Comparing ‘Fish Boy’ by Chloe Daykin

Fish Boy

How did I get it?:
I received it from Faber! Many thanks to them!

Synopsis:

Billy is a lonely boy. He’s obsessed with swimming in the sea, which is where he goes to wash his problems far, far away. Thanks to his mum’s mystery illness, his dad has been forced to work extra hours to make ends meet, so Billy locks himself away with David Attenborough films, and ponders the magic of nature. Meanwhile at school, bullies mercilessly seize on Billy’s ‘otherness’ and make his life as miserable as possible – but then new boy Patrick Green, with “fingers like steel, strength of a bear”, joins Billy’s class. And when a mackerel swims up to Billy’s face, blows bubbles into his Vista Clear Mask goggles and says: Fish Boy – Billy’s whole world changes.

 

Thoughts before you started reading Fish Boy?

CHRISSI: I was intrigued. I had heard great things about the book already and was curious to see if it would live up to my expectations!

LUNA: This sounds magical/lovely, can’t wait to read it.

What did you think of Billy?

CHRISSI: Billy stole my heart. I loved that he was different and wanted him to find happiness, no matter what obstacles were in his way.

LUNA: I liked Billy but I didn’t connect to him the way I hoped. He’s nice and I sympathised with the feelings he went through, the bullying at school and his concerns and anger about his mother.

Best bit?

CHRISSI: I really enjoyed how weird this book was. That might sound strange, but I honestly did. I liked that this book was a little odd and not like your average middle grade read. I also thought it was a unique way to write about the subject matter. (Don’t want to spoil!)

LUNA: The concept of the book. I agree with Chrissi in I enjoyed how weird this book was and I liked the flowing writing of the swimming sections, it was like reading movement.

Worst bit?

CHRISSI: I don’t think it has a worst bit as such. I personally didn’t keep turning the pages, so it didn’t grip me as much as I had anticipated. That’s a minor quibble though!

LUNA: As much as I enjoyed how different Fish Boy was I did not connect emotionally to the book. I don’t know why this was. It has the ingredients but because of that lack of connection I wasn’t invested in Billy, Patrick or Billy’s parents.

Favourite character/moment?

CHRISSI: Billy’s relationship with his parents warmed my heart. Billy had a good relationship with both of his parents and even though his Mum had a lot going on in her life, you could tell she still really cared for him!

LUNA: The Merz wall. The whole concept of the Merz wall and the scene in the book, I just loved it. It’s like the random pin boards I make of memories and ideas. If I had a garden I would want a Merz wall.

Was Fish Boy what you expected?

CHRISSI: It wasn’t what I expected but in a good way. It was weird and wonderful.

LUNA: For the writing yes and I knew it would be different. Personally though, I hoped for a stronger connection to the characters and sadly that didn’t happen.

Would you recommend it?

CHRISSI: Yes!

LUNA: I don’t know.

Blog Tour- Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane

How did I get it?:
I received it from the publisher for the book tour!

Synopsis:

Join Pilot Jane, a fun and fearless airline captain, as she travels the world with her best friend Rose, a high-speed passenger jet. Together Jane and Rose have exciting adventures and form a perfect team, delivering their passengers safely to destinations as far afield as Alaska and Australia. But when disaster strikes and Rose falls ill, Jane is paired with ‘lean, mean flying machine’ Mighty Mitch. Can she still get the Queen to her party on time? Featuring a clever and courageous heroine, this action-packed rhyming story celebrates ‘Girl Power’ and shows what you can achieve if you work together. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for take-off!

Thoughts:

I am a primary school teacher, so when I had the opportunity to read this book, I decided to test it on some guinea pigs. Well, some classes at school. I read it with two groups of children. Year 1s (5-6 year olds) and Year 3/4 (7-9 year olds). The book went down well with both classes. Here are some words from their mouths… (real names have been changed)

  • I liked it because it was adventurous. (Mandy, Age 7)

  • I like it because it’s got teamwork. (Natasha, Age 8)

  • I liked it because it had everything a story needs. I think it would be great for younger children. (Tim, Age 9)

  • I think the moral of the story is teamwork. (Hannah, Age 6)

  • I liked it because when the plane broke down, Jane had to  learn to work with a different plane that she didn’t really know.  (Harry, Age 7)

  • I like it because it was for boys and girls. I thought at the start it was just for girls but it changed into boys as well. (Tobias, Age 8)

  • I liked the book because Mitch and Jane had to work together. (Jason, Age 8)

  • I liked the girl and boy power! (Lauren, Age 5)

As for me, I think it’s such a cute book for young children. Both the infant and junior school children took the message from the book, which makes it highly successful in my eyes!

Talking About ‘Lie With Me’ with Bibliobeth!

Lie With Me

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

Synopsis:

“I suppose what I am saying is, how much do we collude in our own destruction? How much of this nightmare is on me?

You can hate and rail.
You can kick out in protest.

You can do foolish and desperate things, but maybe sometimes you just have to hold up a hand and take the blame.”

Breathless.
Claustrophobic.
Unsettling.
Impossible to put down.

CHRISSI: What was your first impression of this book?

BETH: To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t a great first impression! It was quite a slow start to the story although I had read some GoodReads reviews that mentioned that it got a lot better so I was kind of prepared for this. I was hopeful that it would pick up though and once our main character, Paul finally goes away on holiday with the woman he is seeing, the tension and action crept up a notch.

BETH: The (female) author has chosen to write from a male point of view. How well do you think she achieved this?

CHRISSI: Interesting question. I didn’t even think to take note of the fact that she was writing from a male point of view. To me, that says Sabine Durrant pulled it off. It never even crossed my mind that it was a female writing from a male point of view. Well done, Sabine!

CHRISSI: This novel is built on tension. Discuss how the author builds the tension and structures the novel.

BETH: I’m very wary of giving spoilers but I’ll do my best! I think the opening of the novel is absolutely brilliant. Let’s just say that Paul is in a place that we don’t expect him to be in (being deliberately vague, sorry!) and after this initial chapter, the story goes back in time to the events that occurred in the build up to the situation he now finds himself in. So we know where he ends up but we have no clue initially how on earth he got there! He seems, by all accounts to be a “normal,” man (apart from his compulsive lying, that is) and it makes the reader really rack their brains to try and figure out how and why he got where he ended up.

BETH: Discuss where the line falls between a few acceptable fibs and harmful lying. Is it ever ok to tell a small lie?

CHRISSI: Ooh, another good question. Lies are so difficult, because I would say that you shouldn’t lie if it is going to affect another person. However, sometimes I feel that some individuals need to be protected by a little white lie. It made me think though, is that okay? Is it okay to alter the truth a little to protect someone you care about? Argh, I really don’t know. In the end, the truth often comes out, so is it better to tell the truth from the start even if it causes some hurt? Harmful lying is obviously always a no, no for me, but ‘acceptable fibs’… hmm. It depends on your definition of acceptable. Some might consider something acceptable that others don’t. Ooh, such a good discussion subject and I haven’t even really come up with a decent response. All I’ll say is that line is very very unclear.

CHRISSI: Without spoilers- discuss the ending of the novel – did you see the twist coming?

BETH: Not really, no. I knew something wasn’t right with certain characters but I hadn’t figured out exactly what was going on. It was a big surprise when it came and I was shocked how it ended up. Did he deserve it? Some people might say yes, he wasn’t a very likeable character to say the least! However, what he ends up suffering is incredibly extreme in comparison to what he did wrong in my opinion. Loved the twist though, I’m really glad I didn’t predict it!

BETH: This novel has quite a slow pacing to it, did this affect your enjoyment of the story?

CHRISSI: To be honest, yes it did. I am not a fan of a slow paced novel, especially when I have a lot going on. I like to be picking up a book and immediately flying through the pages. I want something to get back to and want to get back to without worrying that I’m going to be bored. I just don’t think this book’s pacing worked for me, although I know some people really enjoyed it and got over the slow pace.

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

BETH: I thought this book was quite different to other psychological thrillers that I’ve read and I thought it was quite brave in a lot of ways. It read to me almost like a literary psychological thriller (no offence meant to other psychological thrillers). I just mean that the pacing compared to other thrillers was quite slow and you usually find with other books in the genre it’s all quite action-packed and not really focused on character development, unlike Lie With Me. By the end of the book, I actually thought it was the most interesting novel in the genre that I’ve read for a long time and has stayed with me for a while, always a good sign that a book’s got under your skin!

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure. It would depend on the subject matter. I thought it was interesting enough, but the pace did affect my enjoyment.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

The One by John Marrs

The One

How did I get it?:
I received it from the publisher. Many thanks to them! This does not affect my opinion of the book!

Synopsis:

How far would you go to find THE ONE?

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

One tiny DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people take the test. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

A psychological thriller with a difference, this is a truly unique novel which is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Thoughts:

I was very intrigued to be sent this book through the post.

1

The One centres around a Match test which is a test where your DNA determines who you should be in love with. It’s an interesting concept that’s for sure. Is true love really something that can be determined by Science? I’m sure many scientists (I’m looking at you, Beth) would be interested by that. It’s a premise that really intrigued me and made me think. The story follows the connections made between matches. Some of the connections are confusing to our characters and some people are matched that really surprise others. For example, a man happily engaged to a woman finds himself to be matched with another man.

There are loads of twists and turns within the story and connections that you discover along the way. The characters are so complex and there are some rather shady characters. The story may have a scientific aspect but it’s more about the emotions, so if Science scares you, then don’t be put off by this book.

I first wondered why this book was billed as a psychological thriller, but it really is. I don’t want to say anything else about the plot because I don’t want to ruin it. Like any good thriller, it’s worth not knowing a lot before you jump into the story. There are more genres that this book falls into though. There’s romance and a slice of crime.

I have to admit, at the start I was very confused as there are quite a few characters and even though each chapter is character named, it took me a while to get into their story and work out who was who. As soon as I grasped it though, I was gripped by their stories and wanted to find out their secrets. In this book, every character has a story of their own to be told and I loved exploring them.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

An intriguing idea!

Talking About ‘Mad Girl’ with Bibliobeth

Mad Girl

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

Synopsis:

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.

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: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #32- The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books where Beth and I have read The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Synopsis:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger’s, a form of autism. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour’s dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.

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 and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Cuckoo Sister

The Cuckoo Sister

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

Synopsis:

“Since the day I found out about Emma, I seemed to have gone to the bad. I was rude. I told lies. I listened at doors and read other people’s letters if they left them about. I was always losing things . . . watches, cameras, and silver bracelets. And whenever my mother reproached me, I screamed at her, ‘Look who’s talking? Who lost her own baby? Who lost my sister? Just because you wanted a new dress?'”

Convinced that her family’s problems will end if only Emma is returned by the person who snatched her from her baby carriage, Kate longs for the older sister she never knew. But when a thin, spiky-haired stranger with hard eyes shows up with a letter claiming she’s the long-lost sister, there’s more trouble than ever. This “Emma” is certainly not the sister Kate imagined.

Thoughts:

This book is a real blast from my past. I remember thinking about books I read as a child/young teen last year and for some reason this book came to mind. I immediately text Beth (my sister) and she recalled it too! We then decided it had to go on our kid-lit challenge. We had to rediscover it. The feelings of nostalgia were strong as I read this book. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped, but it was still a lovely blast from the past. Books are certainly different now for teens!

The Cuckoo Sister centres around Kate who finds out that she had a sister named Emma who was taken. Emma was never found, until one day a girl lands on their doorstep with a letter explaining that she’s Emma. This ‘Emma’ knew nothing about her family and it’s a shock to everyone. Kate soon finds out that Emma isn’t the sister that she imagined.

I enjoyed reading this book because it felt quite innocent in its nature. Sure, the characters aren’t the nicest and I don’t think they’re amazingly well developed, but they’re interesting to read about. Both characters frustrated me at points but I loved reading about their interactions with one another. I feel like this book is definitely an old-school coming of age story. It’s about finding out who you really are and learning to accept it.

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars.

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (March):
Awful Auntie- David Walliams