Young adult fiction

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April 2018 – NetGalley/ARC Month (and my first buddy reads!)

Published April 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Chrissi Cupboard Month where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (and that’s a lot!). Then there’s Real Book Month where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves (also a LOT!) Finally, there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (A LOT!) April is going to be one of the latter months and here’s what I’m looking forward to getting to this month:

The Curse Of Time (Bloodstone #1) – M.J. Mallon (with kind thanks to the author)

What’s it all about?:

Fifteen-year-old Amelina Scott lives in Cambridge with her dysfunctional family, a mysterious black cat, and an unusual girl who’s imprisoned within the mirrors located in her house. When an unexpected message arrives inviting her to visit the Crystal Cottage, she sets off on a forbidden pathway where she encounters Ryder, a charismatic, but perplexing stranger.

With the help of a magical paint set, and some crystal wizard stones she discovers the truth about a shocking curse that has destroyed her family’s happiness.

Drift Stumble Fall – M. Jonathan Lee (with kind thanks to the publisher, Hideaway Fall)

What’s it all about?:

The author of five novels, M Jonathan Lee is a tireless mental health awareness campaigner, working closely with organisations including Mind, Time to Change and Rethink and blogs regularly for Huffington Post. Having personally experienced anxiety and depression during his life, Jonathan draws on his experiences to inform his writing.

Richard feels trapped in his hectic life of commitment and responsibility. From the daily mayhem of having young children, an exhausted wife and pushy in-laws who frequently outstay their welcome, Richards existence fills him with panic and resentment. The only place he can escape the dark cloud descending upon him is the bathroom, where he hides for hours on end, door locked, wondering how on earth he can escape.

Often staring out of his window, Richard enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, his neighbour living in the bungalow across the road. From the outside, Bills world appears filled with comfort and peace. Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss of both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined. Beneath the surface, a family tragedy has left Bill frozen in time and unable to move on. As he waits for a daughter who may never return, Bill watches Richards bustling family life and yearns for the joy it brings. As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other peoples lives are not always what they seem.

Savages: The Saint-Etienne Quartet Volume 1: The Wedding – Sabri Louatah (with kind thanks to Corsair publishers)

What’s it all about?:

A Saturday in May. Paris.

It’s the eve of the French presidential elections – ‘The Election of the Century’ say the newspaper headlines – and Chaouch, the nation’s first Arab candidate, has victory in his sights. It has been a long campaign, and with his wife Esther and daughter Jasmine by his side, he spends the remaining hours with close advisors in a hotel in Nimes. Much of the dinner table chatter revolves around Jasmine’s boyfriend; Fouad Nerrouche, a well-known actor with the same Algerian origins as her father, who has just publicly endorsed Chaouch’s candidacy. However shallow it may seem, it’s difficult to ignore the influence of celebrity support in this complex and unpredictable race . . .

The same day. Saint-Etienne.

The Nerrouche family is frantically preparing for a grand wedding, and Fouad himself is there to help out. But younger cousin Krim – who has recently lost his job – is becoming increasingly agitated, and no one knows why. As the day goes on, it becomes clear that the cousin’s problems go far deeper than unemployment. Krim has been stealing from a local gang leader and after being discovered, found himself indebted to his powerful cousin, Nazir – Fouad’s brother. Nazir is a very shady figure, and is heavily involved in a dark underworld of crime. Together, their plans will cause Fouad’s two very different worlds to meet in a way no one would have dared to imagine. Within a few hours, the threads start to unravel, and the collision between the destiny of a family and the hopes of a country becomes inevitable.

With the pacing of a thriller, Louatah melds the tense atmosphere of a family saga with the gripping suspense of a political drama into one breathtaking read.

The Two O’Clock Boy – Mark Hill (with kind thanks to Sphere Publishers, via NetGalley)

What’s it all about?:

TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS…ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE…ONE BECAME A KILLER…

One night changed their lives
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Cries in the fire and smoke
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried …until today.

A truth both must hide
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

Discover the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake – the perfect new addiction for fans of Luther.

Happily – Chauncey Rogers (with kind thanks to the author)

What’s it all about?:

If the shoe fits, wear it.
If it doesn’t, 
make it.

Laure is a teenage street urchin just trying to get away. Where the rest of the world sees an enchanting love story, Laure sees royal incompetence and an opportunity to exploit it. She’ll have wealth and a way out of a life she detests, if she can only manage to hoodwink the royal family and survive to tell the tale.

The Resurrection Of Mary Mabel McTavish – Allan Stratton (with kind thanks to Dundurn Publishers)

What’s it all about?:

It’s the Great Depression and Mary Mabel McTavish is suicidal. A drudge at the Bentwhistle Academy for Young Ladies (aka Wealthy Juvenile Delinquents), she is at London General Hospital when little Timmy Beeford is carried into emergency and pronounced dead. He was electrocuted at an evangelical road show when the metal cross on top of the revival tent was struck by lightning. Believing she’s guided by her late mother, Mary Mabel lays on hands. Timmy promptly resurrects.

William Randolph Hearst gets wind of the story and soon the Miracle Maid is rocketing from the Canadian backwoods to ’30s Hollywood. Jack Warner, J. Edgar Hoover, and the Rockettes round out a cast of Ponzi promoters, Bolshevik hoboes, and double-dealing social climbers in a fast-paced tale that satirizes the religious right, media manipulation, celebrity, and greed.

My Sweet Friend – H.A. Leuschel (with kind thanks to the author)

What’s it all about?:

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

So that’s most of what I’ll be reading in April. If you’ve followed me for a while, you will know that I will also be reading my banned book and my kid lit for the month (both challenges that I carry out with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads) and anything else I manage to squish in will count as part of my Mount TBR Challenge 2018. Luckily, I can also use quite a few of the titles on this April TBR as I received them before January of this year. Oops.

This month I’m also very excited as not only will I be collaborating with my sister as usual but for the first time, I’ll be doing buddy reads with the lovely Janel from Keeper Of Pages and Stuart from Always Trust In Books. They are both fantastic bloggers and you’re probably following them already but if you don’t, you totally should they’re amazing. I keep up with both of their sites on an (almost) daily basis and I hugely admire both of them. With Janel, I am continuing my love affair with Stephen King’s son by reading The Fireman by Joe Hill and Stuart and I are going to tackle the young adult book Scythe by Neal Shusterman which I’ve heard some terrific things about. Hopefully this can be the start of many more buddy reads, I really am very excited about it!

Finally, I have to mention that I’m going on holiday for two weeks from Wednesday April 11th so apologies if I’m slow to share your posts or comment on them (or indeed, reply to my own comments if you’re kind enough to leave me some!). I’m going to attempt to schedule some posts written in advance but probably won’t be able to get enough for one to go out every day of the two weeks so posts might be a bit erratic for now until the end of April! I’m not taking my laptop but hey, the hotel has Wi-Fi so I’m sure I’ll be able to keep up with what everyone else is posting.

Anyway, hope everyone has a wonderful reading month and I’ll speak to you all soon.

Love Beth xx

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Banned Books 2018 – MARCH READ – Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Published March 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

An exciting, eye-catching repackage of acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers’ bestselling paperbacks, to coincide with the publication of SUNRISE OVER FALLUJA in hardcover.

A coming-of-age tale for young adults set in the trenches of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, this is the story of Perry, a Harlem teenager who volunteers for the service when his dream of attending college falls through. Sent to the front lines, Perry and his platoon come face-to-face with the Vietcong and the real horror of warfare. But violence and death aren’t the only hardships. As Perry struggles to find virtue in himself and his comrades, he questions why black troops are given the most dangerous assignments, and why the U.S. is there at all.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the third 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:

APRIL: Saga Volume 3 -Brian K.Vaughan and Fiona Staples
MAY: Blood And Chocolate -Annette Curtis Klause
JUNE: Brave New World-Aldous Huxley
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:

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

First published: 1983

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2001  (source)

Reasons: offensive language

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

BETH:  I’ve mentioned before how I like to go into our banned books completely blind about what the reason for challenging/banning it were and I always like to try and guess why people might not have deemed it appropriate. Well, when I looked at the reason for Fallen Angels being banned in 2001 (still can’t believe that was 17 years ago!!) I had to rub my eyes and look again to see if they’d missed anything. Yup, just offensive language. I have to admit, yes there was a tiny little bit of bad language in this book. It didn’t offend me however and it seemed realistic given the traumatic circumstances that the soldiers found themselves in at times. I’m going to draw from personal experience now and tell you about this lovely older lady I used to work with. Instead of swearing, she would substitute the word for a plant beginning with the same letter. For example, I’ll use the relatively tame: “Damn!” Instead of “Damn!,” she used to say, “Dandelions!” It used to make me smile, bless her heart. Anyway (and there is a point to this little tale) I can’t really imagine very young soldiers i.e. seventeen/eighteen year old getting in a horrific mess and saying “Oh, Fuschia!” or “Buttercup!!”

It felt real to me anyway and the utterances of “bad words,” was so few and far between that to be honest, I barely noticed it. I don’t personally make a habit of swearing on my blog, I know that some people would be offended by it and I would hate to offend anyone but I really do think teenagers/children hear worse things out on the streets/at school/on television than anything written in this book.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I don’t really read up on the reasons why a book has been challenged. I just read it for myself and then try and work out if I knew why it was challenged. I did think the reason this book was challenged was because of the violence and racism casually littered into the story. Offensive language? Teenagers (and unfortunately younger children) hear much worse in their family homes/media/from their peers/music!

How about now?

BETH: As there’s only one reason why this book was challenged/banned, I want to just touch on reasons that I was surprised didn’t come up. We’ve been doing this Banned Books feature for a little while now and a lot of times, the theme of violence, overt sexuality or racism comes up as a reason for the book being thought inappropriate (by some!). Now there was less sexuality (although quite a bit of homophobia) but there was quite a lot of casual racism in Fallen Angels and definitely A LOT of violence. I mean, it’s set around a group of young soldiers in the Vietnam War so if you were expecting anything different, you’d be sorely wrong. As this book was mostly war and soldiers getting injured/dying, I have to say I was really surprised that this didn’t come up as a reason for challenging it? Not that I’m complaining, I don’t agree with banning any books of course, but if you were going to choose a reason…..CONFUSED.

CHRISSI: I’m confused too. I really didn’t think the swearing was that bad. I’ve read a lot worse language in some books. Of course, this book was about soldiers in Vietnam so there was bound to be violence, but I thought that was going to be the reasoning behind it. I’m genuinely baffled as to why the subject matter wasn’t questioned. If you’re going to challenge a book, challenge it for something more substantial than language. Pfft.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  Unfortunately, I didn’t get on with this book too well. Some of the scenes are incredibly powerful, especially when Perry and his friends are in the midst of fighting and generally, I find war horrifying anyway so it was always going to be quite an emotive read. However, I just felt like I wanted a bit more character development. I didn’t feel like we got to know any of the boys as well as we could have done if they weren’t fighting all the time. Yes, I get that it was meant to be about the Vietnam War and their traumatic experience of going to war so young but I just feel more could have been made of their characters.

CHRISSI: I was not a fan. Despite there being a war going on, I didn’t feel like much happened in the story. I don’t feel like I got to know any of the characters. I found myself skim reading it which isn’t a sign of a wonderful book…I do know that others would enjoy it. It just didn’t work well for me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

 3 Star Rating Clip Art
Coming up on the last Monday of April on Banned Books: we review Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) – Alan Bradley

Published March 18, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

What did I think?:

I have to admit I was first attracted to this novel by the extremely quirky title and the promise of a precocious and determined female protagonist. Essentially, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie provided me with exactly this but I was delighted to get so much more besides. This novel is like a hot water bottle in your bed on a freezing night and the cosiness of the narrative is perfectly complimented with our wonderful female lead, whose endearing qualities and dogged stubbornness to root out the truth is both charming and heart-warming.

Our setting is 1950’s England, where eleven year old Flavia de Luce lives with her father and two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. Flavia has a thirst for knowledge and a keen mind, being particularly interested in chemistry and the possibility of incorporating poison ivy into her older sister’s lipstick when she annoys her!

If Feely only knew that lipstick was made from fish scales, I thought, she might be a little less eager to slather the stuff all over her mouth. I must remember to tell her. I grinned. Later.

However, Flavia’s mind is about to be thoroughly tested after a number of strange occurrences. First, she finds a dead bird with a postage stamp attached to its beak and then a little later, she finds a strange man dying in the cucumber patch in her garden. Rather than being terrified, Flavia becomes set on discovering what has happened to the stranger, why it happened and who is responsible. As a result, her amateur detective skills and intelligent ponderings lead her right into the heart of a rather sinister mystery where she will not rest until it is resolved.

I’ve read quite mixed reviews of this novel on Goodreads, particularly about the character of Flavia who seems to be a bit of a “marmite” individual for various reviewers. I can completely understand this, Flavia can be incredibly annoying, nosey and stubborn and I can see why she might frustrate some readers. However, I adored her. Her sense of humour (as illustrated in the above quote) was so engaging and I loved all the opportunities Alan Bradley took in the novel to make me smile, they were so numerous. If I had to describe this novel to anyone interested in reading it, I would perhaps talk about a miniature, female Sherlock Holmes with the wit of the very best stand up comedian in a setting Agatha Christie would be proud of.

It’s a real feel-good story and although the mystery isn’t difficult to unravel for the reader and in fact, I did guess what was going on fairly quickly, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. The beauty of this book for me is to be had in the character of Flavia and the way she unpicks a very mysterious murder. I can only imagine growing to love this character more and more as the series continues and I simply must make time for the second book, which also has another fantastic title – The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

Published February 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder – or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

What did I think?:

The Lie Tree has been on my radar for the longest time, ever since it won the Costa Book Award back in 2015 and I was delighted when the lovely booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath recommended it as one of the books I simply had to read on a reading spa I went to with my sister Chrissi Reads. Now, they picked some outstanding books perfectly tailored for my reading tastes but this book was one of their more intuitive choices and one that had me jumping up and down about it within just a few pages. I think I was merely twenty pages through when I had the urge to tweet gushing all about it and I had barely begun! You know when you start reading a book and everything slots into place? The lyrical writing, the atmospheric setting, the mystery of the characters, the magical elements? They were all spectacular and I knew it was a book destined to make it to my all-time favourites book shelf.

This is the story of Faith and her family who are fleeing England after a scandal involving her father’s work as a natural scientist. They encamp themselves upon a small island where they believe at first the rumours haven’t followed them and the Reverend can continue his rather secretive work in relative peace. Faith is an intelligent, determined girl who takes great interest in her father’s studies although the fact that she is a woman in 19th century England does not bode well for her future intellectual development i.e. she is not expected to pursue anything else other than marrying well. However, when her father meets an untimely end under suspicious circumstances, Faith is desperate to peruse his current research, in search for answers about his mysterious death, his very strange behaviour and his often rattled demeanour in order to uncover the secrets behind a very special plant, The Lie Tree. It is only when she discovers what The Lie Tree can potentially provide that Faith begins to realise she may have opened a bigger can of worms than she ever could have expected.

This gorgeous novel was so much more than I anticipated and I thank Frances Hardinge from the bottom of my heart for every word of it. The language used is sumptuous and glorious and I loved the combination of the historical setting with the fantastical element of the Lie Tree mixed with subtle hints of feminist undertones. Each character and their intricate relationships was developed so beautifully that they felt completely authentic, especially with the addition of flaws that only served to increase my belief in each one of them. I have to talk briefly about Faith’s relationship with both her parents, which broke my heart at times. I clocked her mother, Myrtle immediately as being disinterested, two-faced and not in the slightest maternal but it was Faith’s relationship with her father that really floored me and at one point, almost had me in tears.

There’s a particular scene with Faith and the Reverend just prior to his death where he tells her exactly what he and the rest of the world expects of her as a female and it’s just a horrific, passionate exchange that was upsetting yet very illuminating to read. Faith is herself as I alluded to, flawed and becomes enamoured with the power provided to her by The Lie Tree. She makes some really terrible decisions, suffers for her bravery and hurts a few people in the process but at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but admire her for her tenacity and dogged determination to ensure that her father’s death was avenged. Basically, I can’t gush enough about the magnificent nature of this novel, it is a very worthy Costa Award winner and for me, proof that a book can still capture my heart within twenty pages.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge was the sixteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Banned Books 2018 – FEBRUARY READ – Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Published February 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

About three things I was absolutely positive.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

In the first book of the Twilight Saga, internationally bestselling author Stephenie Meyer introduces Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, a pair of star-crossed lovers whose forbidden relationship ripens against the backdrop of small-town suspicion and a mysterious coven of vampires. This is a love story with bite.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the second 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:

MARCH: Fallen Angels -Walter Dean Myers
APRIL: Saga Volume 3 -Brian K.Vaughan and Fiona Staples
MAY: Blood And Chocolate -Annette Curtis Klause
JUNE: Brave New World-Aldous Huxley
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:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

First published: 2005

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

Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

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

BETH: Ahhh, Twilight, what a blast from the past! I read it when it first came out to see what all the fuss was about but was interested to see what my thoughts would be over ten years afterwards. Now, I never look at the reasons why it was banned until I’m writing the post, I like to try and figure out the reasons for myself and once again, with this one I was completely wrong. Let’s start with religious viewpoint. Er, where was that exactly? Are they talking about the pagan practices of vampires or something else? Because seriously, I have a bit of an issue when religion is forced down my throat but I like to learn about other religions generally and I can’t recall a single incidence where religion is pushed. This certainly didn’t offend me. Let’s also remember that we were a fairly enlightened race in 2005 and there was no need (especially this reason!) for this book to be banned/challenged.

CHRISSI: Twilight! The book many bloggers hate to admit that they read. I’m not ashamed that I read it. When I did I was totally intrigued by the hype. I was in my teens. I don’t understand why it’s challenged on the sexually explicit and unsuited to age group reason. Huh? I mean, seriously! There’s nothing sexually explicit in Twilight. Attraction, sure, but no sexy times. Unless they mean later on in the series? But still… teenagers/young adults read and see worse in the media. As for religious viewpoint, I’ve been thinking about this one. Does it mean that it might offend some religions that don’t agree with the practice of vampires? I’m a bit flummoxed.

How about now?

BETH: It’s been over ten years and attitudes haven’t changed this much but again no, no, no. When I first thought about the reasons why someone might challenge this book, I immediately thought vampires in the same way that people are against Roald Dahl’s The Witches and Harry Potter for the whole witchy/wizardy aspect. If religious viewpoint DOES mean this, it’s still ridiculous in my opinion. For goodness sake, it’s just fantasy…it’s called “using your imagination,” and last time I checked on my childhood, that’s ALL I used to do! Also, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group? Don’t make me laugh! Okay, so Bella and Edward occasionally touch lips and brush faces (a lot!) and shock horror, sleep in the same bed where nothing sexual happens! This is saucy stuff, right?! Wrong. I read a hell of a lot worse as a teenager. I would actually say it’s perfect for the intended age group, which is probably teenage girls apart from the minor issues I have about Bella and Edward’s relationship.

CHRISSI: I honestly don’t see why this book is challenged when it’s really a supernatural love story. You don’t need to believe in anything to read this. You use your imagination. The only issue I have about it is Edward being a bit of a tool. I can’t believe that so many swoon over him. He’s possessive and controlling. No thank you!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  Okay, this book is in no way literary genius and as I mentioned, I do have a few issues with the main relationship as an adult. I believe he’s far too possessive and a bit controlling which isn’t the healthiest type of relationship to portray to a vulnerable teenager. However, for the target age market, I think it’s probably an exciting, romantic story that young girls would enjoy. I can remember being a teenager and would have adored a boy to be that in love with me like Edward is with Bella. Therefore, I think if they understand that it’s just fantasy and a good relationship is always two people on an equal footing, there’s no harm in it. It was a very interesting experience re-reading it and trying to see why some may have issues with it.

CHRISSI: Twilight is incredibly addictive and so easy to read. I can appreciate it’s not the best writing ever. I don’t think it needs to be though. There’s definitely room in the market for books like Twilight. So many enjoy it and why shouldn’t we enjoy what we read, even if it is a bit of fluff?

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

 3 Star Rating Clip Art
Coming up on the last Monday of March on Banned Books: we review Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers.

If I Fall, If I Die – Michael Christie

Published February 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A heartfelt and wondrous debut about family, fear, and skateboarding, that Karen Russell calls “A bruiser of a tale . . . a death-defying coming-of-age story.” 

Will has never been outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who panics at the thought of opening the front door. Their world is rich and fun- loving—full of art, science experiments, and music—and all confined to their small house.

But Will’s thirst for adventure can’t be contained. Clad in a protective helmet and unsure of how to talk to other kids, he finally ventures outside.  At his new school he meets Jonah, an artsy loner who introduces Will to the high-flying freedoms of skateboarding.  Together, they search for a missing local boy, help a bedraggled vagabond, and evade a dangerous bootlegger.  The adventure is more than Will ever expected, pulling him far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood, and all the risks that everyday life offers.

In buoyant, kinetic prose, Michael Christie has written an emotionally resonant and keenly observed novel about mothers and sons, fears and uncertainties, and the lengths we’ll go for those we love.

What did I think?:

Once again, a huge thank you to the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath for recommending me this book in a reading spa I attended with my sister, Chrissi Reads. Of course, they sold every book to us perfectly but I was particularly intrigued by the comparisons to Room by Emma Donoghue, one of my all time favourite books. Unfortunately, I think I was expecting something that reached the dizzying heights of the above mentioned novel and it ended up being a bit disappointing. This is purely in comparison to Room as I could definitely see some great qualities in the writing and characters. I have to be honest with myself however and if I judged it on its own merit alone without the pervading influence of Room, I still wasn’t completely blown away by this story which was a shame.

So as you may imagine, this is the story of a mother and her eleven year old son, Will who has never known life outside of his house. His mother is severely agoraphobic, to the extent that she suffers extreme panic attacks (which Will dubs “The Black Lagoons”) if she senses that her son or her own life is threatened in any way. This could be something as simple as changing a light bulb or running down the stairs – Will’s mother has become incredibly paranoid of the everyday challenges of life and relies heavily on her son and her relaxation tapes to keep the bad thoughts at bay. As a result, Will is home schooled and is very wary himself of the outside dangers which he finds out himself one day when tentatively venturing Outside for the first time.

It isn’t long before Will becomes desperate to be a normal boy like his new friend, Jonah and begs his mother to let him attend a normal school. Then Will’s adventures really start. Not only does he have to learn the social intricacies and interaction with other people that he has missed while being indoors but he starts to learn the true meaning of the word “adventure” and with Jonah, embarks on one of his own whilst trying to search for a missing boy and coming across some particularly shady characters. Will finally learns just how dangerous but also how exhilarating the outside world can be and discovers a lot about himself in the process.

As a coming of age story, this book is a fantastic portrayal of a young boy growing up in a very different world from which he had been originally raised in. I really did enjoy the parts of this novel that were set Inside with Will and his mother but I have to admit, she really did frustrate me at points (and I feel a complete cow by saying this), but there were passages where I just wanted to shake her as she didn’t seem to be making much effort to “get better” at LEAST for the sake of her child. She was content just to panic, put her relaxation tapes on and bury her head in the sand at her condition. Luckily, she does redeem herself near the end of the novel so I didn’t remain cross with her for too long but I have to admit, it bugged me.

I loved Will as a character and was gripped initially when he first came out of the house and had to adjust quite quickly to real-life outside of his little bubble. However, I felt the story descended quite quickly into a strange little place with odd villains where I didn’t quite understand their motive and parts of the narrative where I just wasn’t fully invested in where the story was going. As a story of Will and his mother, this was a great book but somehow, I felt it lost its way and tried to become something that I didn’t feel made a whole lot of sense. It was very much a novel of two halves for me and as a result, I found it quite a struggle to finish.

A huge thank you also to Random House UK who provided me with a digital copy via Netgalley.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

If I Fall, If I Die is the fifteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018!

 

Paper Butterflies – Lisa Heathfield

Published February 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net.

But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom… But at what price?

What did I think?:

One of the people I think knows me and my reading tastes very well is my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. She often shoves books into my hands, begging me to prioritise it on my next Chrissi Cupboard Month (which I do twice a year) and over the years, I’ve learned to listen. I know that this book deeply affected her and she warned me it might destroy me also. Yet I still wasn’t prepared. I read parts of this book one-handed as I couldn’t help but put my other hand over my mouth in disgust, in disbelief and indeed, in terror for what our main character June, suffers in her life and how it affects her going forward as a young adult. It’s a horrific story with trigger warnings for physical and emotional abuse and I hesitate to say I enjoyed it but it was one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time.

This is the story of June, a mixed race young girl who lives with her white father, his new wife, Kathleen and her daughter Megan and attends a predominantly white school. June’s mother had died some years earlier and she is still struggling to cope with the grief from her loss but unfortunately, has bigger problems to deal with. This encompasses feeling like a complete outsider in her own family, feeling neglected, ugly, insignificant, unimportant and trying to cope with the way that her voice is always quietened and never allowed to be heard. June is stuck in a terrible situation with an archetypal evil stepmother and a wicked stepsister who becomes an accomplice in her mother’s crimes and her situation is not helped by a hapless, blind father who refuses to see what is right in front of his nose. Her only joy in life comes from a new friend she meets, Blister who begins to make her feel that her own self-worth is something that should never be beaten down or compromised.

I don’t really want to say too much about the plot as always, this book is something you just have to discover for yourself. It broke my heart over and over again in different ways and made me so furious as June continues to suffer and her suffering is constantly ignored by the people who are supposed to be there to protect you. Of course, I thank my lucky stars that I have never been in these horrific circumstances but I have had a few personal experiences with bullies when I told someone “in charge,” what was happening to me and I was either ignored or not believed and it’s a very emotional, almost life-changing thing to go through. There’s a few scenes in particular in Paper Butterflies that were almost too difficult to read, are still vivid in my mind and occasionally I had to put down the book for a little break as it just got overly sickening and I was close to tears. As I mentioned before, this is an intense and powerful read and it reminded me somewhat of A Little Life in its brutal honesty. It’s strange to say, this was a gut-wrenching, harrowing read but it’s one that I simply have to give the “big five,” as I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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