Banned Books #25 Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books feature where this month Beth and I read Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya.

Bless Me, Ultima

Synopsis:

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will probe the family ties that bind and rend him, and he will discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past-a mythic legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world…and will nurture the birth of his soul.

First published: 1972
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

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

BETH:  Bless Me, Ultima is one of our older releases on our banned books list this year and, as a result, I can see why certain things in the book may be challenged due to the change in attitudes compared to more modern times (this is not to say I necessarily agree with the challenges of course!). This book has a lot of references to witchcraft – the “black witch” kind that involves the devil not the nice, nature-loving “white witch” kind and I know there are a lot of people out there who do not want their children exposed to that kind of thing. If we compare it to nowadays, this is the same kind of people that don’t want books like Roald Dahl’s “The Witches,” or J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter,” available in schools. I don’t agree with their viewpoints as I think curiosity in children should be encouraged but I understand their right to a difference in opinion.

CHRISSI: Hm. I can understand why parents wouldn’t want their children to read this book as it does heavily deal with witchcraft and when published there would be quite an uproar about the subject matter of this book. I can understand why there would be uproar over it, especially with certain religions. So yes, I understand why it was challenged but I wouldn’t say that I necessarily agree with it.

How about now?

BETH: Nowadays, I think it’s even more important for children to have access to a wide variety of information about different practices and opinions to their own or their parents, even if it is difficult or somewhat controversial – within reason, of course depending on the age of the child. In the time of the internet where EVERYTHING is available, I think if children are curious enough, banning or refusing access to the book isn’t going to help. If they are determined enough, they are going to get their hands on it anyway and sometimes I believe refusing something might actually encourage children to be more rebellious and seek it out more!

CHRISSI:  I honestly don’t think that this book would be as problematic now as it was when it was first released. This is mainly due to the amount of ‘popular’ wizardry/witchy books out there right now. It seems much more acceptable subject to be featured in literature. I know some parents still have problems with witchcraft books (I wasn’t allowed to read The Witches by Roald Dahl to my class of 6-7 year olds last year, as one child’s parent was a devout Christian) but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it used to be. I think putting a banned label on something can make children more curious to seek it out themselves.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately, I really didn’t get on with this book. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have any problem with the content and I normally love a good bit of magical realism but something just didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t get into the plot, the characters or the writing flow and it all seemed a bit too airy-fairy. Antonio and Ultima were decent enough characters and the things that Antonio has to witness and go through are much harder than your general coming of age story but I just found myself a bit bored and disappointed throughout, despite the difference in culture which I would normally love.

CHRISSI: I really didn’t like this book. Despite it having a lot going on from witchcraft, murder and revenge, I found myself to be incredibly bored throughout and I ended up skim-reading quite a bit which is a shame. This book just did not grab me like I wanted it to. I also don’t think the story is very relevant to today’s readers. Hmm. A real disappointment.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

Just A Few Inches

Just a Few Inches

How did I get it?:
I received a copy from the author, this has not affected my opinion! I always give an honest review.

Synopsis:

All Carrie Roberts wants is to be a little bit smaller.

To fit into the perfect dress for the Valentine’s Day Dance. To look beautiful for her boyfriend, the school’s star basketball player. To keep his jealous ex-girlfriend, a rival cheerleader, away from him. And to be noticed by her classmates.

Exercising and dieting don’t work, but an advertisement for weight loss pills promises a quicker solution to her problem. As time runs out, she takes more than the recommended dose until she’s just a few inches slimmer. Heads turn when she arrives at the dance, and the wonderful night with her boyfriend is beyond what she dreamed it would be.

Days later, Carrie discovers that her body is changing in ways that should be impossible. While her doctor searches for a cure, she desperately turns to her friends and family for support. Everyone is noticing her now whether she likes it or not, and even the media is intrigued by her incredible story. Getting everything she once wanted has created new problems—problems that are growing more terrifying every day.

Because Carrie Roberts is shrinking.

Thoughts:

When I was approached to read this book by the author, I immediately wanted to. It sounded like a book which would have an important message attached to it. Just A Few Inches has just that. It is about embracing the body in which we are born in. I enjoyed reading this book although it did have some moments which seemed to slow down the pace a little. I feel if some of the middle section had been taken out then it would have certainly sped up the pace of the story.

Essentially, Just A Few Inches is a book about insecurities and not being comfortable with body image. Our main character, Carrie, is a popular, athletic girl who has a loving boyfriend. One day, she finds a beautiful dress for a dance at school. Unfortunately, Carrie doesn’t fit perfectly into the dress despite her athletic build. She gets a snide comment from another girl which leads to her turning to diet pills advertised in the media. They offer her a quick and easy way to lose the weight so she can fit into the dress. Carrie increases the dose hoping that it’ll help her more quickly. When it does and she stuns everyone at the Valentine’s Dance, Carrie is thrilled. She stops taking the diet pills, but finds herself shrinking…not in weight though in height! Carrie continues to shrink and stumps medical professionals. Just how small will she become?

Initially, I found this story hard to get on with and believe. It does seem a little unrealistic, but certainly the feelings of insecurity that Carrie felt are not unbelievable. I think many people have had issues with their bodies at some point. I would say especially teens, but in fact, I think it extends beyond teenagers and certainly beyond females. I think the message of insecurity and not being comfortable in your own skin is entirely relatable to many. This aspect is certainly what kept me turning the pages. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Carrie. It did grip me and I found it easy to read. I liked how Carrie didn’t give up and kept on doing what she wanted despite the difficulties that came with her ever new stature.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A relatable YA contemporary story about body image!

Comparing ‘Lying About Last Summer’ by Sue Wallman

Lying About Last Summer

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

The story centres around a girl called Skye, who is sent to a camp for troubled teenagers after her sister dies in an accident. However, once she is at the camp she starts receiving text messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister.

Thoughts before you started reading Lying About Last Summer?

CHRISSI: Love the cover! Simple but effective. I hope the story inside is good.

LUNA: Lying About Last Summer was one of the titles highlighted at the Scholastic Brunch I attended and I’ve been intrigued by it ever since.

What did you think of Skye?

CHRISSI: At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of her. I think I’ve read too many books recently with unreliable narrators so I end up going into stories, especially books like this one, very suspicious of the main characters. As the story progressed I really warmed to Skye. I felt for her. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to carry the guilt she did as she attempted to move on.

LUNA: I never connected to Skye the way I wanted to but she was a convincing narrator. I think if I’d had a stronger connection with Skye the story might have had a different impact, but the book was engaging and intriguing without me having to be best friends with the main character. One thing I did really like about Skye was her internal dialog.

Best bit?

CHRISSI: I really enjoyed how the mystery element was played out. I thought the use of flashbacks was really effective. Flashbacks don’t always work for me, but I felt like they were well done in this story. They helped us get to know Skye even more.

LUNA: Sue Wallman’s portrayal of grief, not just how Skye dealt with it but all the characters. There is no one-size-fits-all and it was good to see that reflected in the story.

Worst bit?

CHRISSI: It’s not a worst bit as such, but I didn’t enjoy the ending as much as I wanted to.

LUNA: The revelation about who’s sending the messages, or rather Skye’s reaction to it.

Favourite character/moment?

CHRISSI: Joe. He intrigued me!

LUNA: Ok so surprisingly Fay’s and her story. Not the actual ending (which I’m a bit mixed about) but how Fay begins to lose herself. Skye’s opinion of Fay is negative and it does impact your own as the reader. But once I took a step back and looked at Fay’s perceptive it changed my view of her as a character. I ended up developing quite a soft spot for her.

Was Lying About Last Summer what you expected?

CHRISSI: I didn’t expect it to cover grief as well as it did. It had some really intriguing moments and kept me gripped throughout.

LUNA: Yup🙂

Would you recommend it?

CHRISSI: Yes!

LUNA: Yes

Fairy Tale Friday- The Galoshes of Fortune

This week’s fairy tale was a longer one considering the ones I’ve read fairly recently.

The Galoshes of Fortune is a story set in Copenhagen. It centres around a group of guests who are holding a party. During the part, there’s a bit of a debate about the Middle Ages being a better time period than their current time period and specifically the time of King Hans. Two fairies appear (because why wouldn’t they?!) dressed up as housemaids. They bring with them galoshes (shoes) that can transport whoever wears them to whatever time, place or condition in life that they may desire. With this, their every wish in that time and place will be granted. Sounds like a dream…until they predict that it will make the person unhappy- wanting to be back in their own time period.

Of course, one guest decides to put the galoshes on and is sent back to King Hans’ reign. It is not as ideal as he might have hoped. The streets are unpaved and are filthy. He can’t understand the locals and is utterly frustrated. He desperately wants to get home but can’t find any buildings that he recognises. He spends some time with the locals and hates the time period. He takes the galoshes off and the spell is broken.

Another guest, a watchman, tries the galoshes on. He wishes to be a lieutenant because he assums their life is better. The galoshes, of course, grant the wish and the watchman finds himself as a lieutenant. He soon discovers that the lieutenant felt poor and as a result felt incredibly lonely. The watchman realises that he’s better off as a watchman because he has a wife and children who share his sorrows. The galoshes transform him back into himself. The watchman watches a falling star and wishes he could travel to the moon. Suddenly, he’s off!

On the moon, the watchman meets moon men who all wonder whether Earth is inhabited. The moon men think that this must be impossible. Back on Earth, the watchman’s body is found lifeless. His body is taken to a hospital, where they take the galoshes off and the spell is broken. The watchman is back to himself and complains about the most awful night!

The galoshes remain in the hospital and one night, a member of staff tries them on. He is supposed to guard the hospital fence…but whilst wearing them he wished he could get his head through the fence and escape. Of course, this happens to the staff member, however, his head is trapped in the fence and he is unable to pull it back. He struggles until he wishes he was free. His wish is granted. The following day, he attends a play. The play was about a pair of glasses that allow the person that wears them to read the future from people’s faces. The man wishes that he could have a pair like that… and he does! He looks into the faces of the spectators and sees all sorts of strange things. He believes he must have too much blood rushing to his head so he wishes for a steam bath. He’s there right away, but fully clothed!  He soon returns home with a blistered back!

Back at the hospital, the watchman picks up the galoshes and gives them in at the police station. It just so happens they were given to a clerk whose galoshes had been lost. During a walk, the clerk meets a poet friend. He wishes he has his friend’s life as it seemed to be more exciting than his own. At first, the clerk enjoyed the poet’s lfie, but then he wished he was a lark. The lark is caught by a boy, sold and put into a cage with a canary and parrot. One day he manages to break free, and although the lark is attacked by a cat, he makes it home where the spell is broken and he returns to life as a clerk.

This strange little tale finishes with the clerk’s neighbour asking for the galoshes. The clerk gives the galoshes to him. The neighbour wishes he could travel which he does. He goes to Switzerland and Italy. The neighbour is saddened by local people’s hunger and poverty. The neighbour decides that he would be better off without a body so his spirit could fly. His wish is granted. The fairy tells her fairy friend that her predictions came true and that noone was satisfied with their wishes. She takes the galoshes off the neighbour-bringing him back to life.

Next Fairy Tale- The Bells

Talking About ‘A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding’ with Bibliobeth

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

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

Synopsis:

When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?

CHRISSI: Amaterasu spends most of the novel feeling that she is to blame for things that have happened. How has this affected her life and does the novel provide a resolution?

BETH: Poor Amaterasu! I found her such a fascinating character and alternated between feeling really cross with her and then really sorry for her after her actions lead to her living such a sad, lonely life when her husband dies. Her potential grandson turns up on her doorstep one day after he had been searching for her for quite a while and you begin to see the start of a relationship between the two as Amaterasu thinks back to the events that caused her to lose her daughter and believe her grandson was dead. She escapes to America with her husband as she doesn’t feel that she can stay in Nagasaki because of all the bad memories associated with it. Even though she promises her husband on his death bed that she will try and integrate herself with the community, she becomes a virtual recluse, even developing a bit of an alcohol problem and it is only with the appearance of a man that claims to be a grandson that she can put old ghosts to rest.

BETH: Could you understand why Amaterasu made the decisions she did?

CHRISSI: Somewhat, I don’t want to spoil the reading experience for others! Amaterasu has to look back at her life and begin to come to terms with what happened in the time period before, during and after the bombing. It takes Amaterasu some courage to look back at her past and look for forgiveness for her actions so she can live the rest of her life in peace. It is a particularly painful look back for Amaterasu as she feels pain and immense guilt after her actions.

CHRISSI: What did you feel that you learnt about Japanese culture and the differences between East and West?

BETH: I felt I learned so much! This book is really special for the little paragraphs above each chapter that describe a Japanese word or phrase and what it means for the Japanese people. Even though the author is British, the novel is inspired by her years living in Nagasaki in the 90’s and it’s obvious she’s done her research and really integrated herself into the Japanese mindset. The East and West cultures can be quite different but it’s always fascinating to learn about a different culture and way of life.

BETH: Did your opinion of Sato change at any point in this novel and why?

CHRISSI: Not really. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t like Sato as a character at all. I get the feeling that I was supposed to find some sympathy for him, but I just found him infuriating. I guess he did try and find redemption within his letters and his adopting an orphan, but for me, my opinion didn’t change. I didn’t find him likeable at all.

CHRISSI: You love Japanese fiction.  Did this book live up to your expectations?

BETH: I certainly do and it certainly did. It reminded me of Memoirs Of A Geisha and was beautifully written with a fascinating plot and intriguing characters, especially our main character Amaterasu. I also felt like I learned a lot about the horrors of the Nagasaki bombing and the effect it had on so many people’s lives and it’s encouraged me to read a bit more into it.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I think it would depend on what the subject matter was. I do think the writer has a beautiful writing style, but I wouldn’t race to read another.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!
CHRISSI: Yes!

This Week In Books #41

I am joining in with the lovely Lipsy from Lipsy’s Lost and Found’s feature which highlights our week in books. I shall be sharing what I’m reading now, then and next! I won’t be showcasing my new books as I do that on a Saturday. I’m really excited by this feature as I loved sharing my recent reads. My book reviews published on my blog are often WAY behind what I’m actually reading, so this is a good feature to keep you up to date!

Click on the book title to get to Goodreads!

A Boy Made of Blocks Strange Star Will Grayson, Will Grayson

NOW A Boy Made Of BlocksKeith Stuart– I have only just started A Boy Made of Blocks which is a debut novel out on 1st September. It’s a story of a family with a boy with autism. I’m only a few chapters in but it’s very promising so far.

THENStrange StarEmma Carroll– I absolutely adore Emma Carroll’s writing and was very late in reading Strange Star. I’m so glad I made time for it, this summer holiday as it was a beautiful read.

NEXTWill Grayson, Will GraysonJohn Green and David Levithan– I have to admit that I’m nervous to read this book. I’m not a huge John Green fan. Not at all. But I do like David Levithan. I’ve had this book way over a year (possibly 2!) so it’s time to see if I like it.

What are you reading this week? Feel free to leave a link to a similar post that you do and I’ll stop by! Happy Reading!

I have had some problems with leaving comments on WordPress for the past day or so, so I shall do my best to comment on your blog! I will have definitely read it, if you leave a link!

Ten Books that have been on my TBR for ages that I STILL haven’t read!

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the wonderful The Broke and The Bookish. For this week’s list we are listing books that have been on our to be read piles for a long time…I’ve decided to look at some of the books on my kindle as I’m forever forgetting about reading those. Oh the shame…

Book images go to Goodreads

Sharp Objects- Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects

I can’t wait to read more from Gillian Flynn. I’m not sure why this book and the next one have been on my kindle for so long without being read!

Dark Places- Gillian Flynn

Dark Places

I must get around to this one at some point too…

Magic Under Stone- Jaclyn Dolamore

Magic Under Stone (Magic Under, #2)

I adored the first book, so goodness knows why this one is still lying unread!

Tarnished- Julia Crouch

Tarnished

I really enjoy Julia Crouch’s writing. I love a thriller. So I should love this? I hope!

Soulmates- Holly Bourne

Soulmates

I have heard so many wonderful things about this book. I hope to get to it sometime soon!

Something Like Normal- Trish Doller

Something like Normal

I have been meaning to read this book for ages. It’s been on my kindle for what feels like years… One day!

The Crane Wife- Patrick Ness

The Crane Wife

I adore Patrick Ness, yet haven’t got around to reading this book yet. Where are my priorities?!

Butter- Erin Lange

Butter

I have had this book since I started book blogging but still haven’t got around to it. Oops.

The Last Anniversary- Liane Moriarty

The Last Anniversary

This book is a newer edition to my kindle (I say newer, it’s 2 years old!) but I’m still surprised I haven’t read it yet!

A History of Loneliness- John Boyne

A History of Loneliness

I love John Boyne’s writing. I am intrigued by the synopsis of this book. I hope to read it soon!

Have you read any of these books? Do you suggest I ‘bump’ them up the TBR pile? Let me know! Feel free to leave a link to your post and I’ll stop by!