Banned Books #36 Saga: Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

banned books

Welcome to the 36th Banned Books post which means we’ve been reading Banned Books for 3 years now! Awoohoo! Go us! Celebrations aside, this month we took on Saga: Volume 2 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

Saga, Vol. 2 (Saga, #2)

First published: 2013
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)
Reasons: anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

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

BETH: As a relatively recent release my answers for this and the next question are going to be pretty much the same. This month, like last month we’re looking at a book where the focus is mainly on illustrations with few words in comparison. UNLIKE last month, this graphic novel is very, very different. Let me get this straight. I don’t agree with banning or challenging books on any level. I love to get angry about why books are challenged/banned especially when the reasons for doing so are just damn stupid but you know when you read something and you can kind of see why some people might have had issues or been offended? This is the wonderful world of Saga. It doesn’t offend me at all (I’m not easily offended!) but I have been slightly taken aback at some of the images, although I must insist that the art is absolutely stunning and something I can look at for a long time (erm…perhaps unless it’s a very naked, quite terrifying giant monster).

CHRISSI: I actually laughed out loud at Beth’s comment about the naked, giant monster as I nearly took a picture of it to send to her as I was reading it. I agree that it’s easy to see why Saga is challenged. There’s some quite graphic pictures and some very strong language. I don’t think you’d expect that when you pick it up, if you go into it not knowing the controversy surrounding it. I’d totally agree that it has some beautiful images though. The illustrations are stunning… it’s just not for the easily offended (or children!)

How about now?

BETH: Most of the reasons for challenging Saga are completely correct, I hate to admit. Yes, it has explicit sexual content, nudity and offensive language. However, I don’t really agree with the anti-family message. Our two main characters have a small baby, Hazel and are very much together even though they are all “on the run.” Plus in this volume, the grandparents come into play which does show quite a strong family unit, especially when I consider the role of the grandfather in this volume. Also, unsuited for age group. Hmm. Well, it just depends where you make this graphic novel available to be perfectly honest! If it’s in the primary school library that’s a different kettle of fish entirely and completely inappropriate I agree. But if it’s in the local library adult section for teenagers to find for themselves I don’t think that’s too terrible.

CHRISSI: I understand why it’s challenged. I do. I don’t like admitting that, but I do understand why it is offensive to many. I think there should be the opportunity for it to be found in the right places. Like Beth said, a local library would be fine but in a education setting…not so much!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: We looked at the first volume of Saga in our Banned Books for 2016 – please find our post HERE. It had been a while since I read the first six chapters so I did re-read them before embarking on Volume Two and I remembered just why I enjoyed it the last time. As I mentioned before, the art is simply gorgeous and really intricate but the story is also intriguing and makes me want to keep on reading. I’ll certainly be continuing the series and am looking forward to Volume Three!

CHRISSI: Unlike Beth, I didn’t reread the first volume. I went into it cold and luckily remembered a lot from the previous volume. I really enjoyed this volume, possibly more than the first. The artwork is beautiful and I’m intrigued by the story. I can totally see why so many readers are lapping up this series of graphic novels.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About ‘I See You’ by Clare Mackintosh

I See You

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you’re going.

You’re not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

CHRISSI: What were your initial thoughts before reading this book?

BETH: I was excited! We reviewed Claire’s debut novel I Let You Go as part of our “Talking About” feature and we both really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading this one. Particularly when I read the synopsis which sounded so intriguing that I had high expectations for the novel as a whole. Plus I received a copy recently from the lovely Book And A Brew subscription box people and I was trying to make room and time to read it so when it appeared on the Richard and Judy bookclub list (which we follow almost religiously) I was very pleased as I would finally have a chance to get to it.

BETH: What did you make of Zoe’s relationship with her ex-husband Matt compared to her current relationship with Simon?

CHRISSI: A good question! I actually found Zoe’s relationship with Simon to be a little bit too good to be true. I didn’t like Simon much as a character. He grated on me, for some reason! He was jealous of Matt which made things awkward for Zoe. I thought that Zoe got on remarkably well with her ex-husband. She seemed to rely on him a little bit compared to Simon. I guess when you have children together there’s going to be a connection there still, especially if it ends amicably.

CHRISSI: Did you find this book predictable at all?

BETH: No, not really to be honest. Now I’m wondering if you did? I didn’t really see anything coming, from the start of the book and the reason why women’s photographs were being used in the paper to the end of the novel and the “final reveal” where the perp is unmasked. I always appreciate it when I can’t see things coming and the author manages to surprise me.

BETH: The character of Kelly, a policewoman, is a bit of a “loose cannon,” did you enjoy reading about her story?

CHRISSI: I really enjoyed reading Kelly’s story. I actually liked Kelly. She was a well meaning character even if she was a little bit of a ‘loose cannon’. She was incredibly eager. Her heart was always in her actions and you can’t ask for more than that!

CHRISSI: Zoe is a very ordinary woman – do you think a central character in a thriller needs to be relatable to make the story work?

BETH: Great question! Hmmm, yes I do think they do but I never thought about it in that way before. A normal, relatable character like Zoe who is incredibly ordinary and has the same worries, pressures and flaws as the rest of us made me instantly like her and connect to her story more than I would have done if the character had been entirely alien to me. It made me sympathise with her predicament a lot more and root for her and her family.

BETH: Were you shocked by the final page at all? (no spoilers!)

CHRISSI: TOTALLY! This answers your earlier question to me about predictability. No, I did not see that coming at all. I can imagine that I looked like a cartoon character with their eyes popping out. Yes, that was totally me when reading that final page. I love it when author’s can shock me and Clare totally did that.

CHRISSI: Does this book live up to Clare’s debut?

BETH: Oh gosh. This is where it’s going to get tough. I Let You Go was such a brilliant read that I think it was going to be very difficult to live up to. When I first started I See You, I have to admit to being slightly concerned as it read very slow for me at the start and I kind of wondered when the action would start to kick in. About two-thirds of the way through however, I did become much more invested in the story and, as I mentioned, in Zoe’s character although I did find the ending slightly rushed. Is it as good as her debut? Not quite but it’s still a solid thriller that I’d recommend.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. Even though I felt like this book was a little slow to start, I was captivated before long and the plot twists really got me. That ending as well… superb! Clare Mackintosh is a great writer for this genre and I wouldn’t think twice about picking up her next book!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit-The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)

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

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Lightning Thief

Synopsis:

The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan’s amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a “half blood” whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan’s series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book’s drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.

Thoughts:

Starting a sequel to a series is always a risk. I’m always worried that the book isn’t going to work for me. However, Sea Of Monsters did work for me. It was a decent follow up to The Lightning Thief. It has left me very intrigued for the next book in the series. It was so easy to read. I’m sure if I had more time when reading it, I could have finished it in one sitting.

I felt like Sea Of Monsters seemed more focused than its predecessor. I felt like the story had been established and it was really starting to develop. It’s certainly a quick read, full of action. I didn’t feel bored at any point, or felt like there were any ‘filler’ chapters. It all seemed incredibly relevant to the story. I loved revisiting old characters, like Percy and Annabeth. I love it when new characters are introduced though. With this book, I really enjoyed Tyson! I’m certainly intrigued by the new character that was sprung on the reader at the end of this book.

I find it incredibly easy to read Rick Riordan’s writing. It flows beautifully and it’s wonderfully funny in parts. I immediately connected to the story and couldn’t help but turn the pages.

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

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid Lit Challenge (June):
The Prime Minister’s Brain- Gillian Cross

Banned Books #35- Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to May’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter.

Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan

Synopsis:

Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared.

In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness?

First published: 2009
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence

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

BETH: This book was published about eight years ago now and I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in the past eight years so my thoughts on the book being challenged “then and now” are going to be the same. Unfortunately due to a number of terrorist attacks in the past fifteen years, religion has become one of those really tricky areas that some individuals tend to blame and rail against when these atrocities occur. Of course nowadays, it’s the terrors of ISIS but I remember so clearly when we used to be talking about the Taliban and their ideals. I did a little bit of background research on why this book was challenged/banned, especially in the USA and one opinion I came across (not entirely sure of its validity) is that Nasreen’s Secret School is a book which promotes Islam and that should be a reason for banning it. Never mind the truth behind this, these sorts of things just make my blood boil. Why should any book be banned for educating us all a bit about a particular religion? Personally, I find it interesting to learn about a different culture and belief system but hey…maybe that’s just me?

CHRISSI: It actually makes me cross that this book is challenged. It’s a children’s book! I’m pretty sure my face was of utter confusion when I finished this book. I always try and keep in my mind that I’m reading it for this challenge, so I can look out for things that might make it a challenged book. I couldn’t find any. It’s not explicitly violent. It does include a girl going to school in secret, but I thought it had such a sweet message. It was a message about the power of education and I really didn’t agree with the reasons for it being challenged. It was pretty inoffensive to me. It really was.

How about now?

BETH: Let’s go into a couple of the other reasons for challenging/banning this book. Unsuited to age group. *silently seethes.* This is a PICTURE book recommended for children of six years and older and the illustrations and words are such that it can easily be understood and enjoyed by children of this age group in my opinion. As with the last reason – “violence,” I believe some people may be concerned that the Taliban taking Nasreen’s father away and then her mother also disappearing might be too brutal for some kids to take. Don’t get me wrong, that’s absolutely horrific, of course. BUT. The story is written and drawn in such a way, as I said, that it is never made explicit what exactly happens to Nasreen’s mother and father, the young reader is almost shielded from the reality of what has happened so I cannot see how this can be offensive. It is upsetting, Nasreen stops talking for quite a while and she is very distressed. Yet with the help of her courageous grandmother and by making a friend at the secret school she finally learns to be happy again and yes, to speak as well. 

CHRISSI: I get that Nasreen lost her mother and to not very nice circumstances, but surely that’s what we infer as adults? Would children get that from reading a picture book? I’m not sure. It certainly doesn’t explicitly tell the reader why. It just shows Nasreen’s obvious distress. Many children would be distressed if they lost their family under any circumstances, so I don’t see why this book was any different.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: As this is a picture book, I read it so quickly. The illustrations are simple but effective but it was the words that affected me more than anything. I fell in love with Nasreen, her grandmother and the bravery of the people that were risking their lives to educate girls once it had been forbidden by the Taliban regime. In just a few pages I felt like I learned so much and I think it’s a really important read for children so that they can be educated about how lucky they are to have free schooling, sadly a privilege not everyone is entitled to and something people should definitely be made more aware of.

CHRISSI: I thought it was incredibly adorable. I thought the characters were brilliant and the story was well told. The illustrations were simple and sweet. It’s an important and educative story, in my opinion!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About ‘The Couple Next Door’ with Bibliobeth!

The Couple Next Door

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

Synopsis:

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

CHRISSI: What was your first impression of this book?

BETH: I was really pleased to see The Couple Next Door on Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club this year, I’d heard a little bit about the book and it falls into a genre that I really like to read so I was excited to get started. It was an incredibly quick read and I surprised myself with how quickly I managed to read it but the story was quite gripping and that urged me to keep on reading instead of putting the book down.

BETH: Anne initially blames Marco for their daughter’s disappearance. Do you agree with her?

CHRISSI: I think Anne and Marco were equally to blame, as Anne agreed to leave the baby. It wasn’t as if Marco forced her to go next door. Anne had her own mind and could’ve said no. She decided to go with Marco to the party, so no… I don’t agree with Anne.

CHRISSI: Which characters, if any, do you sympathise with in this novel?

BETH: This is a really difficult question because, to be honest, I don’t think the whole novel had a hugely likeable character in it for me. That’s not a bad thing at all as I often find myself enjoying books more if there’s an unreliable narrator or a character that is written in such a way that it makes it difficult for you to like them or understand their motivations. This is certainly true of The Couple Next Door. The main couple in the novel leave their baby in the house alone to go to a party next door, taking just the baby monitor with them and taking turns to check on her every so often. At the end of the night, she has disappeared. Obviously this is a terrible thing to happen and I did automatically sympathise with the situation they found themselves in but also found I blamed them a little for what had occurred.

BETH: How do you think Anne’s struggles with post natal depression play into her feelings about the loss of her daughter?

CHRISSI: I think Anne’s struggles with post natal depression really do play into her feelings about the loss of her daughter. Anne is obviously struggling with her mental health and that’s going to affect how she feels about the loss of her daughter. Anne really starts to struggle with her emotions and really question whether she did something wrong, whilst checking on her daughter. I was actually questioning it too. I found Anne’s post natal depression made her a really unreliable narrator.

CHRISSI: Discuss the moral dilemma around the decision to leave the baby in the house next door.

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous novel, Anne and Marco have left their baby behind while attending a party at their next door neighbours and the worst possible case scenario has happened – their daughter has disappeared. It did seem to be more of a dilemma for the mother, Anne to leave her child behind. The host of the party next door Cynthia made it quite clear that her baby was not welcome at the party and Anne’s husband, Marco did a good job of persuading her that everything would be okay. After all, they had the baby monitor and they would keep going back to check on her. Obviously the chances of anything like this happening to your child are very slim but you just need to look at the famous Madeline McCann disappearance to understand that while unlikely, parents shouldn’t even dare take the chance of assuming that “everything will be fine.”

BETH: Did you enjoy the twists and turns in this novel?

CHRISSI: I did. I like a thriller to have twists and turns and The Couple Next Door certainly delivered. I loved the pace of the story and even though I kinda guessed where it was going, it didn’t ruin it for me!

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

BETH: I felt it compared very well. I enjoyed the plot, disliking the characters, the slight twists and turns and how everything was wrapped up at the end. It was certainly fast paced and kept me reading and as a mystery and thriller it does what it says on the tin. I loved how everything was slowly revealed and although I’m afraid I kind of guessed where it might be going I still enjoyed the story as a whole.

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. I enjoyed the writer’s style and thought it was a gripping read!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- A Snicker Of Magic

A Snicker of Magic

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

Synopsis:

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

Thoughts:

I saw this book around everywhere a few years back, but for some reason never got around to reading it. I’m pleased that we picked it for our kid-lit challenge. It’s a really cute, magical realism, middle grade read. I don’t think it will be for everyone, but I do believe so many readers will enjoy it!

A Snicker of Magic is about a girl named Felicity who sees words everywhere. She sees them above people, in the air, around the house etc. Felicity lives with her family, but they travel around a lot as her mum can’t settle down for some unknown reason. Felicity and her sister just want to call somewhere home. When they arrive in their mum’s hometown, they wonder if it’ll be the place they finally settle down in. The town has history. It used to contain magic, and some residents believe it still contains ‘a snicker of magic’. As Felicity gets to know the residents, she finds out there’s more to the town and her family than first meets the eye.

This story is incredibly cute. I thought it was so easy to read and the magical realism was fun. It doesn’t have major amounts of plot development, it’s more about the characters. This didn’t bother me though as I liked to read about the characters and their back story.

Natalie Lloyd’s writing is descriptive and whimsical. I think you’ll either really enjoy it or it’ll frustrate you. It really depends on your taste. I think it’s so worth checking out though!

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

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Reading next in Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (May):
The Sea of Monsters- Rick Riordan

Banned Books #34 Habibi by Craig Thompson

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to April’s edition of Banned Books, where Beth and I read a banned book, once a month! This month was Habibi by Craig Thompson.

Habibi

Synopsis:

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.
 
At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.

Habibi by Craig Thompson
First published: 2011
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: nudity, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group

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

BETH: As a fairly recent release (2011), there aren’t going to be many differences in my opinions as I don’t really believe attitudes have changed that much in the past six years or so. I’m finding expressing my opinions about this graphic novel quite difficult and apologies if my words aren’t coherent! I have such mixed views on this book, you see. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. Can I see why it was challenged/banned? Well, er….yes I kind of can. This is NOT to say that I agree with banning books, not in the slightest! I can however see why this book may have been controversial. There are a LOT of adult themes in the books that may not be suitable for younger readers mainly involving rape and graphic sexuality. Of course the book should be available to read but perhaps not in settings where much younger children have access to it.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I don’t agree with banning books as I don’t think people should be ‘told’ what they can and cannot read. However, this book is one of those books that it’s easy to see why it’s challenged. It’s certainly controversial and it deals with many contentious issues. There’s some quite graphic sexuality, nudity and rape which isn’t suitable for younger readers in my opinion. I’m not sure if this book is intended to be for adults, but that’s certainly what it came across to me. A work of adult literature!

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! So the reasons for banning/challenging this graphic novel are nudity which there is an abundance of. Seriously, every other page seems to have a naked character on it (probably 95% of them are female, I have to say which I’m not going to even get into but which made me slightly uncomfortable for my own feminist sensibilities). Then there’s the fact it’s sexually explicit and that is certainly the case. Naked bodies are not a bad thing don’t get me wrong but some of the sexual scenes which mainly involve sex that is non-consensual are incredibly graphic. Finally, it states that it’s unsuited for the age group. Here’s where I have a bit of confusion. I don’t know what age group it’s actually meant to be aimed at? Yes, it’s a graphic novel which may make you automatically think of younger readers, however the themes are so adult that it cannot be anything but an adult read.

CHRISSI: I can see why it’s challenged. I read a wide range of literature, but this one made me feel particularly uncomfortable and that’s quite something!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: First of all, this book is absolutely beautiful. It’s a beast at about 700 pages long but don’t be intimidated by it’s size, I read it quite easily in two sittings in the space of a couple of hours. The illustrations are fantastic and some parts of the story I really enjoyed but other parts….I could just see why it may be offensive, especially to some cultures and religions. I didn’t really enjoy the stories within stories that talked about the similarities between Christianity and Islam as religions either which is strange as I normally like that sort of thing. In this novel however, it just made the narrative feel quite bumpy – if that’s the right word!

CHRISSI: Despite my uncomfortable feeling whilst reading this book, it didn’t take me long to read at all. I found it interesting in parts and offensive in others. It was a mixed bag for me, like Beth, but I’m leaning more towards not enjoying the reading experience.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: I’m going to say maybe as I think some people will love it, other people will not so much. It’s a Marmite kind of book!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- Others might enjoy it,  but it was too much for me.