her mother had done was wrong, yet she still felt a strong pull towards her, despite all of the awful things that had happened to her. Milly really was messed up by her mother and understandably so. Their relationship was toxic. Milly’s mother ‘training’ her daughter for such awful things…

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its heavily populated genre?

BETH: I was a huge fan of this book. I think it stands heads and shoulders above quite a few books in the genre. I don’t know if it’s the writing style, the subject matter or the fact that the author isn’t afraid to go to incredibly dark places but I loved what she did with the story and even though it made me feel intensely uncomfortable and disgusted it was an unforgettable reading experience.

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I really would! This is such a promising debut novel. I loved how Ali Land didn’t shy away from such an uncomfortable topic.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

Banned Books 2017 – AUGUST READ – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Published August 28, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the eighth banned book of 2017! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. If you would like to read along with us, here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

SEPTEMBER – Scary Stories – Alvin Schwartz

OCTOBER – ttyl – Lauren Myracle

NOVEMBER – The Color Of Earth – Kim Dong Hwa

DECEMBER – The Agony Of Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

But back to this month….

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

First published: 2007

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2012 (source)

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.

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

BETH: I always think of this book as a really recent release (maybe because of the series released on Netflix?) so I was really surprised when I saw that it had been originally published in 2007. Ten years is really not much time for attitudes to change in such a drastic way so my answers to this and the next question are going to be the same but I will go into some of the reasons why this book has been challenged/banned. Obviously, the drugs/alcohol/smoking thing does happen in the book but it’s never portrayed in a particularly “things to do that are cool,” way  and, to be honest, I think you’re going to be hard pressed to find a young adult book that doesn’t have an element of that lifestyle. Occasionally, I think it’s almost like a rite of passage that (some) teenagers have to go through to experiment/push boundaries and then decide that these things really aren’t for them. I certainly don’t see why this would be a good reason to challenge/ban the book.

CHRISSI: I read this book back in 2014, several years after it had been released. I had heard all of the hype around it and seen so many reviews of it around the blogosphere. So I knew before I read it that I was getting into quite a contentious read. I can understand why this book would be challenged as it has some particularly sensitive subject matter. However, should it be banned? In my opinion, no. There are television programmes that are contain much worse subject matter. Nearly every book for young adults contain ‘bad’ things as these are things that young people experience. I do understand that this book could be potentially triggering to some, but I believe it is a book that should be available. We should trust young people to make their own choices when it comes to reading a book like this. If literature is out there like this it starts a conversation. We need those conversations and young people to be able to feel like they can be heard and understood. 

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! I also feel the same way with the “sexually explicit” reason. There are a couple of horrific moments in the novel that make for uncomfortable reading and may pose a few trigger warnings for anybody particularly sensitive to those topics but again, it really isn’t done in a gratuitous fashion and isn’t really heavy on the intimate details so again, not a great reason for banning the book outright – perhaps a gentle warning on the cover would suffice? Finally there is the element of suicide which is the main and probably most shocking element of the novel. To be honest, I’m not sure what to say about this. It’s never going to be easy reading about a young person killing themselves and all the reasons why they did it but I don’t think this book in any way glamorises suicide. In fact, it may encourage suicidal teenagers to talk about how they are feeling with someone before they try to harm themselves if used in the right way.

CHRISSI: I feel the same way. This book does centre around suicide and I know that’s not a nice thing to read about. It does make for uncomfortable reading. The sexually explicit content is also uncomfortable to read, but it’s not something that I think authors should avoid. As I said before, conversations need to be had. I personally don’t think that the author glamorised suicide.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really enjoyed this book. I had already heard mixed opinions about it from my sister and when I read the novel I could completely see where she was coming from. Hannah’s voice didn’t come across in the best way at times and I really wasn’t sure about her method of using tapes to tell people why she killed herself. However, then Chrissi watched the Netflix series and urged me to do the same. I watched the first episode earlier and thought it was pretty great (I understand there’s been a lot of controversy around this series too but as I said, I’ve only watched the first episode so far!). I think it’s like most hard-hitting books really. In the hands of more sensitive people who have issues with the topics discussed it might not be advisable but in the right hands, I think it could also help a lot of people too.

CHRISSI: I actually enjoyed this book more the second time reading it. I remember having some issues with Hannah’s voice when I read it the first time. She frustrated me a lot and I wanted her to do more for herself. I still had the same issue with Hannah’s voice, but I felt I could understand Hannah more this time around. I think over time I have come to understand mental health more. I think the Netflix series is absolutely fantastic. I know they changed some parts of the book, but I really appreciated how it was handled. It was uncomfortable viewing, just like the book is uncomfortable reading. As I’ve mentioned throughout this post though, both the book and the TV series are encouraging conversations and that’s what is vitally important to me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Join us again on the last Monday of September when we will be talking about Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz.

Highly Illogical Behaviour – John Corey Whaley

Published August 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sixteen year old Solomon has agoraphobia. He hasn’t left his house in three years, which is fine by him. At home, he is the master of his own kingdom–even if his kingdom doesn’t extend outside of the house.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to go to a top tier psychiatry program. She’ll do anything to get in.

When Lisa finds out about Solomon’s solitary existence, she comes up with a plan sure to net her a scholarship: befriend Solomon. Treat his condition. And write a paper on her findings. To earn Solomon’s trust, Lisa begins letting him into her life, introducing him to her boyfriend Clark, and telling him her secrets. Soon, Solomon begins to open up and expand his universe. But all three teens have grown uncomfortably close, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse as well.

What did I think?:

I was given this YA novel a while ago now when I attended a Faber event with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads. Thank you so much to Faber for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review and apologies I’m only now getting round to reading it. In fact, the only question on my mind when I finished this book was why on earth did it take me so long to read it?! I remember being really excited about it when it was advertised at the event especially when I read the synopsis but then stupid life got in the way and it slipped off my radar. I’m here to tell you now though that John Corey Whaley is an amazing talent in the world of young adult fiction and I’ll certainly be catching up with the previous two books that he has written.

There are a few main characters in Highly Illogical Behaviour but our main focus is on Solomon, sixteen years old and severely agoraphobic, to the extent where he can no longer leave his house after a particularly nasty breakdown at his school a few years back. Lisa went to Solomon’s school and remembers the incident quite vividly but she wasn’t friends with Solomon at the time. She is desperate to get into a good psychology programme at college and is required to write an essay about her experience with mental illness which will give her the chance of a scholarship. She decides to make Solomon her new project and along with her boyfriend Clark, attempts to be-friend Solomon, break down his walls and set him along the road to recovery – or to a point where he can leave the house, at least.

Highly Illogical Behaviour follows Solomon’s struggles as we learn about what life is like for him on a daily basis, particularly when he goes through one of his traumatic panic attacks. We also see the blossoming friendship between the three teenagers and how it changes Solomon for the better, brings him out of his shell and gives him hope for the future. However, we also see the dangers of not telling the full truth and what that can do to a person who is already highly vulnerable.

This has everything you would want from a good young adult novel. It’s diverse, touching on race and LGBT issues not to mention mental health and the importance of friendships and family. I adored Solomon as a character and really sympathised with the trials he had to go through every day just to try and function and have a normal life. Lisa and Clark too were wonderful additions to the plot and even though Lisa had an ulterior motive initially in acquiring Solomon’s friendship, she goes through a huge growth of her own as a character throughout the story which was lovely to read about. It’s quite short as novels go, just 250 pages but I think that was the perfect length for the author to say what he wanted to say, in just the right way and he made an admirable job of it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon with Chrissi Reads

Published March 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

29757982

What’s it all about?:

A new Sunday Times bestseller from Bryony Gordon, Telegraph columnist and author of the bestselling The Wrong Knickers. For readers who enjoyed Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and Ruby Wax’s Sane New World, Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

‘I loved it. A brilliant fast and funny and frank look at something that absolutely needs to be talked about in this way’ Matt Haig

Bryony Gordon has OCD.

It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humor, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What do you make of the cover, its subtitle and the title? I find it interesting that this particular cover is yellow!

BETH: Well, I had to actually pick your brain on this one as you had a lot more insights than me, haha! So the title and subtitle is Mad Girl – A Happy Life With A Mixed-Up Mind and is bright yellow. The colour yellow is notoriously quite a cheery and happy cover which is ironic considering the subject matter, a woman talking about her OCD, depression and other mental health issues. The cover immediately attracted me because of the bright cover and the suggestion that although OCD and depression are far from a barrel of laughs (I should know!) the author would take us on a journey with some dark points but some light, funny moments along the way. Mental health is not funny on any level but making light of certain experiences can give other people the bravery to face their own demons and be better equipped to deal with their problems. It certainly felt that way to me and I got a lot out of this book.

BETH: How did you feel that anxiety and depression was portrayed in Bryony’s story?

CHRISSI: Hmm… good question. I liked how there were some lighter, funnier moments within the story. I think that Bryony Gordon mixed humour in really well. But I also appreciated the moments where there were darker points to her story. It’s not sunshine and showers and it’s certainly not something to be laughed at, but in making some light jokes on the situation, Bryony is showing the reader that she’s human too and is going through a constant battle. I know for many sufferers, if not all, mental illness will always be present. It’s how you battle it that matters/

CHRISSI: Mad Girl talks about some difficult issues. Discuss how Bryony Gordon mixes humour with her descriptions of darker emotions and situations.

BETH: As I rambled on about in my previous answer (maybe I should start reading questions ahead of typing?!) Bryony deals with some very difficult issues in her book. There are eating disorders, emotional abuse, addiction… to name a few. However, it never felt too much as there was always a note of humour to make even the darker situations easier to read and experience. I felt like I had scarily so much in common with Bryony and I tend to use humour as a defence mechanism myself to deal with horrible stuff. It just made me warm to her more to be perfectly honest.

BETH: Mad Girl is described as a celebration of life with mental illness. Do you think this came across in the author’s writing?

CHRISSI: I do feel like Mad Girl does celebrate Bryony’s life with a mental illness. Despite everything that Bryony goes through, she still comes across as someone that’s enjoying her life in the main part and is desperate to not let the mental illness dictate how she lives her life. That’s inspiring!

CHRISSI: Was the humour ever too much?

BETH: For me personally, no it wasn’t. I think some of the things she talked about, especially when she talked about her first serious relationship could have really got to me and put me back into quite a dark place. However, when I felt close to feeling that way, I felt the situation in my head was defused by a hilarious line that made me smile (or laugh out loud…sorry fellow train passengers!) that cheered me up and got me out of my own head again. Without that I think it would have been too much.

BETH: You’re not normally a fan of non-fiction. How much did you enjoy this book compared to other non-fiction you’ve read?

CHRISSI: Indeed, I’m not a fan of non-fiction. However, I enjoy reading non-fiction books when they centre around a subject I’m interested in or a subject close to my heart, which in this case, is Mad Girl. I am a ‘mad girl.’ There’s an awful lot I could relate to in this book, so it didn’t feel like I was being bogged down with information. It felt like I was chatting to a friend.

CHRISSI: What do you feel you have gained from reading this book?

BETH: The knowledge that I’m not the only weirdo in the village?! No, seriously I loved reading about Bryony’s life and as I mentioned before, felt I had an awful lot in common with her. You look at other people and the success they’ve had, especially if they’ve had a lot to deal with in their past and present (and probably future) and I’m in awe of what she’s achieved. It makes me hopeful for my own future. I also think it’s so so important to talk about mental health issues and your thoughts and feelings out there so people can realise they are definitely not on their own.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I enjoyed her writing style and humour!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

Banned Books 2017 – FEBRUARY READ – The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time – Mark Haddon

Published February 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

bannedbooks

3437

What’s it all about?:

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.

bannedbooks

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

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

MARCH – Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

APRIL –  Habibi – Craig Thompson

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

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

JULY – The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

AUGUST – Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

SEPTEMBER – Scary Stories – Alvin Schwartz

OCTOBER – ttyl – Lauren Myracle

NOVEMBER – The Color Of Earth – Kim Dong Hwa

DECEMBER – The Agony Of Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

But back to this month….

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon

First published: 2003

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

Reasons: offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”)

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

BETH: First of all, I can’t believe that this book is now fourteen years old! That blows my mind. Chrissi and I read it not long after it had first come out and it’s one of those books that we’ve both kept on our favourite shelves, such was the impact it had on us. Things haven’t changed that much in the last fourteen years so my opinion is going to be the same for the first two questions. (We may be a little biased also because it is one of our favourite books!) Only one of the reasons I can accept as being an accurate reflection of what is in the book but that is not to say that I necessarily agree with it.

This is the offensive language reason which, although I don’t think it’s particularly over-used in the novel but I admit there are several instances of swearing and even one instance of the “c” word which may offend some people and fair enough. You are entitled to be offended by foul language – that is your prerogative. However, I don’t see bad language as a reason to ban/challenge a book outright as I don’t think you can shield children from things they are more than likely to hear in the playground/on television/in the streets if they don’t read it in books.

CHRISSI: Fourteen years old. That’s crazy! I still remember reading it for the first time and being really impressed. On my re-read I was just as impressed. To be honest, I can see why it might be challenged due to profanity, but that’s not to say I don’t agree with it. Some children are exposed to profanity in their every day lives and I don’t think challenging a book because of that is the right thing to do. I can almost guarantee that this book wouldn’t be the first time children had heard bad language. Would I read it in the classroom? No. But it still deserves to be in the library just waiting to be explored.

How about now?

BETH: Same answer – I don’t agree with the reasons for banning/challenging this book. Particularly those that wax on about a religious viewpoint/atheism. Personally, I love learning about beliefs from all over the globe from a variety of different people and I really can’t remember an instance in this book where I felt like the character’s religious views were shoved down my throat. I’ve read books before that fall into the “preachy” line and was immediately put off however this was unequivocally NOT this kind of book. As for it being inappropriate for the age group (young adult) – seriously what was so appalling that a well-adjusted or even not so well adjusted teenager should be protected from this book??

CHRISSI: Again, I wouldn’t personally use it in the classroom with teenagers (if I taught teenagers!) but I’d highly recommend it to them to read as an independent choice. Yes, there’s bad language, but as I mentioned before they’ll hear it anyway. I teach a boy with Asperger’s and I could recognise so many qualities in our main protagonist. I believe that many people with autism could find something special in this book. Those that don’t, can get an insight into what life is like for those with ASD.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Well, this is pretty obvious I guess….I loved it! I’m always worried when reading an old favourite that I won’t enjoy it as much as I did previously however this definitely wasn’t the case. In fact, I feel I got even more from the book than I did on the first reading and especially loved the additional illustrations and maths problems that broke up the text and gave us a real insight into the mind of Christopher. It is so important that conditions such as Asperger’s are highlighted and I think a book like this could really help anyone with it or those who know someone with it. For me, it was an education and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

CHRISSI: I really enjoyed rediscovering this book. As I mentioned, I have experience with children on both ends of the spectrum and it reminded me how difficult life can be for them. It made me feel super proud of their day-to-day achievements.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

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

imagesCAF9JG4S

Join us again on the last Monday of March when we will be discussing Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

 

Blog Tour – A Boy Made Of Blocks – Keith Stuart

Published January 18, 2017 by bibliobeth

30326408

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did I think?:

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

keith_stuart_2015_copyright_ashley_bird_horizontal-2

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

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

On Twitter at: @keefstuart

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

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

blog_tour3