Faking Normal

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How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Luna!

Synopsis:

Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.

When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in “the Kool-Aid Kid,” who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth.

A searing, poignant book, Faking Normal is the extraordinary debut novel from an exciting new author-Courtney C. Stevens.

Thoughts:

I didn’t know much about Faking Normal before it was picked for me to read out of Luna’s Picks. After reading around, I realised that this book was widely enjoyed by many of the blogs I frequently read, so I was excited to start it. Faking Normal is a very good read. It took me longer than I expected to get through it, but this is just because it deals with quite heavy subjects and I found it quite hard-going. Don’t be put off by that statement though, the book is still very good, I just had to read it in small doses!

Faking Normal follows Alexi as she tries to forget what happened to her over the summer. We find out quite quickly what has happened to her, but not who exactly did it to her. There are lots of clues scattered along the way. I had my suspicions, but they kept changing throughout.  I really liked how Alexi found a friend in Bodee, a quiet boy next door who is just as broken as she is. Brokenness  is the most important element of Faking Normal. The author really captures a raw, broken teenage voice in such a believable and real manner. I totally sympathised with our main character Alexi, and could feel the pain she was feeling thanks to the fantastic writing of Courtney C. Stevens.

Faking Normal has some religious elements, I’ve discussed on my blog before how I don’t often get on with books that have a religious undertone. (If you’re interested that discussion post is HERE) I was worried when I started this book that the religious references would put me off. However, as I continued the story I thought the religious references were discreet. So discreet I wonder if they were really needed in the story.

I think this book will stay with me for a while and that’s mainly because of the way in which the sensitive subject matter was handled and partly because of how well the characters were developed. They’re incredibly realistic, especially Alexi. I look forward to reading more from this author!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Perfect for those that like to read gritty contemporary fiction with very ‘real’ characters.

Ten Authors I Own (or have owned!) The Most Books From

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely The Broke and The Bookish. Each week they come up with a list for us to complete. This week the topic is Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From. I had to add or have owned into my list this week, because since I’ve started blogging, I’ve become a lot more ruthless with the books I keep.

I’ve mentioned a particular favourite of the author and one I’m looking forward to…because, I can basically!

In no particular order (links go to Goodreads, if there is a page available for the book!):

Cecelia Ahern

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This is one of my favourite chick-lit books. What I like about Cecelia Ahern is that her books always have an element of magic/fairy-tale. If You Could See Me Now is about a lonely woman with an imaginary friend. I can’t find the book cover for Cecelia Ahern’s next release but it’s called The Year I Met You and it’s out in October this year. Despite not liking Cecelia’s recent books as much as her earlier books, she’s still an author I check out whenever she has a new book!

Sophie Kinsella

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My favourite book by Sophie Kinsella is Can You Keep A Secret? I find it laugh out loud funny and just very easy to read. I have gone off Sophie Kinsella’s books as well recently, but she’s still an author I’ll try due to enjoying her books in the past! I’m looking forward to the next Shopaholic book (Shopaholic to the Stars), even though I’m not sure how much further the series can go!

J.K Rowling

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I had to include the first book Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone as it’s what started my Harry Potter love. I’m looking forward to getting around to The Cuckoo’s Calling I know it’s not necessarily the name of J.K Rowling but we all know it’s her.

Dorothy Koomson

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It was hard to pick a favourite for Dorothy Koomson, as I’ve loved so many of her books. The Ice Cream Girls is one of my favourites though.

Philippa Gregory

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I absolutely love reading all things Tudor, so I lapped up Philippa’s Tudor series, starting with The Constant Princess with one of my favourite Queens. I’m yet to start The Order of Darkness series, but I’m hoping to enjoy Changeling!

Veronica Roth

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Divergent is such an amazing book. I couldn’t get over how much I enjoyed it. I really want to read Four soon. I love the character Four, so I’m intrigued to read his tale…

Leigh Bardugo

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Oh, Shadow and Bone, I do love you! I love the whole Grisha trilogy. I can’t wait to see what Leigh does next! In the meantime, I do intend to read the novellas that I never knew existed, starting with The Witch of Duva.

Patrick Ness

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I absolutely adored The Knife of Never Letting Go, I can’t wait to continue with the series. I’m also so tempted to push A Monster Calls up my TBR list. It’s such a beautiful looking book.

Alex Bell

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I am a tad bit biased when I speak about this author, because she is one of my best friends. However, Jasmyn is one of my favourite fantasy reads and it has a GORGEOUS cover. Alex’s next book Frozen Charlotte is her first step into YA fiction… it’s horror! I don’t read a lot of horror, but I can tell you I’ll definitely be reading this one!

Malorie Blackman

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I adored Noughts and Crosses and can’t wait to continue with the series with Knife Edge.

Who are your top read authors on your shelves? Please feel free to leave your links to your Top Ten posts and I’ll stop by!

BANNED BOOKS #1: The Perks of Being A Wallflower

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Every month for the rest of 2014, ChrissiReads, Bibliobeth & Luna’s Little Library will be reading one Banned / Challenged Book a month. We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged. How/If things have changed since the book was originally published and what we actually think of the book.

If you’d like to join in our discussion below is a list of what we’ll be reading:

August
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Chosen by: Luna

September
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Chosen by: Beth

October
Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (as “Anonymous”)
Chosen by: Chrissi

November
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Chosen by: Luna

December
Lush by Natasha Friend
Chosen by: Beth

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JULY

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

First published: 1st February 1999

Still in the Top Ten of Frequently Challenged Books in 2013 (Source: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10)

Chosen by: Chrissi

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

DISCUSSION

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

BETH: The book was published in 1999 and it’s fair to say that by that time we were a much more open society about things like drugs and sexuality, especially things that were shown in the media at that time for example the increased sexual content in music videos etc. However, I can also see why at that time it was challenged as the book does tend to stray into risky territory with a lot of potentially taboo issues. I think if at that time I had been studying it for English GCSE, I would have been fairly shocked – not by the content, but that the school was “brave” enough to be allowing us to study it!

CHRISSI: I completely understand why it would be challenged when it was originally published. The way I see it is that it deals with some very intense issues. If you’re using it at a school… even from 14+ , it’s a very touchy subject to actually teach. I completely understand that teenagers need to know about these issues, but in a way, I think a book like The Perks Of Being A Wallflower isn’t the best educational tool.

LUNA: Ahm… actually no. When the book was first published I was 14, nearly 15 – so the audience for this novel. While The Perks of Being a Wallflower does have a lot of “issues” none of them, in my opinion, are explored in any great detail. They just get a surface mention. Yes there is some swearing and yes I accept that drugs, abuse (physical and/or sexual) are though subjects but the book doesn’t really go into them. It’s certainly not anywhere near as graphic as I expected given that Perks is still in the top 10 of challenged books in 2013. Thinking of my teenage self and what I knew from my peers, TV and also what I was reading I would not have been shocked.

How about now?

BETH: I’m really not sure! I think it would take a strong person to challenge the current curriculum and bring in books that may deal with darker issues like Perks. I honesty can’t imagine any teacher standing in front of a class and talking about Charlie’s discovery of masturbation or the scene in which he watches a couple participate in some (ahem!) sexual acts. Saying that, it would be terrific if the curriculum included some books that were a bit risky, even just to test the water. I think also that schools have to be careful to respect parents wishes, and some children may be brought up with certain beliefs, religious issues that may be easily offended by books such as this. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why a safe middle ground is chosen?

CHRISSI: I don’t think my views have changed that much. From working in education, I can see why teacher’s would find this difficult to use as a teaching tool. However, I do think it’s important that children learn about the issues that Perks covers in a sensitive manner. I’m just not sure that Perks is the right piece of literature for it. I also imagine the parents would kick up all sorts of fuss about it. With the movie being fairly new out, perhaps it will become more acceptable in time.

LUNA: Still no. Ignoring what I’ve previously there are two main reasons why challenging/banning The Perks of Being a Wallflower makes no sense to me.
1) The reasons “drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group” are already represented the books being thought, both in the UK and the US. I spend quite a bit of time researching the reading list for GCSE (UK) and High School (US) and while they didn’t always match some authors kept reappearing: William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, William Golding just to name a few.
Classic Literature is full of unhealthy relationships, sex, violence and drug abuse. Sherlock Holmes probably the most famous drug user that comes to mind.
Shakespeare’s plays cover pretty much everything ‘reason’ The Perks of Being a Wallflower was challenged. Romeo and Juliet has teenage sex, plenty of violence and suicide. For unhealthy relationship (you could probably argue that Romeo and Juliet belong in there) there is an abundance of choice. How about Othello? Jealous husbands strangles his wife. For cross-dressing and gay themes: Twelfth Night. (Btw I don’t agree that “homosexuality” should ever be a reason for challenging/banning a book. That’s a whole different rant…)
My point is that the difference between those books and The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the language. They are classics and taught throughout schools yet because Perks is modern it’s challenged? Shakespeare is pretty graphic so why is that ok but a modern book dealing with similar themes worse?
2) I think that grown-ups have a tendency to underestimate teenagers. They are young adults, not children. There is still growing to do but pushing stuff aside won’t make it not be there. Books are a great door to discussion. While I’m sure that there will be giggles during Charlie’s ‘I’ve discovered masturbation letter’ that will be the minority. I believe much more of the time will be spent talking about the important issues in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and books like this.

What did you think of the book?

BETH: I went into this book with no expectations as when it was first published I mis-judged it without knowing what the story was about. After reading it and reflecting on it, I thought I was going to enjoy it more when I first started, but thought it was a really interesting read about the perils we all face when becoming an adult. I loved Charlie’s voice in the novel and enjoyed that it was written in the form of letters as it was nice to read something a bit different.

CHRISSI: I didn’t like it as much as when I read it the first time. I mean, it’s an easy enough read, but I don’t exactly ‘get’ why it has the hype it does. In a way, reading it as a few years later… I feel it’s trying to shock the reader with all of the issues.

LUNA: Despite my impassioned argument for why I don’t agree with the reasons Perks being banned/challenged I actually didn’t enjoy reading the book. It took me nearly two weeks of stop and start to get through it, which is unheard of.I think I had much too high expectations going in and because none of the issues were really explored in detail I felt rather let down.  Shockingly I preferred the film.

Would you recommend it?

BETH: Yes, I think I would. I think because of the issues it deals with it will remain a book that people will still be talking about in twenty years time.

CHRISSI: Yes. I do think it’s a book that everyone should at least try at one point in their lives. Even if it’s just to say they’ve read it.

LUNA: Not sure. I think there are many books that deal with the subjects so much better.

So what do you think? Do you understand why this book is challenged in schools? Let us know!

NEXT UP FOR OUR AUGUST READ (25TH AUGUST): The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

Big Little Lies

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How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Penguin Books UK

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Husband’s Secret

Synopsis:

She could hear men and women shouting. Angry hollers crashed through the soft humid salty summer night. It was somehow hurtful for Mrs Ponder to hear, as if all that rage was directed at her . . . then she heard the wail of a siren in the distance, at the same time as a woman still inside the building began to scream and scream . . .

When a harmless quiz night ends with an act of shocking violence, the parents of Pirriwee Public School can’t seem to stop their secrets from finally spilling out. Rumours ripple through the small town, as truth and lies blur to muddy the story of what really happened on that fateful night . . .

Thoughts:

I’m going to start off by saying I’ve seen this book reviewed as Little Lies and Big Little Lies, so despite my confusion about whatever the title may be this book is a fantastic read! I absolutely adore Liane Moriarty’s writing. She always creates such complex characters and builds them beautifully throughout the story, both through their interactions and the opinions of other characters. Liane Moriarty really is a great story-teller.

The book is centred around Pirriwee Public School. It opens with the Trivia Night, where someone is dead, but we’re not sure who and we don’t find out who it is until the very end. Mrs Ponder a retired old lady lives close to the school and it is on that Trivia Night that she hears screams. The story then recalls the past few months leading up to the event. We hear from several characters points of view and also their conversations with journalists and the police. All of the conversations lead back to the kindergarten orientation day, where Amabella, a young girl was assaulted by another child.

Liane Moriarty always tackles heavy issues and this book is no different. It’s a story about bullying. However, not just the playground bullying we so often seen, but how adults sometimes hold their power over each other. I thought the issue of domestic abuse was sensitively handled.

There’s something about Liane Moriarty’s characters that always draws me in. Even if I didn’t like every character, I wanted to know more about them and as the book progressed, each character was stripped back and we learned more about them. Each character was complex but felt incredibly real.

This book took me longer to read than I anticipated, as it deals with such a heavy going subject. Yet, I was never put off reading it. The writing is easy to read and the pacing is perfect. I just had to put it down a few times to reflect on what I had read. I think this is another winner for Liane Moriarty!

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A fantastic, mysterious adult read with some heavy issues handled sensitively!

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously read by the same author:
The Summer I Turned Pretty

Synopsis:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

Thoughts:

I was really, really expecting to adore this book. Not that I had read any Jenny Han before, (I’ve only recently read The Summer I Turned Pretty) but that so many people were raving about it, I thought it must be amazing. I think I listened to that hype monster a bit too much, because whilst I did thoroughly enjoy this book, it wasn’t the five star read I expected it to be. That’s not the fault of the author, of course. It was my own expectations.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before centres around Lara Jean. Lara Jean has written many letters to a number of her crushes throughout the years. She of course, never expects them to be sent. Lara Jean tells each boy what she loves and hates about him. Somehow (I guessed how) the letters are taken from Lara Jean’s room and sent to each boy. Lara Jean learns about it when one of the recipients approaches her to discuss her letter.

For some reason, I thought that the story was going to focus more on the mailing of her letters. I thought she would be suffering at school as the letters spread around. I thought our main character would be a lot more embarrassed and have to deal with the fall out. Whilst some of Lara Jean’s embarrassment was revealed, it wasn’t to the extent that I had anticipated. The book focused more on her relationships with two male characters.

Even though this story didn’t centre around what I had expected it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. I found it to be an incredibly cute and easy to read contemporary book. I really liked the relationships between the sisters. I thought they were all great characters in their own right. I’m not the biggest fan of a love triangle but in this book the romantic relationships are well written. It’s never too much and a case of insta-love. Whilst I didn’t really agree with Lara Jean acting on feelings for her sister’s ex, I thought the romance itself was sweet.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!- 3.5 stars

I think fans of cute contemporary reads would devour this book!

Stacking The Shelves #81- The one where adults/children at work know I read!

Click on the image to take you to Tynga's blog to learn more! (Opens in same window)

Click on the image to take you to Tynga’s blog to learn more! (Opens in same window)

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared!

As ever, click on the book image to get to the Goodread’s page!

This week I left my job :-( I’m starting university in September for a one year postgraduate course to train to be a primary school teacher (4-11 years old). The children and the staff got me loads of book vouchers so here is what I picked up with those!

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Prized- Caragh O’Brien- I’m looking forward to continuing with this dystopian series.

Until I Die- Amy Plum- I really enjoyed Die For Me, so I’ll try and read the next book soon!

Prodigy- Marie Lu- After reading Legend, I just had to get my hands on a copy of the next book as soon as I could!

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A Darkness Strange and Lovely- Susan Dennard- Here’s yet another series that I need to continue!

Lola and the Boy Next Door- Stephanie Perkins- Anna and The French Kiss was cute, so I look forward to the next instalment!

It’s Not Summer Without You- Jenny Han- I was pleasantly surprised by The Summer I Turned Pretty. Looking forward to this book!

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Everything Leads To You and The Disenchantments- Nina LaCour- I’ve heard such amazing things about Everything Leads To You. I have to read it! The Disenchantments has been on my radar for a while, so I’ll also try to get to it ASAP.

Hunting Lila- Sarah Alderson- I have been intending to start this series for a while now too. Maybe my summer break is the time to do it!

What have you added to your shelves this week? Please feel free to leave your link to the haul post you publish and I’ll stop by!

Raw Blue

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How did I get it?:
It was a present!

Synopsis:

Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing … and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week.

And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?

Thoughts:

I’ve taken a while to get to reviewing this book, because I’ve really struggled with expressing my feelings about it. Whilst I can appreciate that it’s an incredibly well written book which covers lots of deep, adult issues, I can’t help but feel a little disconnected from it, which is why the book received three stars from me.

Raw Blue centres around nineteen year old Carly. She has decided to leave her university degree and her family to work nights at a café. If she works nights she can spend her days doing the one thing that takes everything away…surfing. Something has clearly happened to Carly to make her such a solitary person after being so carefree.

Surfing isn’t something that immediately appeals to me or interests me. However, when I received this book as a present and had looked it up on Goodreads, I was intrigued by its high rating and amazing reviews. I was excited to start this book and see what the fuss was all about.

As a main character, Carly is quite hard to like instantly. She has a tough exterior, but stay with it, as she’s also a smart, funny, good person. I sympathised with her and could understand how she turned to something she loved to attempt to block out the bad. I think we all have done this at some point in our lives.

This book isn’t light and fluffy. In fact at points it’s very dark. It doesn’t make light of situations which ultimately means that adult literary fiction fans would love it just as much as the lower range of young adult. Raw Blue feels almost like a ‘confessions’ account of our main character’s life.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

This book comes across as more adult than young adult. It’s an emotional beautifully written book which focuses on relationships!